Elderflower Piñka Colada Cake

This recipe was originally going to be a ginger-white peach cake, but I couldn’t find white peaches, so I had to make substitutions. The peaches weren’t available, but the grocery store did have pink pineapple, so I made an impulse buy, and grabbed the pink pineapple instead. I’m personally surprised that pink pineapples were more readily available than peaches, especially since I had a really cute white peach thing planned out for the initial cake concept, but this is the card I was dealt with, so that is what I ended up going with for my main fruit component in this cake. I ultimately also scrapped the ginger aspect in favor of elderflower, simply because elderflower works gorgeously with tropical fruit, and I figured I would just save the original ginger-white peach cake idea for other things in general. From there, I included coconut as well, since coconut and pineapple are a match made in heaven and elderflower plays off of both really nicely – for those who have never had elderflower liquor before, it tastes like lychees. It is pleasantly sweet and floral, and has this almost nostalgic note to it. For me anyways. I love making piña colada-flavored desserts, because who doesn’t love coconut and pineapple together? One is creamy and nutty, the other is tart, tangy, and sweet. Granted with pink pineapples, they are less tart and sour, and more pleasantly sweet, while the elderflower adds another layer of complexity that cuts through any of the excessive sweetness! Now I will say this cake was about a 3-4 day ordeal, because of the effort that went into it, but I am pretty proud of the end result!

When it came to the components, there were quite a few. We had a coconut sponge cake, a coconut-elderflower soak and mousse, elderflower-flambeed pink pineapple, pink pineapple gelee, an elderflowerglaze, and crystalized pink pineapple chips. Of everything, the chips took the most time to do. Drying out pineapple is time-consuming, since it is fibrous and full of water. When you are trying to dehydrate, dry, or crystalize something, liquid is the enemy. Unfortunately, since pineapple has a lot of that, these pineapple chips take a lot more time compared to let’s say an apple or a persimmon chip would – apples, persimmons, and strawberries took about 2 hours to turn into glass chips. These pineapples took closer to 6 hours. I have seen recipes online to candy or crystalize pink pineapple, but they looked like beef jerky instead of the bright pink color I was going for. I found that adding additional sugar to crystalize the pineapples too early in the drying process causes this, since the sugar and liquid will slowly caramelize and darken the color of the pineapple. The workaround is to par-dry the slices first, then toss them in sugar using the remaining moisture from the pineapple, and then re-baking them. The end result was a gorgeous, stain glass chip!

For the other components, comparably to the chips, they aren’t as time-consuming to make. The gelee is made by blending up pink pineapple, and it is boiled down with agar into a jelly-like substance. The flambeed pineapple is probably the second-easiest component behind the soak, but if you do not feel comfortable doing a flambe in your house, you can also just cook the pineapple cubes down in the alcohol on a lower heat instead, just to get the flavors cooked down together. The cake is a super thin layer, so it bakes really quickly. I used coconut flour, coconut oil and coconut milk in the cake, which gives it an inescapable coconut flavor to it! The mousse is made with a mixture of coconut, mascarpone, and cream, and scented with the elderflower as well. Beyond the chips, the other thing to keep in mind is temperatures. While the chips are being made, I recommend getting the gelee made and frozen solid, and then flambe the pineapple pieces, so that you can get those cooled down for the assembly. Once the chips are done, get the cake going, and then the mousse, and once everything is frozen solid, finish with the glaze and garnish the top with more of the flambeed pineapple and the chips on top!

For the dried pink pineapple chips:
1oz pink pineapple, peeled, cored
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
canola oil

Using a mandolin on its second-thinnest setting, slice the pineapple. Cut the pineapple slices into triangular wedges. On a canola oil-sprayed, parchment-lined sheet tray, space the pineapple slices out, keeping them at least 1 inch apart, and bake at 200 degrees F for 1 hour. Then toss the pineapple slices in the sugar and salt. Re-bake the pineapple slices on a new sheet tray, at 200 degrees F for 4 more hours, flipping the pineapple slices halfway through the process to guarantee that both sides dry evenly. Store the pineapple chips in an airtight container.

For the pink pineapple gelee:
4oz pink pineapple juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
2 tsp agar agar

Bring pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar, and salt to a boil first on medium heat. Stir into the juice the agar, and allow that to continue to cook on medium heat for a further 2 minutes. Allow the gelee mixture to cool down before pouring into a lined 5-inch ring mold. Freeze the gelee solid, at least 90 minutes in the freezer, before attempting to unmold.

For the flambeed pink pineapple:
1 tsp melted coconut oil
2oz pink pineapple, small dice
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp elderflower liquor

In a pan, heat up the coconut oil first. Saute the pineapple and salt in the oil first, then add in the liquor. If flambeeing, tilt the pan and let it catch flame if using a gas stove. If flambeeing without a gas stove, carefully use a candle lighter or blow torch. If not flambeeing, simply reduce the liquor into the pineapple. Allow the alcohol to cook off completely before storing the pineapple in an airtight container.

For the coconut sponge:
1 egg, separated
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the egg white with sugar to stiff peaks. Whisk the egg yolk with the coconut oil and milk. Sift the flours into the coconut oil-egg yolk mixture. Then add to that the xanthan gum, salt, and vanilla. Fold the egg whites through the egg yolk-flour mix to form your batter. Pour the batter onto a lined sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cut out a 5-inch disk of the cake, and chill it down so that it will firm up.

For the elderflower soak:
2 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp elderflower liquor
a pinch of salt

Mix together to form your soak. Keep refrigerated until time to use.

For the coconut-elderflower mousse:
4oz coconut milk
2 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp cold water
2oz granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1oz elderflower liquor
8oz mascarpone cheese
2oz heavy cream, whipped stiff

In a pot, heat up coconut milk, gelatin, sugar, salt, and liquor. Once the gelatin has dissolved into the milk, take that off heat and stir into the mascarpone cheese. Fold into that the cream to finish.

For initial assembly:
In a lined 6-inch ring mold, place down the frozen gelee first. Press onto that the cubes of your flambeed pineapple, just to form an additional layer on top of the gelee. Then pour over that all of your mousse. Then brush the cake with soak, and press that into the mousse as well. Freeze for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold.

For the clear elderflower glaze:
2 tsp gelatin powder + 2 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp elderflower liquor
a pinch of salt

Heat everything up on low heat until dissolved together. Cool it down to roughly 90 degrees F before pouring over the still-frozen cake, placed over a cooling rack or on an elevated surface to let the excess glaze drip off the sides.

For final assembly:
Garnish the top of the cake with more cubes of flambeed pineapple, and the pink pineapple chips/

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