Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pineapple birthday cake

Sorry for the strange look of this post - blogger is having "a moment" with me and doesn't believe I want any of the formatting I've asked for. Before I combust in rage, I'll call it a day and revisit at a later date!

I always put so much thought and planning into my family’s birthday cakes, yet when my own birthday comes around I leave it all to the last minute and hope that some sort of inspiration will strike. It struck late this year, but I think it was worth the wait!

If it were just for me, my birthday cake would be coconut every year – no deviation. Sadly, some of my family don’t like coconut so it’s never the right cake to pick for a family get together. Everyone likes pineapple though so I came up with the idea of a pineapple sponge sandwich cake...and just kept adding detail. What if I cut each layer into two, making four layers? What if there was pineapple curd between the outer layers? What if I beat some of that curd into the Swiss meringue buttercream? What if I added juicy chunks of pineapple into the centre layer? What if I made some mini meringues for decoration and a nice bit of crunch? It all snowballed into this rather OTT creation:

There are quite a few processes to this cake but none are difficult and can, except for the buttercream, be made in advance. I made each element on a different day so it didn’t take that long. I made them in the order: curd, sponge, meringue, buttercream.

The mini meringues looked so cute on the baking sheet – take care to place them on the cake at the last minute as they go soft quickly when they hit the buttercream.

There is a nice mix of texture in every slice – crumbly sponge, crunchy meringue, creamy buttercream and juicy curd and fruit. Not bad for a last minute creation (I say last minute, but it was actually about 5 days before the event...which for me thinking about cake is total red alert panic stations!)

I’ve had several comments and emails that people find Swiss meringue buttercream an elusive technique to master, so I took photos and made a note of timings while I made it. Here’s the journey:

Start with the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a simmering pan of water. The bowl must not touch the water. Stir the whole time until the sugar has dissolved – you can tell when this has happened as, if you run your finger over the back of the spoon, it will feel smooth. Mine took 6 minutes. It froths a little from the stirring and will look like this:

Next, transfer to a clean bowl for whisking. I used my kitchenaid. Whisk until the egg white is fluffy and stiff and – most importantly – until it is cool. If you add the butter to hot egg you will get a rather yucky mess. Mine took 9 minutes of whisking at a high speed:

Now beat in the diced, soft butter. This is the key stage for whisking. At first the mix will turn sloppy and won’t hold on to the beaters – it will look gloopy, sunken and almost curdled. If you lift the beater all the buttercream will slide off and resemble slop (from the emails I've had I'm guessing this is the point some of you panic and give up):

KEEP GOING! If you keep beating – at a high speed – you will suddenly notice the buttercream firm up and start to look like whipped cream. Mine took 10 minutes. Here it is thick and whipped up:

The next thing to do is beat in any flavouring/jam/curd that you’re using to flavour the buttercream. Don’t add too much as you don’t want to risk making it wet and sloppy. I added my pineapple curd while the beater was still running. I gave the mix a further 5 minutes of beating.

You should now have light, whipped, smooth mousselike cream – the most heavenly of buttercreams! Pipe over cupcakes or use to sandwich together a layer cake. Enjoy!


For the pineapple curd:

2 egg yolks (keep the whites for the buttercream!)
200ml pineapple juice
50g caster sugar
25g cornflour

For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
220g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
80ml milk
300g self raising flour
227g can of pineapple chunks – drained and chopped smaller

To decorate: Large can of pineapple rings or chunks

For the mini meringues:

2 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
60g caster sugar

For the swiss meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar – I used vanilla infused caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 teaspoons of the pineapple curd (made earlier)


Start by making the pineapple curd and keep, covered, in the fridge: place all the ingredients into a saucepan and stir, over a low heat, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then refrigerate until needed. It will thicken further as it chills.

Now make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Line the bases of two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.

To make the cakes: Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as this is when you get lots of lovely air into your sponge.

Beat in the eggs gradually, add some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle. (NB. If you have beaten the eggs and sugar for long enough the mix should not curdle).

Beat in the milk.

Stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Gently stir in the pineapple chunks.

Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Another good sign is if the sponge is just pulling away from the edge of the tin.

Leave to cool in the tins for about 20 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

You can make the sponges a couple of days in advance and store in an airtight tin.

Now make the mini meringues: Preheat the oven to 110°C/fan oven 90°C/230°F/Gas mark ¼ .

Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until you reach the stiff peak stage.

Keep whisking and add the sugar a spoonful at a time.

Whisk in the cream of tartar.

Spoon the thick meringue into a piping bag and pipe small rosettes no bigger than 2cm across. Leave a little gap between each one.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meringues are crisp – you’re not really ‘baking’ them, more ‘drying them out’.

Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Do not place on the buttercream until you are ready to serve the cake otherwise the meringue will turn soft due to the moisture in the buttercream.

On the day of serving the cake make the swiss meringue buttercream: Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir pretty much constantly to prevent the egg from cooking.

After 5-10 minutes, when the sugar has dissolved (when you cannot see any crystals on the back of the spoon), remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water and whisk until the meringue has puffed up and the mix is cool.

Add the butter to the meringue and whisk until the butter has been completely incorporated into the meringue. At first it will look a disaster – it will collapse and look curdled but don’t worry! Stop when the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy.

Beat in 3-4 teaspoons of the pineapple curd.

Cut both the sponges through so that you have 4 layers of sponge.

Take one of the sponge layers and cover with some pineapple curd.

Place the second layer on top and spread with some buttercream.

Lay the pineapple chunks or rings over the buttercream and cover with some more buttercream.

Place the third sponge layer on top and gently press to ensure it has “stuck”. Cover this layer with some pineapple curd.

Place the final sponge layer on top and gently press to ensure it has stuck.

Spread or pipe the remaining buttercream over the top and outside of the cake.

Decorate as you choose – I used the mini meringues (place these on the cake at the last minute or they will go soggy)

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.



Cakefairyblog said...

Amaze! I bet the texture and taste of this cake is gorgeous - what a fab creative. Well done x

Kezia said...

Happy Birthday!! I'm not a fan of pineapple but everything else on there looks absolutely divine! It's nice to go a little bit OTT sometimes:)
The method I used once for making italian meringue buttercream involved making a sugar syrup and then beating it with the eggs whites and it was really really messy - next time I will use your method as it looks slightly less disaster-prone than juggling a pan of boiling hot sugar syrup in one hand and electric beaters in the other!

Baking Addict said...

Wow that is one amazing looking cake! Happy Birthday!!I'm not a fan of coconut but love pineapple. Thanks for the tutorial on meringue buttercream - will definitely give it another go.

Jo said...

What a beauty of a cake creation, definitely worth all the effort! Happy Birthday!

By the way I've tagged you in the Food Bloggers Unplugged game ( if you fancy taking part :)

MissCakeBaker said...

Wow wow and wow!! I'm inspired!

Rachael said...

Hmmmm, looks delicious! I'm planning my birthday bake and think this may well be the inspiration I needed!

C said...

Wow, what a stunner! I hadn't noticed the intermediate layers of pineapple curd in the picture until you pointed them out - yum!

It just looks the most delicious pineapple texture flavour overload cake! A truly excellent way to celebrate your birthday - Happy Birthday!!!

Lisa Shannon said...

Wowser, looks spectatular CC. "Happy Birthday" to you, hope you have a lovely year x.

Hazel at Chicken in a Cherry Sauce said...

That looks fantastic! Love the meringues. I think you deserve to make a whole coconut cake all to yourself!! Happy birthday!!

Cupcake Crazy Gem said...

Happy Birthday Caked Crusader! that is one delicious cake! pineapple curd - what a genius concoction! and I love that there is a pineapple element in every single part of the cake...that is certainly my kind of cake!

Kate@whatkatebaked said...

Many, many happy returns CC! And what a magnificent cake to celebrate with! Thank you very much for your step by step tutorial on the tricky Italian Meringue buttercream.

sensibilia said...

Luscious in extreme! Just looking at those pictures made my mouth water. Happy Birthday! Talking of coconut, I add it to a dark fruit cake instead of 15-20% of the flour. Makes a nice nutty texture without overload.

Gloria said...

Happy birthday!! look amazing I love píneapple I think the cakes are fresh and tropical:)
Look beautiful:)

Cakelaw said...

Happy birthday! I love your pineapple cake and the decorations are perfectly pineapple-like. Hope you had a great time.

decocinasytacones said...


Choclette said...

A brilliant cake indeed, it sounds delicious as does the pineapple curd. And a very Happy Birthday to you. Not sure I'll be attempting that Swill meringue buttercream again until I have a KitchenAid!

Nom! The Indulgent Baking Blog said...

I love that you put five days of work into your cake! Hope you had a lovely birthday I love all of the OTT detail as you put it :)

Nom! xa

Anonymous said...

This looks soooo pretty. I am so gonna make this when a birthday rolls around. Thanks for the detailed advise on swiss meringue buttercream as well... tried making it once and the results were far from spectacular. I have little query.... i use electric hand beaters to beat the egg whites, but always some raw egg whites gets leftover at the bottom, without getting beaten properly, any advice on this regard???

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

What an incredible cake! There's so many special components in it. Perfect for your birthday! Enjoy your day!

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

Yes, this is something that can happen. I'd suggest 2 things:
1. use a shallower bowl - deep bowls that taper to a smaller base are naturally going to pool as you can't get the beaters right down
2. Stop halfway through and go around the bowl with a spatula to bring any loose white into the body of the whipped white

Hope this helps

Happy baking

Soo said...

Wow!!!!! That cake is gorgeous - bet it tastes just as good.

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said...

How delicious.

I ahve just got my first standmixer so I am a go go go on baking more!

LandGirl1980 said...

A very Happy birthday to you! This cake is EPIC!!!!

Lottie @ Lottiesworld said...

I absolutely love the mini meringues that make it actually look like a pineapple!

Maria♥ said...

Wowza that cake is amazing!! Happy belated Birthday :)


Maggie said...

Happy Birthday CC. Wow! Such a beautiful cake and a great tutorial too.

Katie said...

Wow what a fabulous looking cake! I love all the detail and different components in it, it sounds divine! Perfect for the Cake Crusader birthday! That pineapple curd is inspired. Hope you had a wonderful day.

Kim said...

What a beaut! Things like this make me wish I liked meringue! Looks awesome. Happy birthday!

Ling's Passion said...

I love the SEXY look of this cake.

Sumaiyyah said...

That is such a fun looking cake! It reminds me a durian! I've yet to explore using pineapples in baking...

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot for the tips CC, will try them out the next time. Another question, the pineapple juice used for the pineapple curd, is it ok if I use homemade juice? is there a particular sugar content required for that? and as for the pineapple chunks, is it ok to use fresh pineapple rather than tinned ones??

thanks in advance!!!!

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

I used a carton of pineapple juice made from concentrate, I'm certain fresh will work because there's no set time limit - you just heat and stir until it thickens. It will thicken - the time might vary!

Using fresh pineapple for the filling would be great - I was just too lazy to cut one up. The only thing I would say is maybe cut it up in advance and leave it in a sieve/colander/on kitchen paper to try and take some of the moisture out - if it's too juicy and wet it might make the buttercream curdle or turn watery.

Happy baking!

Alison's Bakery said...

Happy Belated Birthday ;-) I love pineapple almost as much as coconut and I see a collaboration here with my moist coconut cake and your pineapple curd. Sure it will be a match made in heaven and be a pina colada in cake form!! I keep shying away from making the Italian buttercream, but I like the method you've used and think I will finally give it a shot, thank you!!

Pauline said...

Belated Happy Birthday if you go to my blog you'll see why! Looks lovely as usual, seems we have some more things in common. I am constantly asked for chocolate so that is my least fav but pineapple could be a contender, yum.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mrs.CC, i attempted this cake and on its own without frosting and all it tasted divine. Other than that it was all around disaster, the cake fell apart as i was cutting in half to sandwich, the pineapple curd thickened very quickly n it was too hard anywy to be used to sandwich and smelled of eggs. I followed your directions exactly when making the buttercream and it achieved the perfect smooth texture, making me so happy, but then it went back to oily looking. I hope you can give me a few tips as to where i might have gone wrong. :(

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

Sorry to hear that - I wonder if the cake was overbaked - that might be why it was crumbly? All ovens differ so cooking times are only a guideline.

Did you make the curd over a high light/temperature? That's the only reason I can think that it would cook that quickly and go so hard. Curd should be made gently, over a very low heat

As to why they buttercream went oily I wonder if you didn't beat it for quite long enough, or added the butter before the meringue was cool?
The buttercream can go soft if you're in a very warm climate.
Maybe next time pop it in the refrigerator to firm up before piping.

SOrry if my thoughts don't apply but I'm trying to guess, obviously not knowing where you are or having seen what you did.

Happy baking