Mockingbird Cake

Art Smith

Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, Chicago

Chef Art Smith showed a packed room how to make one of his signature cakes during our Taste America weekend in Charleston. Smith, who cooked for Oprah for more than a decade, as well as other luminaries (he’s made this cake for Maya Angelou and Lady Gaga, to name a few), regaled attendees with stories of growing up in the South (“We were so Lowcountry, we were just in the swamp”) and his words of wisdom (“Never underestimate the power of cake”). 


  • 3 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily brand
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups ripe bananas, chopped
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces room temperature cream cheese
  • 8 ounces room temperature butter
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the cake: position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans and sprinkle evenly with flour, tapping out any excess flour. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.)

Sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs, milk, coconut, and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Spread evenly into the pans.

Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.

Make the icing: using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and then the vanilla to make a smooth icing.

Ice the cake: place 1 cake layer upside down on a serving platter. Spread about 2/3 cup of the icing on top. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.


one 9-inch cake