Pineapple upside down layer cake

So with all of the recipe-testing I have been doing, not going to lie, there’s been a LOT of leftover components here and there accumulating. One of such leftover items were the tea-smoked cherries from my earl grey-spumoni dessert. So I wanted to get rid of them bring them back in another dessert! Rummaging through my pantry, I was looking for what else I could pair with the cherries. Now, chocolate and cherries would be a classic combination, but I sort of already did that with the spumoni, and I didn’t want to repeat that usage again. Almond and cherry could be another good idea, but again, very Italian. And then I stumbled upon a giant pineapple in my kitchen. Cherries and pineapple might not be a first or immediate connection, but I do remember the gross preserved maraschino cherries that you would find in a pineapple upside down cake, and I decided to go down that route, since it does technically work there? What? I needed an excuse to get rid of the cherries.

For my layers of the cake, I went with the format of a naked cake. We have brown butter-pecan cake, that has been embedded with caramelized pineapples and smoked cherries, with a roasted pineapple custard, coconut swiss meringue buttercream, and toasted pecans and coconut flakes. So it’s really a pineapple upside down cake meets piña colada meets a hummingbird cake, if you really think about it. We have the pineapple, the coconut, the pecans, and the smoked cherries here. For the pineapple custard, it sort of came about because after I had already roasted and portioned out the pineapple that I was going to use for the cake, and I just had a surplus of it, so I knew I had to do at least one other component with it. Since I had roasted it, therefore killing off any of those enzymes that would curdle dairy or prevent any gelatin from setting, I knew that I could just puree it, and transform it into a pastry cream. For the swiss meringue buttercream, honestly, they’re not that hard to make, especially when you have a stand mixer. To make mine coconut-flavored, I went with cream of coconut, which is the condensed milk equivalent of coconut milk, just to guarantee that flavor profile.

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For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups coconut milk
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, browned
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup roasted pineapple
1/3 cup smoked cherries, pitted and quartered

Mix together all of the ingredients except the last two. Lay out the pineapple and cherries on the bottom of a lined half sheet tray. Pour the batter over and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely. Cut out three 6-inch circles of the cake, using scraps if need be to form any layers.

For the roasted pineapple:
2 cups pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8th inch cubes
1 stick butter, browned
a pinch of salt

Saute the pineapple in the brown butter until the exterior of the pineapple is a deep, golden brown color and all of the excess liquid is cooked out. Reserve 1 cup for the cake and the rest of it for the custard.

For the pineapple custard:
1 cup roasted pineapple
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
a pinch of salt

Whip egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt together. Puree the pineapple with brown butter and pass through a sieve into a pot. Bring that mixture up to heat and temper in the egg yolks. Whip on medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until the cornstarch activates and thickens the custard. Pass through another sieve and refrigerate in a bowl with cling-wrap pressed against it.

For the coconut swiss meringue buttercream:
1/4 cup cream of coconut
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar

Over a double boiler, whip together the sugar, egg whites, and cream of tartare until foamy and the sugar dissolved. Take off heat and start whipping on a stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Add in the salted butter first, until emulsified. Then whip in your cream of coconut until emulsified as well. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes before attempting to use, as the buttercream will still be a little soft.

For the toasted coconut and pecans:
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown butter
a pinch of salt

Toss together and spread onto a lined sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 3 minutes. Cool completely before using.

For the coconut milk soak:
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon rum*
a pinch of salt

Combine together.

To assemble:
Line a 6-inch ring mold with either parchment or acetate. Place in your first layer(if you had to make any layers with scraps, use the scrappiest layer here). Add 1/3 of your soak, then your pineapple custard, the pecan-coconut mixture, and spread over that some of your buttercream. Repeat with the second layer. For the third, swirl together some of your coconut-pineapple mixture, then garnish with your coconut-pecan crumble and pipe on the buttercream to finish.

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