Hummingbird dessert has a long and complex backstory for a dessert that is so simple and wonderful. Its key ingredients, tropical banana and pineapple, hint at its origins. According to legend, it was invented in Jamaica in the late 1960s under the name “doctor bird cake.”
(The Red-billed Streamertail, a type of hummingbird, is Jamaica’s national bird, and it has been dubbed the “doctor bird” because the way it pokes its beak into a flower reminds people of the prodding and poking they get at the doctor’s office.)
The Jamaican tourist agency allegedly sent press packages to the US with a few recipes to persuade visitors to visit, including one for their Doctor Bird Cake, altered for American bakers.The cake spread over the South under numerous names, including Doctor Byrd Cake, Granny Cake, and Don’t Last Cake.
(And the latter is undeniably correct!) Mrs. L.H. Wiggin of Greensboro, North Carolina published the first known published recipe in Southern Living Magazine in 1978. It was dubbed Hummingbird Cake there, and it became the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.