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.)
8 to 10
- softened butter and all-purpose flour, for the cake pans
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 11/2 sticks) at room temperature
- 1½ 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
- 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
White Chocolate Mousse
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Drain the pineapple well in a wire sieve. Squeeze the pineapple gently to remove its excess juice—you should have about 1½ cups pineapple.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
*Check the label and only use brands with cacao butter in the ingredients list. Avoid those with palm oil!
VickieYour recipe calls for chocolate in the mousse but it's not listed as an ingredient. I'm assuming some type of white chocolate but how much??
Judy CairnsI'm planning on making this cake but the white chocolate amount is missing from the ingredient list. How much do I use?
Rebecca MackLove your pina colada cake
DebbieHow much white chocolate in White Chocolate Mousse? This is my Mother's favorite cake, and I would love to bake it for her birthday. Thanks!
Bee GianniI’m really looking forward to making this fabulous cake. Thank you for sharing!
Bee GianniGorgeous cake. Can’t wait to try it. And oh boy, I do love coconut.
Nancy DavisHello Rick. I love to bake and seldom order dessert out because I am usually disappointed. However, your Pina Colada Cake is fabulous and worth every penny of the price per slice ($11.00) at Tommy Bahama’s. I raved about your cake to some friends this past Friday evening when we were at the Tommy Bahama’s on El Paseo in Palm Desert, California so we ordered it. Having enjoyed your cake so many times in the past, I was very surprised and disappointed with my first taste of the mousse rosette as I could tell it was not the same. Don’t know if it was a matter of a new pastry chef or new recipe but it was not up to your “Gold” standard. I didn’t say anything to my friends because they had no previous frame of reference and thought the cake was very good. Rick, thank you for sharing your recipe for the most amazing Pena Colada Cake! Regards, Nancy
Holiday in EuropeHello are using Wordpress for your blog platform? I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to get started and set up my own. Do you require any html coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!
Betty smithWe are constant patrons of Tommy Bahamas and your coconut and pineapple cake is out of this word. Thank you.
ElceeI made this cake for Christmas dinner with friends. My friend is a professional baker so the pressure was on! The results were not disappointing however I would add a note of caution on the cooking times. My cakes were done after 20-25 minutes. 30 minutes would have been too long. My coconut was almost over toasted at 8 minutes. This was unsweetened non-frozen coconut flakes. I was really nervous about the mousse having never attempted a mousse but was pleasantly surprised at the results. If I make it again I would pick a better quality chocolate as the details indicate. I purchased and used a popular chip brand without noticing the palm oil ingredient - not the best flavor white chocolate. One other deviation I made was to make a rum glaze instead of using straight rum. I used coconut rum instead of Myer's which I am not a fan of the strong flavor. The coconut rum was not strong enough to give a noticeable flavor. Bottom line, this recipe works. One of my pet peeves is to see multiple reviews where no-one has actually tried the recipe. I almost didn't make this cake because of the lack of "tried it" reviews however I researched Rick Rodgers cookbooks on Amazon and found his cook books had very good reviews so I went for it. Hope this review is helpful. Thank you!
Diane ReppI made your cake for Easter! I have made a cheater version of this cake before, and it was good, but knew I could take it further and make it fabulous, and your recipe was the key! I made it almost exactly as written but only used one 20 oz can of pineapple and used Bacardi Dark Rum. I also used cake strips so I didn't need to trim the tops, and the edges remained light colored! I make my own cake strips with damp paper towels wrapped with foil! Everyone said it was incredible! Thank you so much Rick and am looking forward to checking out your other recipes and books!
Diane ReppThank you!
Nando TI adore the Tommy Bahama cake. I had it a couple of years ago in Hawaii and was totally blown away. Sooooo, I had to try my hand at making this cake. And, It turned out really well! I was nervous about slicing the cakes horizontally but I used a rotating cake stand which allowed me to cut around the cake easily before I sliced through. The mousse frosting was also scary as I hadn’t made it before but it was actually fairly easy to make and tasted divine (and there was a ton of it). I willl definitely be making this cake again.
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