National Pina Colada Day is July 10th, and you can have your drink and eat it too. Nothing says summertime like a tiki cocktail, and when you turn those flavors into a boozy cake, it is pretty much a guaranteed baking win. This cake is packed full of coconut and pineapple in various forms and has rum in the cake, frosting and layering components. The perfect balance of creaminess, fruitiness and rum-ness. Hello summer!
Growing up in the south, I was never a fan of coconut desserts. There weren’t many coconut options other than those blue and clear plastic bags of sweetened shredded coconut, and the end result was always tooth-achingly sweet. But nowadays, there are so many coconut options: chips, flakes, shreds, milk, cream, even fresh coconut. And most of them are unsweetened.
I use two different forms in this cake. Canned coconut milk and unsweetened shredded coconut. Before using the canned coconut milk, you will need to refrigerate it overnight so the fat will separate and can easily be scooped out and used in the frosting. Don’t toss the leftover liquid, you will use it in the cake.
When I tried to just use coconut cream in the frosting, I found that it tasted flat and one-noted, so using whipping cream as well helped bolster the flavor.
Fresh or canned pineapple can sometimes add too much moisture to baked goods. I got around that conundrum by using freeze-dried pineapple. I tossed it in the blender attachment for about 30 seconds and turned it into pineapple powder. This gets used in both the frosting and cake.
As far as rum goes, I stuck with dark rum throughout. I found that white rum didn’t impart a lot of flavor and spiced rum made the cake taste more pineapple upside-down than pina colada.
It is easy for the taste of an alcohol to become lost when baking with it. Using it in the cake batter and then brushing the cake layers with it once they were baked ensured the rum flavor stayed present.
For cake batters, I like to use the balloon whisks because I feel like they do a better job incorporating all the ingredients uniformly.
Adding toasted coconut and crushed pineapple between the layers adds a pleasant surprise.
Pina Colada Cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
1 (16 oz) can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight before using
8 oz. (1 cup) heavy whipping cream
1 bag (1.75 oz.) freeze-dried pineapple
1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.) dark rum
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
10 1/2 oz. ( 1 1/2 cups) sugar
2 oz. (1/4 cup) dark rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
10 3/4 oz. (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
coconut liquid left over from frosting plus enough milk to equal 1 cup
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) dark rum
8 oz. crushed pineapple, thoroughly drained
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans.
For Frosting: Set up the Ankarsrum base with the plastic whipping bowl and the balloon whisks. Open the chilled can of coconut milk and carefully scoop out the fat off the top and place in mixer. Pour the clearish liquid left into a measuring cup and add enough regular milk to equal 1 cup. Set aside until ready to use for the cake.
Whip the coconut cream along with the whipping cream on medium speed (3 o’clock) until soft peaks begin to form.
Place the freeze dried pineapple into a blender or spice grinder and blend until it turns into powder. Set aside 2 tbsp. for the cake and pour the rest into the coconut cream mixture. Add rum and powdered sugar and beat on high speed (6 o’clock) until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For Cake: Cream the butter and sugar in the plastic whipping bowl with the balloon whisks on medium high speed (4 o’clock) for 5 minutes. Add eggs, rum and vanilla extract and beat one minute more at same speed, scraping down sides as necessary.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 2 tbsp. of dried pineapple powder, salt and baking powder. Turn speed to lowest setting (12 o’clock) and add in half the flour mixture. Gradually increase speed to medium (3 o’clock) and mix just until combined. Add in half of coconut water/milk mixture that was set aside. Blend just until combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and coconut liquid.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 minutes, until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cake cool in pans for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to make sure cake is loose and then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack. Brush tops of cake with 2 Tbsp. dark rum while they are still hot.
Assembling/Decorating: While the cake cools, toast the coconut on a baking sheet for 7-10 minutes in a 350º F oven until beginning to brown. Let cool.
Place one cooled cake layer on cake stand or serving platter. Top with half of frosting, crushed pineapple and half of toasted coconut. Place other cake layer on, and top with remaining frosting. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.
Yield: 1 8-inch 2 layer cake
Whole Wheat Version: Replace all purpose flour with equal parts whole wheat flour. If desired, you can replace the sugar with coconut sugar or sucanat with honey (aka honey granules.) If you mill at home, soft wheat would work well in this cake.
Gluten-Free Version: Replace all purpose flour with gluten-free all purpose or multipurpose flour. I prefer King Arthur’s Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour.