Baking · Cake · Nation Cake Challenge · North America

Hawaii: Pineapple, Coconut and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

As an American state slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a complete contrast to the rest of mainland America (My lack of geographical knowledge in my younger years becomes painfully evident when discussing the Pacific – until I was 11 I thought that Hawaii was somewhere in the Caribbean!). This tropical paradise (Paradise incidently being one of the archepeligo’s nicknames) enjoys ideal conditions for people from sun-seeking tourists to thrill-seeking surfers and volcanologists. Sadly it has one major issue, in that it is about as far as Britain as possible, therefore making a holiday rather impractical.

I plan to visit Hawaii at some point during my life, and at present the dreams of this island make the grey British January weather rather more bearable. When I walk down the cold, dark roads, I picture myself in Hawaii, eating pineapples (the island’s biggest crop), swimming in the warm sea and generally getting the sun I can’t seem to find at the moment!

pineapple upside down cake

The main aspect of this delicious cake, the pineapple is a major export of Hawaii. Whilst it originated in South America, it was introduced to the islands in the early 1990’s, quickly gaining massive popularity. The two largest pineapple companies (Dole and Del Monte) first started their companies on Oahu (the largest albums) and Hawaiian pineapple is still a massive corner of the market to this day. Combined in this delectable cake is the intensely tropical coconut and some added rum and blueberries to give some extra colour and intensity. Eat this cake and you will forever forget the pineapple upside down cakes of yesteryear.

The recipe was taken from  London Bakes (here)

Pineapple, Coconut and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 500g fresh pineapple (canned will do at a push, but fresh is so much better!)
  • 20g fresh blueberries
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml rum
  • 165g unsalted butter, softened plus more for the tin
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 185g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 175F.  Line a tin with parchment paper and grease well with butter. Don’t use a springform tin unless you want to spill hot syrup all over yourself…

In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk until boiling, before taking off the heat and stir in the dessicated coconut, vanilla and rum.  Leave to cool whilst you prepare the pineapple.

Cut the pineapple into thin slices (if using canned, then just drain the slices slightly).  Melt the butter and sugar in a frying pan and, when hot, add the pineapple slices and caramelize on each side (this will take about 3 minutes on each side). Remove from the heat, allow to cool and place the pineapple in a layer at the bottom of the cake tin.  Pour over the syrup from the pan.  Add the blueberries to the gaps between the pineapple slices.

To make the cake, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined and then fold in the flour, baking powder and coconut mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, carefully peeling off the parchment paper to expose the fruit topping.

Serve with ice cream or cream.

Cake · Central America · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge

Puerto Rico: Pina Colada Cupcakes

The Pina Colada cocktail was invented by a Puerto Rican bartender in 1952, a drink to showcase the new coconut cream. His position of bartender at the the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico gave him an unprecidented opportunity for his new drink – as the first luxury hotel to open in the San Juan area, he had many rich and famous clients who duly spread the work of this new cocktail throughout the world.

pina colada cupcakes

This delicious cocktail is full of tropical flavours which work especially well as a cupcake. The cake is a pineapple coconut cake, which is then drenched in a rum drizzle, before being topped with a coconut buttercream, and toasted coconut. The cupcakes could also be decorated with a dried pineapple flower if wished. The recipe for the flowers can be found here, and is extremely simple to complete, thus being well worth the effort.

pina colada cupcakes 2

Pina Colada Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Baked Perfection

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice
Pina Colada Frosting
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2  1/2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • Dried pineapple flowers (see here) and dessicated coconut
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with liners.
Cream together the butter and sugar, before adding the eggs, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the batter, alternating with spoonfuls of coconut milk and pineapple until all ingredients have been combined. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy, adding the coconut milk in gradually to create a thick frosting. Spoon onto the cupcakes, before topping with toasted coconut and a dried pineapple flower.
Desserts · Vegan

Vegan Coconut and Vanilla Panna Cotta, Macadamia Tuille and Pineapple

Over the next few posts we are going on a slight diversion from the cake-based goodness you are used to, and instead will be talking about dessert. Specifically, vegan desserts, and I will be giving you the recipes for two that I tried recently. This was a new challenge for me, as I am not vegan myself, and have had basically no experience in this type of cooking. However, I was asked to make dessert for a family dinner and one of my cousins who would be in attendance is a very committed vegan. Now, whilst the easy option was to make a fruit salad or the like I decided that I didn’t really want to do that – rather I wanted to make a dessert that everyone could eat and enjoy – one that was vegan without looking vegan!

Now this is easier said than done, as the majority of desserts include some form of animal product, whether it be eggs, butter, cream or honey. Coupled with the fact that Max is strongly allergic to banana (another ingredient often used in vegan cooking) made it quite a large challenge! So I did what every sensible person does in this situation and hit Pinterest.

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I decided that I would make a trial run of several desserts, having never attempted vegan cooking before. I selected three contrasting desserts, made mini tests of each of them and had a taste test! The three recipes were a coconut and vanilla panna cotta, a chocolate and orange mousse and a lime cheesecake. Two out of the three were successful, and the third (the lime cheesecake) was not unsuccessful – it tasted great, I just need a better blender!

Today then, I present the first of these recipes – a vegan coconut and vanilla pannacotta served with a caramel macadamia tuille and both dried and macerated pineapple. This recipe could also be used successfully for non-vegans as the flavours themselves are lovely (I actually adapted the recipe from a non-vegan version!)

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Vegan Coconut and Vanilla Pannacotta, Macadamia Tuille and Pineapple (Two Ways)

Ingredients:

Panna cotta:

  • 20g vegetarian gelling agent
  • 150ml/5floz rice milk (or your preferred milk equivalent)
  • 150ml/5floz cream substitute
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 100ml/3flz coconut milk

Tuille:

  • 50g macadamia nuts
  • 50ml/2flz orange liqueur
  • 100ml/31/2floz water
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp liquid glucose
  • Pineapple and edible flowers to decorate

Instructions:

Panna cotta:

Place the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla pod and heat until the sugar dissolves, before removing the pan from the heat. Stir in the coconut milk, ensuring the mixture is completely smooth. Add the gelling agent to the pan and bring to the boil, ensuring that you stir constantly. Cook for two minutes before removing from the heat and pouring into metal ramekins. Place in the fridge to set for at least two hours.

Macadamia Tuille:

Crush the macadamia nuts in a pestle and mortar, before placing on a baking sheet and gently toasting for a few minutes (keep your eye on them – I can promise you that if you even think of leaving them, they will burn!) Place the liqueur, water, sugar and glucose in a pan and cook over a high heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Allow it to become a nice amber colour, before removing from the heat and pouring onto a silicone baking mat. Spread it with a spatula until it is very thin,and sprinkle with the macadamia nuts. Cut out four discs (about 2in in diameter) and allow to cool completely.

Pineapple Crisps:

Peel and de-eye the pineapple, before cutting very thin slices using a large broad-bladed knife. Lay these on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in the oven at gas mark 1 for about 1 hour until they have started to dry out and the edges have gone golden, turning occasionally. Remove from the oven and leave to dry completely. You can create pineapple flowers by placing the slices in muffin tins to cool. Cut the remainder of the pineapple into cube and place in a bowl with a little lime juice and sugar.

To complete the dish, Remove the panna cotta from the fridge and remove from the mould, loosening with a sharp knife as necessary. Place in the centre of the plate and place the tuille on top. Position pineapple flowers to one side, and add cubes of pineapple. Finish with an edible flower.

And there we go – my first vegan dessert! In two days time, return for chocolate mousse – vegan style!

Africa · Baking · Cake · Cake Decorating · Nation Cake Challenge · Natural Decorations

Côte d’Ivoire: Nyamanku Cake

ivory coast flagToday, I take you on a journey, leaving the wet and cold England behind for a (hopefully) more sunny location. Specifically Côte d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast. Changing continents, I hear you cry? Unorthodox I know, but I think we could all do with some sun, particularly if you are in England at the moment!

ellie cake 1

This cake is truly a case of combining flavours found in a certain countries cuisine into a typically English cake, as I don’t believe that Côte d’Ivoire has ‘cake’, as shown here. However the flavours are taken from a specific drink, Nyamanku, which combines ginger with orange, lemon and pineapple juices. Little known outside Côte d’Ivoire, the drink is thought to have many health-giving properties due to the ginger, which seems to cure most diseases known to man, if Google is to be believed!

To reassure those of you who may be reading this thinking ‘I don’t like ginger cake’, do not worry. This cake has chunks of ginger in it, but the taste is very subtle and not at all overpowering, so do not let this put you off!

The cake is flavoured with ginger, orange and pineapple, before being topped with an orange buttercream. The decorative flowers are made from thin slices of pineapple which have been slowly dried out in the oven to give them their characteristic look. I first saw this technique on Pinterest, and have been longing for a suitable opportunity to try them out! They are completely edible and include no extra sugar, so you could even call them healthy! To make the centres, I used candied fennel seeds, which you can find in Indian supermarkets, but if you cannot get these soft gold pearls would also look lovely.

Nyamanku Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pineapple
  • 6oz butter/margerine
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • Rind of one orange, finely grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 6 large lumps of bottled stem ginger

Icing:

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 10 ml milk
  • Grated rind of one large orange
  • Sugar coated fennel seeds or soft gold pearls to decorate

Instructions:

Start by making the dried pineapple flowers. Preheat the oven to gas mark 1/275°F (or less if you have the option), and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Peel the pineapple and remove any eyes before cutting into 12 very thin slices (about 1mm thick – you may need to use a mandolin slicer unless you are a whizz at cutting!). Transfer to the baking sheets and place in the oven for 30 minutes. At this point, if they are suitably dry, turn them over and return to the oven for about 20 minutes, checking regularly to ensure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and place into bun tins to dry – this will shape them into the round flower shapes shown. Allow to dry out completely at room temperature. Use the best six for decoration, and cut the remainder into thin strips to add to the cake later.

Turn the oven up to gas mark 3/325°F, and grease and line a 6in round cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar before adding the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the orange rind, ginger, shredded dried pineapple (see decoration), milk and remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour into the pre-prepared tin and bake for 75-90 minutes (1 1/4 hours-1 1/2 hours) until golden brown and cooked all the way through (a skewer should come out clean!) Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is completely cool, make the buttercream, by mixing the sugar, butter, milk and orange rind for about 5 minutes until thick and fluffy. Spread over the cake, smoothing with a palate knife to give a neat finish. Top with the dried pineapple flowers, putting a small blob of buttercream in the centre of each flower. Sprinkle with the candied fennel seeds or soft gold pearls to finish.

Eat and enjoy. Came back soon when we will travel back to Europe to visit the amazingly beautiful country of Croatia – I know I can’t wait!