A bouquet of flowers is a thoughtful gift, but you know what’s even better? A batch of cupcakes. These hummingbird cupcakes with pineapple “flowers” and rich cream cheese frosting offer the best of both worlds (and would make a tasty Mother’s Day treat, just saying).
A light history lesson: Hummingbird cake—a lightly spiced banana-pineapple delight—is considered a Southern classic, and the original recipe (published in Southern Living in 1978) credits Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina as creator. But we did a little internet digging and found it’s actually a version of the Jamaican “Doctor Bird Cake” (named after the island’s national bird) introduced to the U.S. sometime in the ’60s.
The key to these cupcakes’ sweetness and moist texture is the inclusion of canned crushed pineapple and ultra-ripe bananas—seriously, the longer they’ve been sitting on your counter, the better. If you don’t have a bunch of almost-rotten bananas at the ready, you can bring out their natural sweetness by roasting them in a 300°F oven for about 15 minutes.
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1 whole pineapple, peeled and sliced into ⅛-inch rounds
3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (396g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups (297g) vegetable oil
3 large (150g) eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
One 8-ounce can (227g) crushed pineapple, juices included
1 cup (227g) chopped ripe banana (about 3 medium bananas)
1 cup (125g) pecans, toasted and chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting
One 8-ounce block (227g) cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup (1 stick/113g) butter, at room temperature
1½ cups (170g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Make the Pineapple ‘Flowers’: Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place a cooling rack inside a baking sheet.
2. Press the pineapple rounds between two layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Arrange the rounds on the cooling rack, making sure they don’t touch each other. Transfer to the oven and bake until the edges begin to curl and the rounds feel dry to the touch, 2½ to 3 hours. To mold the rounds into flower-like shapes, press them into the cups of a muffin pan while still warm, and cool completely. The pineapple flowers are best used the day they’re made, but can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day.
3. Make the Hummingbird Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners (or grease with nonstick cooking spray). In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and whisk to combine.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vanilla to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Stir in the crushed pineapple, banana and pecans.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden brown at the edges and spring back when touched (or a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean), 20 to 23 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pans before transferring the cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely while you make the frosting.
6. Make the Cream Cheese Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine, starting on low speed to avoid a sugar situation. Add the vanilla and salt, and mix to combine.
7. To frost the cupcakes, you can either transfer the frosting to a pastry bag or Ziploc with a corner cut off and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes (this method works best if the frosting is slightly chilled), or use an offset spatula to spread the frosting onto the cupcakes for a more casual look. Top each cupcake with a pineapple flower.