Tommy Bahama’s Famous Piña Colada Cake

Photo by Peden + Monk. Recipe from FLAVORS OF ALOHA, available only at Tommy Bahama stores, restaurants, and www.tommybahama.com.

My must-have Easter dinner dessert is coconut layer cake.  Its annual appearance on our holiday table goes back to my childhood.  My mom and our neighbor Ardi thought nothing of staying up all night designing 3-D cakes, and Easter always featured a funny bunny with white jelly bean teeth and shredded coconut fur.  (Yes, the fur and frosting was often tinted with food coloring.) I’m all-grown up, and now I prefer my coconut cakes for their flavor rather than their cuteness factor.  When working on TOMMY BAHAMA’S FLAVORS OF ALOHA, I recreated the piña colada cake that is a favorite at their restaurants.  This is a truly fabulous cake, with a white chocolate mousse frosting, tender yellow cake, crushed pineapple, and a generous splash of rum.  (If serving to kids, use non-alcoholic rum-flavored beverage syrup, or simply orange juice sweetened with some superfine sugar.)

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Tommy Bahama's Famous Piña Colada Cake
If your idea of the perfect vacation drink is a piña colada, then get ready to have a new favorite dessert. The version sold at the restaurants uses convenience products (such as prepared white chocolate mousse) that are only sold wholesale, so I had to come up with a homemade version for the FLAVORS OF ALOHA book. Comprised of a four-layer stack of tender cake with crushed pineapple, white chocolate mousse, dark rum, and toasted coconut, it is perfect for special occasions. When purchasing the white chocolate, look for a brand that has cocoa butter (check the label) for the tastiest results.
Course Desserts
Servings
8 to 10
Ingredients
Cake
  • softened butter and all-purpose flour, for the cake pans
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 11/2 sticks) at room temperature
  • cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unsweetened flaked coconut such as Bob’s Red Mill (these are the large flakes), or use one 7-ounce bag (2 2/3 cups) sweetened shredded coconut (the standard supermarket variety)
  • Two 20-ounce cans crushed pineapple in juice
White Chocolate Mousse
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dark rum, such as Myers
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Course Desserts
Servings
8 to 10
Ingredients
Cake
  • softened butter and all-purpose flour, for the cake pans
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 11/2 sticks) at room temperature
  • cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unsweetened flaked coconut such as Bob’s Red Mill (these are the large flakes), or use one 7-ounce bag (2 2/3 cups) sweetened shredded coconut (the standard supermarket variety)
  • Two 20-ounce cans crushed pineapple in juice
White Chocolate Mousse
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dark rum, such as Myers
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. To make the cake: Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter two 9-by-1 ½–inch cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with waxed paper. Coat the insides with flour and tap out the excess flour.
  2. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until the butter is creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar and continue beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula, until the mixture is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Whisk the egg whites, buttermilk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl just to combine them. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two equal additions of the buttermilk mixture, and mix, scraping down the bowl as needed, just until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans and smooth the tops.
  4. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (Keep the oven on.) Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire cake racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the insides of the pans, and invert and unmold the cakes onto the racks. Remove the paper and let cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, spread the coconut flakes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the coconut is toasted to golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
  6. Drain the pineapple well in a wire sieve. Squeeze the pineapple gently to remove its excess juice—you should have about 1½ cups pineapple.
  7. To make the mousse: Heat 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is simmering. Put the white chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour in the hot cream. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes to soften the white chocolate and whisk until smooth. Let stand at room temperature until cool and thickened, but still liquid, about 1 hour.
  8. Chill a large bowl in the freezer or refrigerator. Add the remaining 2 cups cream with the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Whip with an electric mixer at high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the cooled white chocolate mixture and whip on low speed for a few seconds just until the mousse is combined and forms soft peaks again—do not over-mix. (You can also remove the bowl from the stand and combine the mousse by hand with the whisk attachment to be double sure not to over-mix.) The mousse will be soft, but spreadable. Set aside 1½ cups of the mousse in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until serving.
  9. Using a long serrated knife, cut each cake layer in half horizontally. Place one cake half, browned side down, on a cake platter. Slip strips of waxed paper under the cake to protect the platter during icing. Brush and drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the rum over the cake. Spread with about ¾ cup of the mousse, and evenly scatter about ½ cup of the pineapple on top. Repeat with the remaining two cake layers, 2 tablespoons of rum, 1½ cups of mousse, and 1 cup pineapple. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut side up, and brush with the remaining mousse. Using an icing spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining mousse. Do not worry if the mousse doesn’t mask the cake completely, as it will be covered with coconut later. Refrigerate the cake until the mousse is cool and firmer, at least 1 and up to 8 hours.
  10. Working over a rimmed baking sheet, pat the coconut all over the top and sides of the cake, letting the excess coconut fall onto the baking sheet so it can be reapplied. Cover the cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 day.
  11. Let the cake stand at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Remove the waxed paper strips.Transfer the reserved mousse to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch open-star tip. Using a sharp knife, slice the cake. Pipe a large rosette of mousse next to each slice and serve. (You can simply spoon the extra mousse next to each slice, or refrigerate it for up to 2 days as a treat for another meal.)
Recipe Notes

*Check the label and only use brands with cacao butter in the ingredients list.  Avoid those with palm oil!

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