I write this from somewhere between Australia and New Zealand, high above the stretch of ocean known as the Tasman Sea. It is typical cattle-class grunge: the very back row, window seat, crammed into a tight little box with the reclined seat in front pressing my laptop into my chest. Stuffy and warm, air permeated with the faint sickly smell of reheated food, a baby screaming hysterically in the seat next door and hundreds of people headphone clad, staring at rectangular screens as we hurtle through the air in a reinforced aluminium tube, 30000 ft up.
The light has gradually faded – initially glaring brightly through the window, glittering over the foamy white lines of breaking waves stretching along the west coast of New Zealand and blending into a hazy horizon, the main source of illumination now is the dimmed fluorescent cabin beams and the faint blue emanating from electronic screens. Not even the clouds remain visible in the vast darkness beneath the plane – only sporadic orange flashes of wingtip lights.
The four days I spent at home disappeared far too quickly. I loved it – a much-needed pause between weeks of university and life in general, but lectures start again at 8am tomorrow and it already hardly feels like I ever left. Life is a blur sometimes, isn’t it? It doesn’t help that I tend to have superhuman expectations of what I might get done in break time, as if days on holiday just stretch out forever, when in reality they speed past at twice the rate of ordinary work weeks, and a few sleep-ins and the lack of rush mean that you really can’t do anything at all. But that doesn’t matter – the important things happened (meaning the family time, the cooking and eating and sleeping and the one assignment submission), and the lower priorities can wait.
Easter called for a celebratory cake- and with passionfruit freely available, a lingering, unusually warm autumn, and an aunt coming to stay with wheat intolerances, it seemed like the ideal time to try this gluten-free pineapple coconut cake with passionfruit curd & vanilla buttercream. Tropical and fruity, the cake itself is intensified with roasted pineapple puree and coconut flour as well as desiccated coconut, for texture, and is filled with thick layers of rich, tangy passionfruit curd. A vanilla italian meringue coats the top and sides – it doesn’t need much, and I thought adding it between the layers might be overkill. The passionfruit and coconut are the stars here. Inspired and adapted from Megan at Hint of Vanilla.
I don’t often make gluten free cakes, seeing gluten-free flour composites as a poor substitute – my gluten-free baking occurs tends to occur in the form of flourless chocolate cakes and almond meal based friands. I did buy a box of rice flour once, intent on using it in a brownie recipe, but somehow got waylaid and it remains unopened in the pantry, 2 years on. If I was coeliac myself, or had a family member/friend who was, I’m sure I would become a pro pretty quickly! In the meantime, this cake is the sort where you would never question its gluten content based on an odd texture or flavour – the coconut flour simply lends an intense, meaty coconut vibe. However, do be careful as it does absorb significantly more moisture, so over-baking the cake can send it into dry territory fairly quickly. Err on the side of less time.
- For the cake tin size: this cake makes enough for 3 layers. I own 1 x 15cm cake tin, so I baked 1/3 of the mixture, and then the other 2/3 subsequently in the same tin. I then cut the large 2/3 in half to give 3 layers. If you have one tin, I would try this, otherwise you could:
- If you own 1 x 15cm tin: either do as I did above, or bake it all in the one tin and divide it into 3 layers. You will need a tall 15cm tin for this, however, and it will take longer to bake.
- If you own 2 x 15cm tins: you can bake them as 2/3 and 1/3 at the same time.
- If you own 3 x 15cm tins, evenly divide the batter between the tins and bake simultaneously. This will have the shortest baking time.
- Make sure to bring the cake to room temperature before serving to allow the buttercream to soften.
- I wouldn’t advise trying a direct swap of coconut flour for regular flour – coconut flour is very absorbent, and so the cake batter would be much more liquid.
- To make the pineapple puree: either buy pineapple puree if it is available, or make your own (instructions below). You will need to oven roast pineapple for around 45 minutes before pureeing it in a food processor or smoothie blender.
- To make the pineapple flowers (optional): see this video here. I would recommend making these the day before you plan to assemble the cake.
You might have realised by now that I LOVE passionfruit, and if you are as big a fan as I am you might like these recipes too:
– Homemade Crumpets with Passionfruit Curd & Hazelnut Crumble
– Passionfruit Coconut Meringue Bars
– Individual Passionfruit Pavlovas
– No-Churn Passionfruit & Raspberry Pavlova Ice Cream
- 6 eggs
- 150g white sugar
- 80g butter
- 300g pineapple puree (see instructions below)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 75g coconut flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 150g desiccated coconut
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
- ½ a pineapple (about 400g)
- ¾ cup (or 200ml) passionfruit pulp (about ½ cup when strained)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 110 g butter, cubed
- 2 egg whites
- 90g sugar
- 170g unsalted butter, soft, cut into 1 cm chunks
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
- Pineapple flowers (optional): see video here.
- Passionfruit curd
- Shredded coconut, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line your 15 cm round cake tins (see baker’s notes above).
- Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a small pot of barely simmering water. Whisk continuously (with a hand whisk) until the mixture is 60°C on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have one, just dip your finger tip in - the mixture should be warm-hot (not burning hot) and the sugar should have dissolved.
- Remove from the heat, transfer to the mixer, and beat (with balloon whisk attachment or electric hand beater) until it has tripled in volume and is thick and aerated.
- In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, pineapple puree and vanilla paste. Reduce the mixer speed and gradually pour in the butter mixture until just combined.
- Gently fold in the coconut flour and baking powder. Fold in the desiccated coconut. Pour until the cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes (this will vary depending on what cake tin option you chose above), until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake just comes out clean or with a few crumbs. (err on the side of less time so it doesn’t dry out).
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
- Cut up half a pineapple (about 300g) into large chunks (4-5 pieces). Place in a roasting dish, rub the vanilla paste over with your fingers and pour the sugar syrup over the top.
- Roast for 30-45 minutes or until fragrant and tender.
- Remove the pineapple from the sugar syrup and place in a food processor or smoothie blender and blend until smooth. Reserve.
- Strain the passionfruit pulp through a fine sieve, using a spoon to break up all the fibrous bits and get out as much liquid as you can. Reserve the liquid (which should be roughly ½ a cup).
- In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine the passionfruit liquid and 2 tablespoons of seeds, lemon juice and sugar. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks until the sugar has dissolved.
- Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water) and add the cubed butter. Stir the mixture continuously, scraping around the sides and bottom of the bowl, until it starts to thicken (10-15 minutes).
- As soon as it has thickened, pour the curd into a separate, cold bowl and stir occasionally until cooled. It will thicken further as it cools.
- Refrigerated in an airtight container or jar, this curd will keep for a couple of weeks.
- Whisk together the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
- Transfer to the stand mixer and beat on medium-high until white, glossy, thick and no longer warm.
- Slowly add the butter, one piece at a time, until a smooth, fluffy buttercream forms
- With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla paste until combined.
- Divide cake into three layers (this will depend on how you split the batter between cake tins - see 'Baker's Notes' above).
- Place one round of cake on your plate, cake stand or cake board. Slide thin strips of baking paper around the edges to catch any drips.
- Spoon most of the passionfruit curd into a piping bag (reserving about ⅓ cup for the drips at the end) and pipe a spiral of passionfruit curd onto the first round, using half of what is in your piping bag.
- Place the second cake layer on top and gently repeat the process, using the rest of the passionfruit curd.
- Gently place the third cake layer on top. Place the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the fridge. If you feel like the cake is unsteady, measure a skewer to the height of the cake and gently press through the layers to hold them steady.
- Apply a thin coat of buttercream to the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Apply a bit more buttercream to smooth out the edges. At this point you may choose to apply a thicker coat, or keep it thin so the cake layers show through (the “semi-nude” look.
- To decorate the cake: using a small fork or a small piping bag, gently drip bits of passionfruit curd down the sides of the cake. Decorate with passionfruit flowers and toasted coconut.
- Bring to room temperature before serving