A Pineapple Coconut Cake That’s Mostly Right

This cake was fantastic, but I was reminded of what Martha Stewart said; which is that bloggers are not professionals and that basically we don’t know what we are doing. In my own case I do and I don’t. I am a really good cook. I mean really good. People freak out sometimes over the stuff that I make and the stuff that I dream up. Equally they are occasionally called upon to ingest various things and concoctions that let’s just say likely would not meet Martha’s standards. I am human. Like the droids in Blade Runner, I am more human than human.

So, while this recipe is really very good you might also want to learn from my mistakes.


First I started with a classic golden cake. The cake of birthday parties and dreams and the basic cake that I use as a starting point most of the time. This:

  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 3/4 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) Unsalted Butter, on the cool end of room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Whole Milk

Engrave that on your heart. It is the simplest, best baking thing. Almost all good cakes of this type spring from these proportions or these ingredients. I didn’t write this recipe, neither did anyone else that can be named. It is the soul of every yellow, or gold as they are sometimes called, cake that you have ever eaten, but there are many variations. This is one. I added:

  • 1/2 cup Coconut (yes, the sugary kind)
  • tablespoons Pineapple Flavoring
  • 1/2 cup Pineapple Pieces
  • Using only 1 cup of the above mentioned Whole Milk

I wanted to add real pineapple fruit and coconut to it and also add pineapple flavor to the cake. This is not a hippie cake made from juice and ground nuts (though there is nothing wrong with that!). This is the butter, sugar, eggs and white flour school of heavenly cake making. With that in mind I wanted for this variation to add these flavors. The problem is that the fake pineapple flavor in a bottle that you can buy at Walmart is just a bridge too far into 1950s American grossness for me. There are things that I am willing to do in cake making and things that I just am not.

In truth the inspiration for this was a gorgeous Amoretti Artisan Pineapple Flavoring that I won in a *contest that I hadn’t figured out what to do with. I felt daunted by the idea of making Pineapple Macarons which was my original idea. This natural Pineapple extract is in a sugar base and is essentially a very tasty highly concentrated syrup:


So I feared that macarons might deflate. Then I thought about Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake and decided that what I really needed in my life was a cake with pineapple bits suspended inside. So, I took the recipe above and began to thoroughly unprofessionally have my way with it.

First I did the creaming the sugar phase; which is to say putting the butter (at the cool end of room temperature) and the sugar in the mixer and letting it go a good 7 minutes or more until it reached the fluffy beautiful pale yellow color. Now, Alton Brown thinks that you should use butter flavored shortening instead of butter, and in terms of delightful texture he is right. Palate experience (that means taste and texture), not so much.

Folks whenever you read the word “shortening” that means Crisco. That’s right, the sticks or tubs of stuff in the oils aisle of the store that requires no refrigeration because it is not actually food. Understand that in the packaged food word vegetable is an extremely broad term that can cover many sins. To me the waxed coated tongue experience of this product is simply vile. As I say, a bridge too far. Just no to that in cakes. In icing, just no. Now to grease pans or grills, I’m ok with it. So, without using a calculator I just added 2 huge tablespoons of the Artisan Flavoring (it’s rather subtle) to the butter and sugar cream, and et voilà a pineapple flavored suspension.

Than I added the very thoroughly sifted flour, salt and baking soda mixture and the milk in increments of some dry ingredients followed by some milk, back and forth. Alton Brown is certainly right about the need to not overwhelm your suspension with either one as you add.

The pineapple pieces I bought frozen from Trader Joe’s though I could equally well have cut up some fresh ones and used those. The problem is that they are very wet, very drippy. So first I had laid them out to dry out a bit on a paper towel on top of a parchment paper in a tray with nice reliable sides so that sticky juice wasn’t going everywhere. I changed the paper towel at least once that I can remember.


Then sort of imperfectly recalling the incredibly entertaining Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake episode on the Great British Bake Off Show I proceeded. She tosses her fruit in a dusting of flour, so I did that too. The reason for this is so that the fruit bits will suspend in the mixture and not all just sink and make a sugary burn at the bottom of the pan. I added some sugar as well to this dusting, not much. As is usual I think Mary Berry is absolutely right about this.


Then I folded the pineapple bits and the coconut into the mixture, folded the whole thing into the greased up (with Crisco Spray, yes – I am complete hypocrite – just sayin’) parchment paper lined pans and baked at 350° for 17 minutes. Poked with a toothpick, just lovely. This cake is dense and damp and almost pound cakey, and I like that. No, we haven’t gotten to the mistakes yet.

Put them up on racks to cool. This cake is particularly unsuited for sitting on a counter cooling because of its dampness, but this is true of any cake really. They need the circulation. I am much enamored of my Wilton 3 Tier Cooling Racks. Why you might ask does one need 3 of them? That would be because you need one to place over the cooled cake and flip over to get it out of the pan. Nifty I’d say.

Next comes another not mistake, my personal favorite cake filling – a huge layer of whipped cream. In this case I added coconut to the cream, but I often make cakes with shaved chocolate there or even berries. I make this layer very thick. Use the entire medium sized carton, trust me. I add a pinch of salt to the cream. I am not much of a cream of tartar fan. The mixer bowl should be very cold. I put it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so. Then I find in my mixer that it whips up just fine if you do that salt first and get it pretty far along then add vanilla extract and granulated sugar. I folded in the coconut after it was nice and thick. I trowel this onto my bottom layer and then put it in the freezer to set. Professionals who like things to be neat will be disgusted by the squashed unsightliness that results when you cut into it. I simply do not care. So that’s not the mistake either.


Now for the icing, and yes here comes trouble. In pictures great masses of icing look fantastic. In real life they overwhelm even a sweet cake like this and are just too much. Did I heed my inner voice that knows this? Absolutely not. Further, a pretty cake with real fruit in it really does not call out for a lurid dyed icing blanket. This axiom too I cheerfully ignored. The result is a cake with too much icing that is also pretty ugly. Even if I do say so myself.


In future I would just ice the top leaving the sides bare as I often do. It looks very Euro and sophisticated and less like something for a child’s celebratory occasion on the island of Puerto Rico. There is a place for that look, this isn’t it. I have a weakness for those food dyes and sometimes I just can’t be trusted around them.

*I won this amazingly cool ingredient in a contest from the adorable Taylor Kiser on her Blog Food, Faith, Fitness


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