I often watch Paula Dean, aka the Butter Queen, whisking away her bowl of frosting and slathering it on a perfectly baked layer cakes, and I think, can I seriously bake something so beautiful someday!! I call myself a better-than-average baker, but layered cakes with elaborate frosting still make me nervous. Like this amazing Pineapple Cake adorned with Coconut Icing and shredded toasted coconut. This is like a perfect party cake, in fact, it even beats my age-old favorite Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake from her cookbook Baking From My Home to Yours! Of course, when someone as talented as Patricia from The Technicolor Kitchen bakes it, the cake cannot be less than perfect! [Photo by Patricia Scarpin]
Let me warn you, this cake is not for novices. it does require certain baking techniques that one learns with time. But Patricia’s narration is very precise, and following it makes it easier to get your cake closest to being perfect. Pineapple and Coconut is a winning combo, so you can’t go wrong with it. But adding Buttermilk to the cake, as well as using Brown Sugar instead of white takes this cake to another level. Enough said and praised, let’s move on to the recipe!
Pineapple Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting
Serves about 12-15 people
For the Cake
3-3/4 cups cake flour
1-3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cups (160ml) rum (light, amber or dark), to assemble the cake
For Pineapple Filling
1 can (20oz) sliced pineapple in syrup
1 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons water
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped with the back of a knife
For Coconut Buttercream
3 eggs whites
pinch of salt
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
4-5 chopped pineapple slices
Making the Cakes
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter three (9in) cake pans, line the base with baking paper and butter the paper as well. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the large bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk gently to combine. Add the brown sugar, butter and 1-1/2 cups of the buttermilk to the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low blend to incorporate, then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Whisk the eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and the vanilla and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and beating only long enough to incorporate between additions. Divide the batter between the 3 pans.
Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper and allow to cool completely.
Make the Pineapple Filling
Drain the pineapple and discard the syrup. Set aside 1 slice of pineapple (for decoration) and finely chop the other slices. Place in a medium saucepan with the sugar, lime juice and water. Add the vanilla seeds you scraped from the vanilla bean. Warm over a medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, 2 to 3 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the juices have almost completely evaporated and turned jam-like in consistency. Let the filling cool completely before using. Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
Make the Coconut Butter-cream
Put the eggs whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment so they are ready to go. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the sold boil stage, 114°C/238°F on a candy thermometer.
Beat the egg whites briefly at medium speed. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, being careful to avoid the beaters. Continue to whip until the meringue has cooled to body temperature.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the butter, several tablespoons at a time and continue to beat until a smooth fluffy frosting forms. Add the coconut milk in several additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well after each addition. Measure 1 cup of the buttercream and mix with the pineapple filling.
Assembling the Cake
Place one layer flat side up on a cake stand. Sprinkle a generous 3 tablespoons** rum over the cake. Spread half of the filling over the layer, leaving a small gap around the edge. Add the second layer, sprinkle with more rum and cover with the remaining filling. Top with the third layer and sprinkle with the remaining rum.
Frost the top and sides of the cake with the coconut buttercream. Garnish the sides of the cake with the shredded coconut and top with the reserved pineapple slices.
This is a very elaborate cake, especially making the coconut buttercream frosting. It needs patience, and also following the method to the dot. If you a new baker, I would suggest you to bake the cakes but go with regular buttercream frosting with coconut essence added to it, instead of trying out the elaborate method above. However, this recipe will yield an absolutely stunning cake that is sure to win hearts, so if you are looking for a Paula Dean type party cake, then this is it!
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