Nut Free Hummingbird Cupcakes frosted with Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream
These creamy nut-free hummingbird cupcakes are flavored with bananas, pineapple, and allspice and topped with coconut cream cheese buttercream. They are bursting with warm, tropical flavor and so tender they practically melt in your mouth.
What is a Hummingbird Cake anyway?
Hummingbird Cake is a relatively recent discovery for me. I came across a recipe for the cake a couple of years ago and was intrigued by the combination of flavors, but didn’t actually make one until a few months ago. According to the internet, the cake originated in Jamaica and is named after the island’s national bird – the hummingbird. (Incidentally, in Jamaica the Hummingbird is also sometimes called the Doctor Bird. Hence, this cake is also sometimes called the Doctor Bird Cake.)
In the late 1960’s, the Jamaica Tourist Board included a recipe for Hummingbird Cake in a slew of media kits sent out to various cities in the USA. The cake caught on, especially in the South, where it won a favorite cake award at the Kentucky State Fair. In 1990 it was selected as Southern Living’s favorite recipe and noted as the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.
Hummingbird Cake is typically baked as a three-layer cake that’s flavored with bananas, pineapple, pecans, and cinnamon or allspice, and covered in cream cheese buttercream.
I wanted to recreate the cake in cupcake form, but without the pecans and with a touch of coconut. This recipe is the result.
The method for a super creamy crumb: Create an emulsion with sugar, eggs, and oil
By nature, fat and liquid are unmixable. This presents a problem when making cake batter because nearly every kind of cake includes some kind of liquid and some kind of fat. The solution is to create an emulsion – a situation in which tiny droplets of a liquid are dispersed in a fat. Certain substances, like egg yolks, act as emulsifiers. This means that when agitated, they help fat and liquid come together and stay together.
As such, many cake recipes include instructions to beat sugar and butter (or another form of fat), before adding the eggs and other ingredients. In this recipe, eggs are beaten together with sugar until air is incorporated into the mixture and the sugar dissolves into the eggs.
As you beat the sugar and eggs, the mixture will lighten in color and thicken. Continue to beat until the mixture is thick enough to create a “ribbon” that falls back on itself before slowly disappearing into the mixture when you lift the beater from the bowl.
Why did I leave out the pecans and add in some coconut?
Another non-traditional technique: purée the banana and pineapple
Every recipe I’ve ever read for hummingbird cake calls for mashed bananas and crushed pineapple. As such, that’s what I used when I first started developing this recipe. There were a couple of things I didn’t like about this…
First, crushed pineapple contains a lot of water, even if you let it drain. That meant I couldn’t get quite enough pineapple in there to get the pineapple flavor I was after in these cupcakes.
Second, I didn’t like the consistency created by the pieces of pineapple AND small chunks of mashed banana. I wanted cupcakes with the flavor of pineapple and banana but with a soft, tender, creamy crumb unencumbered by chunks of anything.
The solution was simple: puree pineapple chunks with bananas in a blender or food processor until smooth before folding them into the batter. This allowed me to increase the amount of pineapple in the batter AND retain the soft, tender consistency I wanted in these cupcakes.
More popular cupcake recipes:
- One-Hour Caramel Cupcakes
- Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Ridiculously Good Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream and Caramel Rum Sauce
- Funfetti Cupcakes
- German Chocolate Cupcakes
- Super Moist Spice Cake
For the Hummingbird Cupcakes:
- 2 very ripe bananas
- One 20 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
- 2 tbsp full-fat sour cream
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp table salt (1 1/2 tsp kosher salt)
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
For the Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Buttercream
- 1 tsp coconut extract (more to taste)
To Make the Hummingbird Cupcakes:
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a couple of cupcake pans with paper baking cups. This recipe will make approximatly 21 cupcakes. (*See note about spraying your pan with non-stick spray.
- Peel the bananas and add them to a food processor or high speed blender along with the drained pineapple chunks, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Process until smooth.
- Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice to a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to combine.
- In a seperate bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolk, and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until thickened - 5-8 minutes. If you lift the beater from the batter, the batter will fall back on itself in a thick "ribbon". (*See photo above for more explanation)
- With the mixer running on medium-high speed, slowly pour in the vegetable oil in a thin, steady stream. This will take about 1 minute - be sure to pour the oil in slowly while the mixer is running to create an emulsion. (More explanation about why this works above.)
- Add the banana-pineapple mixture and the flour mixture and stir very gently just until the ingredients are combined. Do not overmix.
- Fill the paper lined cupcake pan with the batter, filling each cup 3/4 full.
- Bake the cupcakes for 33-38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in one of the cupcakes comes out without any evidence of raw batter. (*See note below about bake time.)
- Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes then remove them to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
To make the Coconut Cream Cheese Buttecream:
- Add the sweetened shredded coconut to a skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring very frequently, until about half of the coconut is golden brown. Remove from the heat and dump the toasted coconut onto a plate or into a bowl. Let cool completely.
- Mix up a half recipe of Cream Cheese Buttercream. Beat in 1 tsp of coconut extract. Taste and add more extract if you want a stronger coconut flavor.
- Scoop some buttercream into a decorator bag fitted with a large cupcake decorating tip. Pipe a swirl of buttercream onto each cupcake then sprinkle with toasted coconut.
*Store unfrosted cupcakes in a covered container at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Store frosted cupcakes in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
If your cupcake pan(s) aren't non-stick, or if you've had your cupcake pans for a while and most of the non-stick coating has worn off, you migh want to lightly spray the top of the pan with non-stick baking spray. This will enusre that the tops of the cupcakes don't stick to the top of the pan.
Bake Time: One reader commented below that her cupcakes baked up in only about 19 minutes. I'm not sure what the descrepency in baking time is about, but please keep an eye on your cupcakes while they bake and remove them when a toothpick insterted in one of them comes out without any trace of raw batter.
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Ateco 4718 Disposable Decorating Bags, 18-Inch, Pack of 100
Pridebit Cupcake Decorating Tips Extra Large Piping Icing Tips
Wilton 415-2505 White Standard 75 Baking Cups, Single Pack
Rodelle Gourmet Pure Vanilla Extract, 8 Oz
Watkins Coconut Extract with Other Natural Flavors 2 Ounce
AmazonBasics Nonstick Carbon Steel Muffin Pan, Set of 2, 12 Cups Each
Nutrition Information:Yield: 21 Serving Size: 1 cupcake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 150Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 173mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 2g