I’m not gonna lie; this is an ambitious cake with many components which you may decide to make only parts of. I recently made this for both my nephews graduation party. The oldest graduated from college, and the younger graduation from high school, so excuse my not so great pictures as I only spent a few minutes taking pictures of the cake at the party.
I love nothing more than a good three layer dramatic cake. Of all the things I make- 3 layer cakes are still my favorite. If you love the taste of pina colada, then this is the cake for you. As I always say, make it your own. If you decide you want to leave out the curd filling and just make a coconut cake with a simple filling, then by all means. I have made this cake many times with different variations. I will also give the variation for this cake in 2 layers at the end of the post for those who want just a 2 layer cake. If you can find the large flake unsweetened coconut- it is an especially elegant cake; Bobs Red Mill makes a good version of the large flake coconut if you can find it. Another variation is to fill it with store bought lemon or lime curd. Dickensons makes a great lime curd if you can find it. Since I cover the cake with sweetened coconut I purposely leave the coconut buttercream on the subtle side. If you like a real full on coconut taste you may also decide to flavor all of the buttercream with more coconut extract. Just play around with it- by adding a little at a time until you like the taste. The cake takes a while to make and assemble, so when I am planning to make it- I like to make the syrup, pineapple curd and the buttercream the day before to save time. Just keep all 3 components chilled overnight.
* If you don’t like the visible flecks of vanilla bean in the frosting then you can use vanilla extract instead. I personally like the flavor of the vanilla bean paste over the vanilla in this buttercream as it adds a more pronounced flavor.
Pina Colada Cake
recipe: adapted from Donna Hay
300 gms Fresh Pineapple, chopped coarse
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 Cup caster (superfine) sugar
150 gms unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces.
In a food processor or vitamix, or super powered blender; process the pineapple until smooth. Strain pineapple directly into a small saucepan. Add in the lemon juice and stir with a heat proof spatula. Add in the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch and stir vigorously or whisk to combine. Place over medium heat and stir continuously with the spatula or non metal whisk until thickened; about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter in pieces. Place in a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap over surface. Chill until ready to use. Makes about 1 1/2 Cups; you will have a little left over. The curd will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Rum Cake Syrup
1/2 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup water
2 Tbsp. dark rum
1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to ensure sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Set aside to cool at room temperature while you prepare the cake. Note: you can also prepare this a day or two ahead and keep in refrigerator to chill. Makes about 1 cup and you will have some leftover.
Coconut three-Layer Cake
4 3/4 + 2 Tbsp. Cake Flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Cup unsalted softened butter (3 sticks)
2 1/4 Cup sugar
9 egg whites (if using liquid egg whites from a carton- use 1 1/2 cups liquid measured)
zest of one lemon- finely grated/zested
2 tsp. vanilla or vanilla bean paste. (I like to use the paste)
1 tsp. coconut extract
1 Cup (full fat) coconut milk [shake several times before opening]
1 Cup whole or 2 % milk
1 Cup sweetened flake coconut + more for covering sides and top of cake.
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 9 inch cake pans by spraying with nonstick baking spray and lining with parchment circles, then spray lightly again.
2. Whisk first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In bowl of stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy; about 2-3 minutes. Mix coconut milk and whole milk in a 2 cup glass measuring cup, set aside. Add egg whites to butter sugar mixture one at a time or slowly if using liquid whites; stopping frequently to scrape down bottom and sides of bowl. Add extracts and mix. Note: mixture will look really loose and curdled (this is okay and normal)- it will come together in the end. In 3 additions on medium speed, alternate adding 1/3 of the flour mixture with 1/3 milk mixture starting an ending with flour mixture. Fold in sweetened coconut with a spatula. Divide batter equally between the three pans.
3. Bake at 350° F for about 25 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides and a wooden skewer comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake. It’s okay if you get a few moist crumbs on skewer. Let pans cool on a wire rack until completely cool, then flip out cakes.
Vanilla Bean & Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
6 egg whites (note: I do not use liquid egg whites for this)
1 1/2 Cups sugar
5 sticks unsalted butter, room temp (slightly softened)
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp. (+ more to taste) coconut extract
In a medium to large saucepan place an inch of water. In the bowl of your stand mixer place the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl directly over the pan of water and bring water to a simmer; whisking continuously. Whisk the whites and sugar until mixture is 160 degrees F. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer- just heat until you no longer feel any sugar granules and mixture is warm to touch. Remove bowl; wipe off the bottom of any water and place on mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium high speed until a meringue forms and is shiny and stiff; about 5 minutes. Continue to whisk until the bottom of the bowl is no longer warm. Reduce speed to medium and add in one tablespoon of butter at a time until buttercream is smooth. Stop as necessary to scrape down sides and bottom to ensure you are getting on the meringue mixed in. NOTE: It will go through a grainy curdled phase- but don’t worry (this is normal) it will come together- just keep adding in the butter and continue to whip. Once smooth, stop and remove about 1 1/2 cups and place in a bowl large enough to mix. Mix the 1 1/2 cups of buttercream with the coconut extract, then set aside. Mix the remaining buttercream with the vanilla bean paste until all the paste is incorporated.
1. Trim off cake tops with a large serrated knife to level any domed tops. Flip cakes over and also shave off a thin layer of the cake that has turned brown; this helps the syrup soak in a bit more.
2. Place a small dollop of buttercream onto a cardboard cake round. This helps “glue” the cake, so as not to slide while assembling. Place one cake layer down over the dollop of buttercream, being careful to center on cardboard round. Brush cake liberally with the rum syrup. Frost this first layer with the coconut buttercream, until buttercream is level and smooth.
3. Prepare a second cake layer by brushing with syrup and carefully flipping cake over so syrup soaked side rests over the coconut buttercream. Brush the top side of cake also with syrup. Place a generous amount of the pineapple curd over the cake layer and smooth to the side of cake leaving about 1/2 inch boarder as curd will spread a bit. If you want extra assurance; you may pipe a border of vanilla buttercream (about 1/2 inch tall) along the outside edge border of the cake and place the pineapple curd inside the piped boarder. If you like a thicker layer of curd this is a way to get a thicker layer without having to worry about it seeping out the sides of the cake. If you don’t have a piping bag you can simply use a plastic ziplock bag and snip off one of the corners and pipe that way. If find I like this way (using the piped border) as some of the curd tends to soak into the cake after assembling and you can get a thicker layer of curd this way.
4. Brush the third and final layer of cake with syrup and place it soaked side down over the curd layer. Brush the top layer of the cake also with syrup and spread a thin layer of vanilla buttercream over the top and sides of cake to “crumb coat”. Place the crumb coated cake into the fridge for 30 minutes. Frost the cake top and sides with remaining vanilla buttercream until smooth and cover top and sides of cake with flaked coconut. Keep cake chilled in refrigerator. Remove cake about 1 hour before ready to serve to come to room temperature. Store any remaining cake in the refrigerator.
For a 2 layer cake: Follow directions as above but reduce amounts as per below and prepare two 9 inch cake pans and bake as above. Prepare a 5 egg white buttercream.
3 1/4 Cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 Cups
6 large egg whites
1 tsp. lemon zest (fine)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla)
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
2/3 Cup coconut milk
2/3 Cup whole or 2 % milk
3/4 Cup sweetened flake coconut + more for finishing cake
Five egg white Swiss Meringue Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Follow method directions as above for buttercream
(enough to frost and fill a 2 layer cake)
5 egg whites
1 1/4 Cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste OR (Coconut extract to taste if you want coconut buttercream)
I remember as a little girl we would have “snack cake” after school. It was usually some type of apple or banana cake. Something that was easy and a little “something something” to tide you over until dinner. This is NOT your mother’s snack cake. No offense Mom. New Yorkers will know this cake; this is a simple recipe but something you will be craving at all times of the day- not just after school or work. I changed the crumb topping slightly from the original recipe (which used half granulated and half dark brown sugar) because I was out of dark brown sugar and did not feel like running out to the store to get some. I like it just fine that way.
New York Crumb Cake
recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
yield: 8×8 inch square (about 8-10 servings)
1 3/4 C (7 oz.) cake flour
2/3 C light brown sugar (original recipe calls for 1/3 C sugar, plus 1/3 Cup dk. brown sugar)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 C) (113 g) unsalted butter, melted but still warm
1. In a bowl whisk the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Pour the warm butter over mixture and stir with a large metal spoon. Push down the mixture with the spoon to compact to mix and then “rake” the mixture back and forth to break it up but allow clumps to form. Set aside.
1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk*
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
*If you don’t have buttermilk; take1/3 Cup milk and stir in 1 tsp. white vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes
1. Prepare a 8x8x2 inch square pan with a parchment sling. Spray liberally with non-stick baking spray. Preheat oven to 325° degrees F. Place rack in middle to upper middle position.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a hand whisk; whisk together the flour, sugar, soda, and salt. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and on low speed mix in the butter one piece at a time until the crumbs resemble no lumps; about 2 minutes. Mix the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a measuring cup and add in slowly with mixer on medium. Mix until smooth and light and fluffy about 1 minute. Careful to scrape down bottom of bowl and sides. Spread the batter into prepared pan evenly and top with crumb mixture starting on the outsides of the pan and working towards middle. You want pea size as well as larger clumps to stay intact including crumbs. Bake at 325° F for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and when completely cool dust generously with confectioners sugar.
Flash back to the 70’s and cue one of my favorite tv commercials for Reeses peanut butter cups. Two people walking down the street; the sun is shining, they are each lost in their own little unicorn world, and BAM!! both oblivious they serrendipitously bump into each other coming around a corner.
The first person is holding a rather plain chocolate candybar as the second person with an open jar of peanut butter crashes into him, his candybar falls into the open peanut butter jar. The candybar man retorts “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” The peanut butter jar person exclaims “You got chocolate in my peanut butter!” After a Hmmpf! is exchanged between the two of them they each taste the mistaken calamity (in perfect slow motion tv unison) and quickly pronounce with a huge corny smile what a genius they are as the point man cues the Reeses peanut butter cup…
You almost immediately forget what idiot walks around with an open peanut butter jar on the street?
Chocolate and peanut butter ever colliding into sweet bliss. Yes it was super cheesy. Did we like it? You betcha. Some of the corniest commercial are the ones we remember. A real life Don Draper was smiling and knocking back a neat scotch I’m sure when that little nugget was produced. Chocolate and peanut butter will always be colliding–even on purpose. If you are more of a purist and like your chocolate cake flowing with an oozy chocolate center then leave out the peanut butter and instead insert a big square piece of chocolate in the cake batter instead. I won’t mind.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Lava Cakes
recipe adapted from Donna Hay
yield: 4 individual cakes
200 gm dark chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli bittersweet bars)
100 gm unsalted butter, chopped
2 Lg eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 Cup castor sugar
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
8 teaspoons smooth peanut butter
1. Preheat oven to 400° F or 200° C. Generously butter 4 dariole molds. If you don’t have dariole molds I think a popover pan would also work fine. (Note her original recipe calls for using 1 cup capacity molds but mine were 3/4 cup and it worked perfectly).
2. In a saucepan over low heat melt the chocolate and butter until smooth–stirring constantly to avoid burning.
3. Place the eggs, yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly add the chocolate mixture while whisking until smooth. Using the whisk stir in the flour until combined.
4. Spoon 2/3 mixture into each dariole mold. Spoon 2 tsp. dollops of peanut butter into each cup and gently press the dollop into the chocolate. Spoon the remaining chocolate batter evenly into each cup using up all the batter. Using the back of a spoon level off the batter in each cup. Place the cups on a tray and bake for 13-16 minutes until tops appear dry and are slightly puffed. Do not overbake. Cakes can have a slight crack on top but not too much cracking. Let cakes rest for about 2 minutes until warm enough to handle and turn out onto a plate for serving and dust generously with cocoa powder.
It’s no secret I love citrus desserts. Frankly I like citrus anything. Anytime I can make a dessert wrapped around a piece of citrus I’m happy. These cakes pack a very bright citrus punch but the syrup balances out the cakes so they are not too tart. This is the recipe you make when limes are on sale. Limes were on sale the other day so I grabbed a bag and walked home thinking about how to impart them into a dessert. If you like you can make one standard size loaf cake. I happen to have a silicon bundtlette pan that I like to use for individual minis. These cakes are bright in taste and perfect after a spicy meal or after a meal where you want something not too heavy.
Lime Syrup Cakes
yield: 12 mini (1/4 cup capacity) bundtlettes OR one regular 9×5 size loaf cake
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup thick yogurt
1 Cup sugar
3 Lg. eggs, room temp
zest of 2 1/2 large limes
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 350° F or 180° C. Prepare a mini bundtlette cake pan by brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the yogurt, one cup of sugar, eggs, zest of 2 limes (reserve the rest of zest for decoration), and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until combined. Using the whisk, fold in the vegetable oil until combined. Fill wells of bundtlettes to 3/4 full.
3. Bake at 350° until toothpick inserted comes out clean. My bundtlette pan size is a bit smaller than most-the wells hold a 1/4 cup filling and my baking time took 18 minutes, so check often until done as I’m not sure the standard size. If using a standard loaf pan the time will take about 45-50 minutes.
4. While the cakes are baking make the lime syrup by placing the 1/3 cup lime juice with the 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan and heating until sugar is dissolved, and simmer for 1 minute.
5. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and place a piece of parchment paper under the rack. Pokes holes in the top of the cakes with a toothpick about 1/2 inch apart. Dunk the cakes into the lime syrup by dunking all of the cakes except the very bottom. Turn the cakes upward so the tops are facing up. After 30 minutes, dunk the cakes one more time and sprinkle lightly with remaining lime zest. Allow cakes to cool completely. If making a large loaf-poke holes in the top of the cake and pour the syrup over and down the sides of the cake; after 30 minutes repeat the process using all of the syrup and sprinkle with lime zest.
1/3 Cup fresh lime juice
1/3 Cup sugar
March 21st is California Strawberry Day. Not sure who makes these things up, but there it is. In honor of the beautiful red berry I made a snack cake. Yes, it could be breakfast. Call it coffee cake. Who am I to dissuade you from eating cake for breakfast? . You know when strawberries are ripe when you can smell them just passing by with the grocery cart. Standing over the berries I could tell they “looked” ripe but even more so, they smelled heavenly. We normally plow through strawberries so fast that I don’t get to eat too many before they are gone. This time however, I had just enough left to make this cake with. You will need about 10-12 berries. Mind you, leftover berries are not a problem–normally I freeze them and keep them for smoothies, but I’m trying to clean out my freezer so I didn’t want to add to it. Don’t chop your strawberries too far ahead of time, as to prevent them from becoming too watery and bleeding into the batter. Enjoy~
Strawberry Pecan Streusel Cake
1/2 Cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
3/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 Lg. egg
1 3/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp. vanilla will do)
1 1/2 Cup chopped (1/2 pieces) fresh strawberries
1/2 Cup seedless strawberry jam, divided (I like Smuckers)
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C light brown sugar
1/3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 C butter, softened
1/3 C coarsely chopped pecans
1. In a measuring cup mix the milk and lemon juice and set aside for at least 15 minutes; (essentially you are making a quick buttermilk). Prepare an 8 inch square pan with a parchment sling and lightly spray with baking spray.
2. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Make the streusel and set aside. To make streusel: combine the sugars, flour, cinnamon, and butter with a fork, then mix in the nuts.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy. Add egg and beat to combine. Add lemon zest, vanilla and mix to combine. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients alternating with the milk mixture in two additions, ending with the flour mixture. Take 1/2 of the batter (it will be thick) and spread it evenly in the pan. Take 1/4 C of the jam and heat it slightly in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Spread the jam evenly over the batter, then swirl with a knife. Sprinkle 1/2 of the strawberries over the batter. Take the remaining batter and dot spoonfuls of the batter over the first layer, then carefully spread batter, repeat by spreading the other half of the (warmed) jam, swirl batter layer with a knife about 1/2 inch inward, and sprinkle with remaining berries. Sprinkle enough streusel to cover cake generously, but not too heavy (you will have about 2 Tbsp. left over).
4. Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If the top starts getting too dark, you can tent with foil for the last portion of baking. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares.
Happy Chinese New Year 2013 to all my Asian friends, and especially my Taiwanese husband, and family! I’ve always wanted to make these, so this year I finally gave it a shot. Taiwanese pineapple cakes are really more like a cookie, but they are usually referred to as cakes. Some people also refer to them as tarts. Whatever you call them, just call them tasty. The first time I had a pineapple cake; which was several years ago, it was love at first bite. The filling is slightly sticky but yielding, and it is encased in a kind of buttery shortbread like pastry/cookie. Taiwanese pineapple cakes are the quintessential gift and treat of Taiwan. They are the number one item foreign visitors buy when they come to Taiwan. The Taiwanese word for pineapple sounds like “prosperity arrives” so they are very auspicious. They are often given as gifts to a foreign host or to friends as a friendly offering. They are everywhere in Taiwan and every bakery makes their own version. You usually see them shaped into little squares. Read more about Taiwan and the history of these important little cakes here.
Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes
recipe adapted from Billy Law (from “A Table for Two” blog)
yield: about 28 cakes
2 (20 oz) cans crushed pineapple
Scant 1 Cup (200 gm) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup (150 gm) corn syrup (or liquid glucose)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1. Drain the pineapple well over a bowl, pushing on it through a fine mesh strainer to push out as much juice as possible. (Save the pineapple juice to drink or for making pineapple mojitos!) Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and salt, set aside.
2. In a saucepan place the strained pineapple and cook over medium heat until all the juice is gone and pineapple appears dry; about 5 minutes. Add the sugar/cinnamon/salt mix and stir constantly over medium heat and cook until all the juice is absorbed, it appears dry and sticky. (visually you are looking for a mixture that comes together when you stir and push it around with the spatula). This will take about 10-15 minutes. Add in the corn syrup and cook again until mixture appears sticky and dry. This will take about another 10 minutes. Add in the flour, stir and cook for about 7 more minutes. Mixture will become very sticky and dry. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to cool while you make the pastry.
Shortcrust Pastry Dough
10 Tbsp. (250 gm) unsalted butter
5 Tbsp. (50 gm) confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
350 gm (2 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp.) all purpose flour
6 Tbsp. (50 gm) corn starch
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. (180° C). Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light; about 1 minute. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla, salt and blend.
2. In a bowl whisk the flour and corn starch together. To the butter/sugar mixture, add in the flour and corn starch mixture until dough starts to come together, but dough is still a bit craggy, then knead gently with your hands to bring the dough together.
To form cakes:
Take a tablespoon of dough and flatten out in your hand, set aside. Lightly butter your hands, and take a teaspoon of filling and roll it in your hands to form a ball. Place the flattened piece of dough in our hand, and place the ball of filling on top and fold over and bring the dough together to encase the filling. Roll the filled cake ball in your hands, to even out any seams. Shape the filled cake into an equal square. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet at least one inch apart, and bake at 350° F for 15 minutes on one side, then using a small offset spatula, carefully flip over and bake on the other side for 15 minutes more. They will turn lightly golden brown. Let the cakes cool completely on the baking sheet until cool to prevent crumbling. Eat when cool.
What is red & white, plump & fluffy and sweet? No, not Santa Claus-good guess though. Red velvet madeleines. The perfect treat for your little gremlins. Served with a cup of hot chocolate, they might even tame the grinch. While they are noshing away on their snack you can sneak off and wrap presents. You probably have all the ingredients on hand; so no worries about running off to the store as I know that is the LAST thing you want to do at this point. The key to a good madeleine is not overmixing the batter once the flour mixture is added and only bake until just set to avoid having them come out too dry. Madeleines are best eaten the day they are made. Happy wrapping…..
Red Velvet Madeleines
recipe: Southern Living Magazine
(yield: ~ 2 dozen)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons red liquid food coloring
1 1/3 Cups cake flour
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar (optional)
- 1. Preheat oven to 400°. Beat first 4 ingredients at medium-high speed with an electric mixer 5 minutes or until thick and pale. Add butter and food coloring, beating until blended.
- 2. Sift together cake flour and next 3 ingredients; fold into egg mixture. Spoon batter into 2 lightly greased shiny madeleine pans, filling three-fourths full (about 1 Tbsp. per madeleine).
- 3. Bake at 400° for 8 to 10 minutes or until centers of madeleines spring back when lightly touched. Immediately remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 20 minutes). Dust with powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.