Southerners have been making versions of this cake for decades, calling it different names, like Nothing Left Cake, Cake That Won’t (or Doesn’t) Last, Granny’s Best Cake and Jamaican Cake. The name “Hummingbird Cake” probably comes from the cake’s roots as a Jamaican banana cake; the swallow-tail hummingbird is the national bird of Jamaica. So, you could think of this cake as the love child of Jamaica (with its mashed bananas and pineapple) and the American South (with its pecans and cream cheese frosting).
Adapted from a recipe by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins (originally printed in “Southern Living,” Feb. 1978)