Piña Colada Cake

Cold and thick, tangy and creamy, nothin’ says summer like a piña colada (except maybe a margarita, but shhhhh). It’s one of those indulgent treats that you have so seldom—for me, only when I’m actually physically on a beach with some sort of steel band nearby, so you can imagine just how seldom—that it has to be something special. No beaches in your future? Why not make it into a cake?

I finally got my hands on Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, which I’ve been amazon-stalking for years it seems. I marked somewhere between all and every recipe to make. This is the first one down, but you should expect more to come, likely sooner rather than later. Gotta say, not a bad way to start.

I chose this because the person I was baking for is a tart fruit fan. She likes lemon curd, but I did that for her last year. I figured pineapple would work and I also happened to know that she was more-than-okay with coconut and rum. Plus, seasonally appropriate, don’t you think?

The cake in this recipe is a brown sugar cake and terribly delicious with the molasses-y depth of brown sugar in a moist, light cake. I think this was the weirdest cake recipe I’ve seen as it requires you to add softened butter directly to the dry ingredients and beat it in, rather than creaming it beforehand. Make sure your butter is extremely soft. I think mine was still a tad cold and I couldn’t get it to incorporate completely, which resulted in air pockets throughout my cakes. I mean, they were still delicious, so no harm done, but learn from my mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, this icing is tricky. It’s IMPERATIVE that you not overcook your sugar like yours truly did first time round. If this requires hovering over the stove, while tilting the pan so the thermometer is more thoroughly covered, and simultaneously and obsessively dripping sugar into a cold glass of water to determine if you’re at soft-ball stage, then so be it. If your sugar gets to hard-ball stage, god help your mixer. That’s all I’m saying. It is worth the trouble though. The resulting icing is unlike any buttercream you’re familiar with. In stark contrast to the thick, dense, butter and powdered sugar buttercream you may know, this one is so so so silky and soft like a cloud that you want to sleep in. Or eat. Whichever.

The final cake is light and tropical, as you would expect. The pineapple filling was my favorite part and, IMHO, it could have used more. In the end, this wasn’t my favorite cake I’ve ever made. I thought it was missing some…oomph, I suppose. But I mean, it was still summery and delicious and there were no complaints around the table. In fact, I had a couple recipe requests for it, so maybe it was just me. Maybe I was in a margarita mood instead….I may have to work on that.

Piña Colada Cake

From Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne

I got all nervous about the amount of booze this cake called for. I don’t know why. In the end, it was perfect and could have handled even more (imho, but I like my rum). I personally think this cake could use more pineapple, so feel free to up the filling if you want. I accidentally bought sweetened pineapple, so I reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup.

Brown sugar cake
3 3/4 c cake flour
1 3/4 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 1/4 c packed light brown sugar (I used dark)
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c buttermilk
5 eggs
2 t vanilla extract

Pineapple-lime filling
1, 20 oz can crushed pineapple in juice (no sugar added)
1 c sugar
1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
1″ vanilla bean, split in half

Coconut buttercream frosting
3 egg whites
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
1 1/2 sticks (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 t coconut extract

For assembly
2/3 c rum (I used light, but you can use whatever you like)
coconut flakes
dried pinapple rings

Bake the cakes:

  • Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 3, 9″ round cake pans, line with parchment and grease again
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
  • Add the brown sugar, butter, and 1 1/2 c buttermilk and mix on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat 2-3 minutes or until fluffy
  • Whisk the remaining 1/4 c buttermilk with the eggs and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping the bowl between each
  • Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-28 min or until a tester comes out clean
  • Let cool in the pans for 10 min then invert onto racks, remove parchment and cool completely
Meanwhile, make the filling:
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the pineapple, lime juice, and sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the seeds and the pod to the pineapple
  • Stir to dissolve the sugar, then simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Discard the vanilla pod
  • Let cool completely before using
  • Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated
Once the cakes and the filling are cool, make the frosting:
  • Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment
  • In a small, heavy sauce pan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then stop stirring and cook until the sugar reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer (Soft ball stage)
  • Side note!!!! Be very careful not to overcook your sugar!!!
  • When the sugar is ready, beat the egg whites briefly on medium speed then add the hot syrup in a slow, thin, steady stream.
  • Side note!!!! Try to avoid the whisk as much as possible so that you don’t end up flinging screaming-hot sugar onto your lovely self
  • Whip the egg and sugar meringue until it has cooled to body temp
  • With the mixer on low, add the butter, several tablespoons at a time, and beat until smooth and fluffy
  • Add the coconut milk in 3 additions, scraping down the bowl after each
  • Add the coconut extract and stir until incorporated
Assemble and decorate!:
  • If your cakes are very domed, as mine were, level them off using a serrated knife. Eat the scraps
  • Place one cake, bottom down, on a flat plate
  • Drizzle with 3 T rum, then spread with 1/2 the pineapple filling
  • Top with another cake and repeat with 3 T rum and the remaining filling
  • Top with the third cake, bottom-side up, and drizzle with the remaining rum
  • Ice the cake using an offset spatula; honestly, this icing is so fluffy, you can just use a spatula and be all rustic about it
  • Decorate with dried pineapple and shredded coconut however you see fit!
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2 thoughts on “Piña Colada Cake

  1. Oh heavens, yes, it was the perfect way to kick of the opening of your cookbook! I have been stalking this book for awhile too. After all, it IS the mom to the famous Peanut butter chocolate cake that my family is forever addicted to.

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