This week is going to be chock-full of birthday cakes. I have two to make in the space of two days, the second of which is for my mother-in-law (hopefully A's family don't read this before her birthday!). I decided to be super organised and do a practice run of her cake over the weekend to make sure I could figure out any improvements or tweaks I could make to the recipe before I had to rush around making it on Thursday night. I'm so glad I did because there are heaps of tiny things I want to change that will hopefully improve it.
I started off with a pretty simple idea, I wanted a shiny white coconut-flavoured cake because I know she likes coconut. I've made the Gourmet Traveller coconut chiffon cake before and knew it would be the perfect cake for this occasion. It's so fluffy and light and is one of those cakes that you can have with a cup of tea and it won't make you feel like it's too rich or too sweet. The original cake combines coconut and lime together which works so well, but I thought I'd change it up and try it with some caramelised pineapple slices instead. The centre of the cake is filled with jam, which can either be homemade pineapple jam or any other type of jam you think will work with it (I tried some with fig jam and it was pretty good). Or just sticking to the lime curd from the original recipe will work too.
I'm not usually a huge fan of the meringue, but an Italian meringue does work well on some cakes. This one is a perfect match for the roasted pineapple slices. I just love the look of the pristine white cloud-like icing against the dark caramel-covered bits of pineapple. Just look at those gloriously golden chunks of pineapple. I sprinkled some coconut on top because it looked a little plain with just the coconut on top. Unfortunately I only had dessicated coconut available at the time, but I think they cake will look a lot prettier with shredded coconut instead.
After I had finished taking the photos and A & I were tucking into a slice of the cake, he came up with the brilliant idea of torching the meringue icing so it would be like a toasted marshmallow. And who doesn't love toasted marshmallows?! While I'm still quite attached to the look of the perfect plain white icing, I have to admit the toasted meringue tasted pretty amazing. So I think on the actual day I'll bring along my blow torch and toast the top half of the cake to add a little theatricality. Fun!
Coconut Chiffon Cake with Roasted Pineapple
(adapted from this Gourmet Traveller recipe, serves 8-10)
For the cake:
300g (2 cups) plain flour, sieved
220g (1 cup) sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
7 eggs, separated
2 tsp coconut essence
Pinch of cream of tartar
To sandwich between cakes: this pineapple jam, or any other filling of your choice e.g. lime curd or fig jam will work great
For the meringue icing:
185g (6.5oz) caster (superfine) sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) water
Pinch cream of tartar
1-2 tsp coconut essence
For the roasted pineapple:
1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced into 1cm thick rings
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1 star anise
Optional: Shredded or dessicated coconut to decorate
Preheat oven to 165°C (330°F) and grease, line and flour two 17cm or 20cm round cake tins (I used 17 cm). Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk in 200ml water, vegetable oil, egg yolks and coconut essence until smooth. Whisk eggwhites and cream of tartar in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form, fold one-third through flour mixture, then fold remaining eggwhites into flour mixture. Pour equal amounts of mixture into the prepared tins, then bake until cakes are golden and a skewer withdraws clean (30-40 minutes; don’t be concerned if cakes crack a little or are domed in the centre, they will settle as they cool). To avoid too much shrinkage I turned the oven off at 35 mins and left the cakes in there to cool for 5 mins, then cooled in tins for 15 minutes and cooled completely on a wire rack, then trim tops level.
Prepare the meringue icing; combine sugar and 60ml water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until sugar dissolves (1-2 minutes). Brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove sugar crystals, then bring to the boil and cook until syrup reaches 115°C (240°F) on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage; 10-15 minutes). Whisk eggwhites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Meanwhile, continue cooking syrup to 121°C (250°F), then, whisking eggwhites continuously on medium speed, slowly add hot syrup until all is incorporated. Whisk on high speed until thick, glossy and cooled to room temperature (15-20 minutes), then stir in coconut essence. Spread jam or filling over one cake and sandwich with second cake layer. Crumb coat entire cake with icing and then cover cake with remaining icing. Refrigerate while you prepare the roasted pineapple (or leave overnight if you want to make the cake ahead of time).
For the roasted pineapple, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss together until sugar is dissolved and all pieces are well coated with mixture. Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F). Place on a baking tray line with several layers of foil and bake in oven until caramelised, turning pineapple slices over regularly (if slices start to dry out in over, sprinkle a few tsp of water over the slices to moisten). Cool completely on tray and then arrange slices on top of cake. Top with shredded coconut. To add a bit of fun to the cake, use a blowtorch to toast the top half of the meringue icing when you serve the cake.