Coconut rum pineapple layer cake

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine.

Several years ago I wanted to make a special dessert for a friend’s brunch and this cake looked suitably over-the-top. It is — four fabulous layers of airy rum and vanilla-scented cake layered with pineapple and lime-infused coconut buttercream. This creation is well worth the time and effort, but it’s not like whipping up a pan of brownies before dinner; it does take the better part of a day to prepare. Or, make it over two. Cake-making perhaps is a bit of a lost art, and, not being a regular baker, I appreciated the detailed and straightforward method. Don’t stint on the rum quality. For the smoothest hint of rum flavour (not an all-out boozy attack) use a high-quality island rum such as Mount Gay or Appletons. — Ed.


  • 1 c cake flour
  • ½ t salt
  • 6 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 6 T (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two round cake tins (8-inch) and place parchment in the bottom.

Sift flour with salt into a bowl. Heat eggs and sugar in a large metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, gently whisking constantly, until lukewarm. Remove bowl from heat and add vanilla, then beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until thick and pale and tripled in volume (about 5 minutes with a standing mixer or 10 minutes with a hand held). Sift flour and salt over eggs in 2 batches, folding gently but thoroughly after each batch. Fold in melted butter until combined. Divide batter evenly between cake pans, smoothing tops.

Bake cakes in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean and cakes are golden, about 15 minutes. Cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.

Pineapple filling

  • 1 large (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, including juice
  • 2 T demerara sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 t fresh lime juice

Stir together filling ingredients in a heavy saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then simmer, continue stirring for 3 minutes and take off heat. Cool filling completely, stirring occasionally.

Rum syrup

  • 2/3 c water
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 3 T light rum

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Transfer to a small bowl and chill until ready to use.

Coconut buttercream

This is a good recipe for an old-fashioned buttercream icing. It requires a candy thermometer and all of your attention while making. Buttercream can be made up to a week ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature on the counter, and beat with an electric mixer before using. Makes about 4¼ cups (enough to frost an 8-inch layer cake).

  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • ½ t salt
  • 1¼ c sugar
  • ½ c water
  • ½ t fresh lime juice
  • 1½ c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized chunks, softened
  • 1½ t coconut extract

Combine egg whites and salt in bowl of a standing electric mixer.

Stir together sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, washing down the side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. When the syrup reaches a boil, put thermometer into the sugar syrup and monitor while beating the whites. Start beating whites with electric mixer at medium-high speed. Once whites are frothy, add lime juice and beat at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.

Continue boiling sugar syrup, without stirring, until it reaches soft-ball stage (238-242°F). Immediately remove from heat. Slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into egg whites, beating constantly at high speed. Beat meringue, scraping down bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 6 minutes. Make sure the meringue is cool before the next step.

Once the meringue is cool, gradually add butter, one piece at a time, beating well, at medium speed, after each addition until incorporated. Chill bowl in an ice water bath if the mixture looks soupy. Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. Mixture may look curdled before all the butter is added, but will come back together before beating is finished. Add coconut extract and beat 1 minute more.

To assemble

Have ready the buttercream, some lime zest and 3½ c fresh coconut shavings or 22/3 c sweetened flaked coconut.

Rim edges of cakes if necessary to make flat, and cut each horizontally in half with a long serrated knife to form a total of four thin layers. Put one cake layer cut side up on a cake plate and brush top with rum syrup, then spread half of the pineapple filling over it. Top with another cake layer and brush with syrup, then spread with about 2/3 cup butter cream. Top with a third cake layer and brush with syrup, then spread remaining pineapple over it. Top with the last layer, cut side down, and brush with remaining syrup.

Frost sides and top of cake with the rest of the buttercream, then coat with coconut. Dust with fresh lime zest right before serving. If the buttercream gets too soft and sticky to spread, put in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Serves 8-16 people.