Best Hummingbird Cake Trifle

by Caroline
Published: Last Updated on

Experience dessert bliss with this easy to make, hummingbird cake trifle! Moist, tender, and flavorful hummingbird cake is crumbled and layered with an indulgent  (and addictive!) pudding. This is the perfect dessert for your next barbecue or potluck. 

I’ll admit: This recipe was created after I had an absolute baking/kitchen disaster. 

But hey, what do they say? When life gives you lemons… 

I was SO excited to try the hummingbird cupcake recipe from one of my favorite baking books, Pastry Love. Just looking at the recipe, I knew it was going to be moist, delicious and flavorful. 

In my excitement, I waaaay overfilled the cupcake tins, and the batter went under the liners, thereby baking and creating a total mess. 

I was able to tear out the pieces of cake (no complaints, it meant I got to “sample” quite a bit), but they were no longer cupcakes. 

Bummer. But that’s where this Hummingbird Cake Trifle was born, and I’m not upset about it. 

What is a Trifle?

To me, a trifle is the BEST solution to a “messed up” cake. Let’s say you make a cake and it gets stuck in the pan. Make a trifle! Unfortunately, this has happened to me a time or two with bundt cakes (I’ve learned my lesson with greasing the pan…). 

In all seriousness, quite simply, a trifle is a dessert made with layered cake, custard or pudding, and often whipped cream. Trifle is a classic English dessert, so some Americans are not very familiar with them. It’s often served in a glass bowl or in individual glasses, so the layers are visible.

Trifles are incredibly versatile, and can be made with essentially any flavor combination you can think of. 

The first trifle I ever had was a “Death by Chocolate” dessert made with chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate pudding, cool whip and toffee bits (another recipe I will revisit in the future!). 

Essentially, you can take any cake and turn it into a trifle. The possibilities for pudding, toppings, and mix-ins are endless. 


hummingbird cake trifle

What is Hummingbird Cake?

Hummingbird cake, in my humble opinion, is so underrated. This trifle recipe elevates hummingbird cake to another level. But, when I made this I got a lot of questions from people asking what a hummingbird cake even is. 

Hummingbird cake is a southern cake. If you’ve never had one before, it’s reminiscent of carrot cake in many ways (texturally and almost similar flavor profile). 

The cake is made with ripe mashed bananas and sweet, crushed pineapple. Most recipes include toasted pecans or walnuts, and some include toasted coconut. The batter is often spiced with cinnamon and vanilla, and topped with decadent cream cheese frosting. 

Technically, you can use any ‘ol hummingbird cake recipe here, but I highly recommend using this one. It is adapted from Joanne Chang’s Pastry Love cupcake version, and sooo moist and tender and flavorful. 
hummingbird cake trifle

What’s in Hummingbird Cake Trifle

This dessert is really so versatile and customizable. Below I listed the basic ingredients, but you can change up some of the mix-ins to your liking. 

The Cake: 

This hummingbird cake is filled with ripe bananas, crushed pineapple, and stays moist with the use of canola oil and sour cream. I use toasted walnuts, because they are more affordable, but the original recipe (and most hummingbird cake recipes), use pecans. 

If you want to enhance the flavors even further, use the optional Malibu Rum soak after baking. 

The Pudding: 
  • Instant Pudding Mix. I use vanilla, but if you want to use cheesecake or another similar flavor, go right ahead!
  • Cool Whip. I will always love Cool Whip. If you’re a purist, use homemade whip cream. 
  • Cream Cheese (softened). This is a nod to the traditional cream cheese frosting on a hummingbird cake. 
  • Toasted Sweetened Coconut.
  • Toffee Bits.
  • Crumbled Graham Crackers (or similar cookie). Feel free to use another type of crunchy cookie. Shortbread cookies work, so do gingersnaps or Nilla wafers. 
  • Optional: Additional toasted pecans or walnuts. Additional crushed or sliced pineapple in the pudding.  
hummingbird cake trifle

Make Ahead and Storing Hummingbird Cake Trifle

This is the perfect recipe for a gathering, because you can make it the night before and it only gets better as the flavors meld. However, I would serve it within 24 hours. 

You must store this dish in the refrigerator wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container. 

The trilfle can generally last 2 to 3 days, but beyond that I would freeze it.

To freeze it, simply cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Otherwise, you can transfer it to an airtight container. Trifle stored in the freezer will last for up to 2 months. 

To defrost, remove from the freezer and it allow to sit in the refrigerator for several hours until thawed. 

hummingbird cake trifle

Best Hummingbird Cake Trifle {Instant Pudding Mix}

A delicious twist on the Southern classic hummingbird cake. Layers of moist cake are topped with a creamy pudding mixture and sprinkled with crunchy toffee bits and graham crackers. This easy dessert is sure to impress!


For the Hummingbird Cake

  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cups (370 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, divided (2 for walnuts, 1 for batter). Use half the amount if you're using Morton's.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • cup (450 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (110 g) vegetable oil
  • 4-5 (400 g) very ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 2 cup (450 g or 16 ounces) canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or creme Fraiche, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Malibu rum, optional

For the Pudding

  • 1 box (3.4) Vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 12 ounces cool whip, see notes

Crunchy Toppings/Fillings

  • 8 sheets of graham crackers (heaping cup), broken into large pieces (see notes)
  • 1 bag (8 oz) Hershey's HEATH Milk Chocolate English Toffee bits
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted if desired


Hummingbird Cake - Adapted from Joanne Chang's Pastry Love

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Toast the walnuts or pecans on a baking sheet for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until toasted and aromatic.
  • Remove the walnuts or pecans from the oven and stir in 2 teaspoons of the salt and the butter. Mix to combine. Allow them to cool before chopping the nuts up finely.
  • Butter and flour three 9" cake pans, lined with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. The mixture should fall back onto itself into ribbons when you lift the whisk.
  • Turn the mixer on low and slowly drizzle in the oil (do not dump it in at once). Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl.
  • Fold in the bananas, pineapple, sour cream, and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture and walnuts until well combined. Do not overmix.
  • Divide the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven. While the cake is still warm, brush the top of the cake with Malibu rum (optional, but delicious). Allow to cool completely before removing.

Prepare the Instant Pudding

  • In a medium bowl, whisk 2 cups of cold milk with the pudding until well combined (about 2 minutes). Allow to rest in the refrigerator until completely set.

Finish Making the Filling

  • In a large bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, and cinnamon on medium-high speed until fully combined and smooth.
  • Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the whipped cream.
  • Fold in the chilled pudding mixture. Do not over mix.

Assemble the Trifle

  • Place a layer of the crumbled cake from one of the cakes in the bottom of your trifle dish. Top it with 1/3 of the toffee, coconut, and graham crackers. Layer 1/3 of the pudding mixture evenly on top and spread to cover. I like to use a large ice cream or cookie scoop to layer it on before spreading it with an offset spatula. Repeat two more times. Top with any remaining cool whip, coconut crushed cookies, and toffee bits.
  • The trifle can be made ahead of time - the flavors improve. The trifle is best eaten within a day or two but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.


Trifle pudding recipe adapted from the Pastry School Diaries Hummingbird Cake & Vanilla Cream Cheese Pudding Trifle 
Cake recipe is adapted from Joanne Chang's Pastry Love Hummingbird Cupcakes. 
  • It's VERY important to butter your cake pans generously. Otherwise, you may find the cake sticks even with the parchment paper. 
  • If you want to make your own whipped cream instead of using Cool Whip, that works well too!
  • You can get creative with the cookies in the trifle. Use what you like or have on hand (shortbread, gingersnaps, or Nilla wafers would work well). 

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