piña colada cake virtual birthday surprise

This post is a little different. As you may know, I am spending the summer in Texas, and yet again I will be missing my mother’s birthday. She has supported me endlessly, and provided for me selflessly my entire life. So I wanted to do a little something to show her how loved she is and how thankful I am to have her, from several thousand miles away.

A virtual birthday cake seemed like the perfect idea (plus, I get to eat the cake!) so after much brain storming, I settled on this one. Now if you asked my mother what her favourite cocktail was, she’d say margarita. It’s a no-brainer. But then I remembered that if she’s feeling extra indulgent, she usually opts for a piña colada.

Who wouldn’t?! It’s creamy, fruity, and packs a well-rounded rum punch! It literally oozes summer, and sunshine, and swimming pools. You get the picture. So to send her a little ray of sunshine in the UK I created this cake. A cake so indulgent and flavoursome that you might end up not sharing. It is the perfect reincarnation of a piña colada in cake form.

The real stars of the show are the fresh chopped pineapple and the cream of coconut, which is so much more highly flavoured (and indulgent) than regular old coconut milk. You will want to clean the inside of the tin out with your finger, just like you do with the condensed milk. No guilt will be cast upon you here! That kind of behaviour is most definitely allowed. I got the idea for these two ingredients from Deb over on Smitten Kitchen, whose vast trove of recipes you can always turn to no matter what you fancy to eat.

Instead of a one layer cake though, I wanted something more birthday, more OTT, more layers basically! There is something about a tall cake that is just so enticing. And reading that back to myself, I am so weird. Anyway, I discovered these adorable 6 inch cake tins the other day, which were tall-sided so absolutely perfect for what I wanted. A cake that lures you into thinking it is small and therefore not so much of a threat to your waistline. But it is. It most certainly is. Just take multiple small slices, that’s my plan of attack.

The frosting was a slight hiccup. I am not a regular on the frosting scene so learning Italian meringue buttercream was a bit of a challenge. You could of course just use a regular American buttercream, or just coat it in a little sweetened whipped cream. Or leave it bare. Totally up to you and how stretchy your sweat pants are around the waist. For that last coconut hit and pretty texture, I coated the frosted cake in MORE, yes more, sweetened shredded coconut. Yet another thing we unfortunately don’t have back in England. I love the stuff, it’s so moist and delicious I could eat it in handfuls out of the bag.

But I totally haven’t ever done that…

Happy Birthday Mum! Sending all my love from across the pond!


  • Serves: 8
  • Cooking time: 1 hour (cake) + 20 mins (frosting) plus cooling time


  • for the cake:
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 cup cream of coconut
    • 2 oz shredded coconut (about 3/4 cup loosely packed)
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped pineapple
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder
    • 2/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tbsp rum
  • for the frosting:
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/3 cup water
    • pinch salt
    • 75g egg whites (about 3 large eggs, see notes)
    • 2 sticks butter (room temperature, see notes)
    • 1 1/2 - 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut to decorate
    • 2 tbsp pineapple jam for filling


  1. For the cake, begin by spraying the inside of 2 6-inch tall sided cake pans with flavourless oil (canola works great). Then cut out parchment paper to fit the bottom of each tin, and spray again. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Either using an electric whisk or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until pale, light and fluffy.
  3. One at a time, add the eggs. Don’t worry if it looks curdled, keep whisking and don’t forget to periodically scrape down the sides of the mixer with a spatula.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir to combine. Add 1/3 cup of this to the wet ingredients, then add the cream of coconut. Keep the mixer on medium high speed and continue to add the dry ingredients 1/3 cup at a time.
  5. Finally add the pineapple, shredded coconut and rum. Make sure everything is well combined, then divide evenly between the cake tins. If you want, you can weigh them to make sure you’ve split the mixture evenly.
  6. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 37 minutes, but begin checking at 30. Insert a skewer into the cake; it is done when the skewer comes out clean with a few crumbs on it (this is a very moist cake).
  7. Leave the cakes to cool completely in their tins, then run a flat metal spatula around the edges to loosen. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before frosting.
  8. For the frosting, begin by adding HALF of the sugar to a small saucepan with the water. Make sure you have a candy thermometer on hand. Tip the egg whites into the bowl of your stand mixer, add the salt and attach the whisk.
  9. Have your butter cut into 2cm slices ready to use. Heat the sugar water over medium high heat but do not stir or you will crystallise the syrup. Once the syrup begins bubbling, whip out your thermometer and start checking temperature. Also start whisking your egg whites on high speed.
  10. Once the egg whites fluff up a bit and get foamy, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, bit by bit. Once the sugar syrup reaches 235 degrees Fahrenheit, your egg whites should have formed stiff peaks.
  11. Very carefully and slowly, pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl of your mixer into the egg whites. Ensure that the mixer remains on high speed. Once all the syrup has been incorporated, keep whisking until the bowl of the mixture has cooled down and the meringue is no more than 95 degrees.
  12. Next, slow the mixer to medium low and start adding your butter. SLOWLY. Wait for each little piece to be incorporated before adding more. Once all the butter is in the bowl, whisk for another 30 seconds or so, then crank up the speed to high and whisk for a minute or so until the frosting becomes fluffy and smooth.
  13. Ta da! IMBC. That’s cake speak for Italian meringue buttercream. If you are refrigerating your cake overnight before frosting, you can also refrigerate the IMBC.
  14. The next morning, get everything out of the fridge and grab your pineapple jam and shredded coconut. Use the paddle attachment to beat the buttercream for a minute or so, then switch to the whisk. Don’t panic if it looks all weird, it will come together just fine after a few minutes of whisking on high.
  15. Combine about 3/4 cup of the buttercream with the pineapple jam and beat to combine. If desired, you can level the cakes before frosting them, but personally, the more cake the better so I leave mine as nature intended, with the uneven tops coming together to form the centre of the cake (so they are still hidden!).
  16. Use a little buttercream to stick the bottom layer to a cake board or stand, then fill with the pineapple buttercream. Place the top half of the cake on, and use a thin layer of BC (I’ve said buttercream too many times now) to crumb coat the cake (see notes). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  17. Now, finally, you can finish the cake. Frost with the rest of the BC and don’t worry if it’s messy because you are about to coat it all with coconut anyway! Using your hands, press the shredded coconut all over the sides and top of the cake. Immediately cut yourself a slice and sit down with a cup of tea. You deserve it.


*Egg whites - I like to weigh them, it is so much more precise as “large” eggs can vary a lot. *For the frosting, get the butter out of the fridge before you start prepping the rest of the ingredients and it should be just right by the time you use it. *Crumb coat - It is much tidier to frost your cake in two layers, the first of which is mainly to stick all the annoying run-away crumbs to the cake!

Written on September 1, 2017