Sugarbird's Sweet Nothings

I am passionate about food. And cooking. And baking. And running. Come and find a new recipe, a funny story, some strong opinions and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix today.
Published on April 19th, 2011
by Clarabella

Pina Colada Cake and Happy Birthday to Me

It was my birthday on Friday. I’m not sure how I feel about my birthday. I’m not overly keen on the getting older pat. I am now in the last year of my 20’s after all. But if I separate it from that, its ok. Its a day I can enjoy, celebrate the things that I love about my life, and spend time with the people I love as well. Its also an excuse to make a big, bad beautiful cake (if I do say so myself).

Since I purchased Sky High I definitely have a baker’s crush, on this book and the faceless people who wrote it. They are talented and they love cake. My kind of people. If I was on the same continent I might like to meet them so that I could shake their hands and tell them they have created a very cool, very inspirational book. Alisa, Peter, you rock.

So armed with my very valid excuse to make cake, I browsed through the gorgeous book, ooh-ing and aah-ing at pretty much each and every recipe. I mean, how is a girl supposed to pick just one when they are all so beautiful?? So, to help me narrow down the choice I decided to not go with chocolate, and to choose something different. Something nobody at work (yes, I was making this for people at work and not people at my huge birthday party. Because I didn’t have a huge birthday party. I’m ok with no party. I private partied. Sheesh my colleagues are a spoiled lot!) had ever seen before.

And then my eyes fell on the Pina Colada Cake. It had rum. I was almost convinced right there. It had pineapple and coconut. It was pretty. I’ve never seen a Pina Colada cake before. It would be a challenge. Sold.

I made the cake and the pineapple filling on Wednesday night. First I had a mild panic attach at realising I had no cake flour. Then I realised I could make some and my heart rate returned to normal. Its easy. Measure out 1 cup of regular flour. Remove 2 tablespoons of the regular flour and replace them with cornflour. Sift together a few times. Voila. Cake flour. Crisis averted.

The cakes were straightforward but there was something special about the batter. It was like silk. So smooth you could almost see your reflection in it. You might think me weird for calling cake batter beautiful, but it was beautiful. If I could paint, I’d paint its portrait.


The pineapple filling was interesting. Tinned pineapple – the recipe calls for crushed but the shops did not have crushed so I bought pineapple pieces and chopped/crushed them myself. in the pan with sugar and vanilla and rum is cooked up into a jammy, sweet mushyness that is just crying out to be sandwiched between delicate layers of silky cake. That was phase one. The cakes were wrapped up in many, many layers of cling film and huddled in the corner of the fridge waiting for their time to come.

Thursday night was the construction, and after levelling off my 3 cakes with a sharp bread knife (you don’t really have to use a fancy cake-levelling-device, just get it mostly straight. Nobody will complain. I promise) I filled the layers with the pineapple filling, and made the coconut buttercream icing. I am fairly new to the world of buttercream that involves whipping up egg whites and  then adding sugar syrup and mounds of butter. But I like it, its quite fun watching beaten egg whites turn into a meringuey type thing and then become a thick, butterey icing. Fascinating how the science of baking works.

I iced the cake roughly and then attacked the coconut. I managed to get the ‘eye’ out with little trouble. The middle one is indeed very weak and pops out with little effort. Then the attempt at the tapping technique. In my research I was led to believe that tapping the coconut around its circumference with the back of a heavy knife would result in it falling open amenably. Hmmm. No. The gentle tapping did not work. The very firm tapping did not work. The rather hard thwacking did not work. Then the axe came out of the garage, and after some very hard and kind of scary bashing, the coconut conceded and fell open.

It sat in the oven for 15 minutes to dry it out a little, this helps the coconut flesh come away from the shell, although its still a small struggle. I shaved some longer strips for the decoration on the top of the cake, and grated the rest before toasting for the decoration for the sides of the cake. Once toasted and cooled the messy but not difficult  process of sticking the grated coconut to the sides of the cake began. A little decoration with dried candied pineapple and voila. Pina Colada Cake. A big-ish job but on eating, it was worth it. Such a unique flavour and the look of it got a few raised eyebrows. Success I’d say.




 Piña Colada Cake
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne

Brown Sugar Cake
3 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line the base of three 9inch cake pans.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. 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. 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.

Pineapple Filling
1 can (20 ounce) crushed pineapple in juice (no added sugar)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 one-inch piece of vanilla bean split in half

Combine the pineapple, sugar and lime juice in a pan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan too. Warm over a medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, 2 to 3 minutes.
Raise the het to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the juices have almost completely evaporated and its turned jam-like in consistency Let the filling cool completely before using. (Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated)

Coconut Buttercream
3 eggs whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract (I omitted this as I couldn’t find it anywhere!)

Put the eggs whites 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, 238 degrees 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. Add the coconut extract and mix until smooth.

To assemble
9 tbsp rum
Coconut flakes and thin slices of pineapple

Place one layer flat side up on a cake stand. Sprinkle a generous 3 tbsp rum over the cake. Spread half of the pineapple filling over the layer, leaving a small gap around the edge. Add the second layer, sprinkle with more rum and cover with the remaining pineapple filling.
Top with the third layer and sprinkle with the remaining rum. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the coconut buttercream.
Decorate with some thin shreds of coconut and slices of pineapple if wished.