I don’t know what’s more dreamy…the gorgeous and vibrant irises or my Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cream Cake.
I have to say, the irises have had me swooning through the entire process of developing this cake. The color of the flowers is so deep, it almost seems other worldly to me.
If there’s something to color therapy, I believe the cool, deep and vibrant hues of irises are definitely part of it.
In any case, it was nice to have fresh flowers to enjoy as I went through trial after trial of this cake.
This cake was inspired by one I made a million years ago out of a magazine. That cake was based on a boxed cake mix, was only two layers, and was frosted and filled with a pineapple whipped cream.
I do love pineapple and whipped cream dessert, like my Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake. Yum! (Actually, I think I love pineapple coconut everything, including these Pineapple Coconut Glazed Carrots.)
What I loved about the cake were the tropical flavors, the juicy mandarin oranges and pineapple. And you know I hate a too sweet frosting, so whipped cream cakes are right down my ally. (Or whipped cream cream cheese cakes!)
It was also served with a mango sauce, which is basically just fresh mango pureed with a squeeze or two of lime juice.
(I didn’t add that to this recipe, but consider this a bonus to those of you who read the post;) If you want to add mango sauce, that’s how you do it.)
Back to the cake…I didn’t want to use a boxed cake. I wanted a scratch made yellow cake that was sturdy enough to stand up to the fillings, but fluffy enough to complement them. In other words, I didn’t want a pound cake, just a nice buttery yellow cake.
First cake trial? Well, it had too much flour in it. The ratio was off. This is another reason it’s so important to measure your flour correctly. Too much flour will produce a dense cake. In this case, there was simply too much flour overall.
So, the first cake was too dense. It seemed heavy and I just didn’t like the texture.
I rewrote the cake recipe and decided to make just one layer to test it out. But guess what happened? I cut the whole recipe in half except for the liquid. Yep, I forgot to cut the liquid in half for my test. Argh!
What the heck? I baked it anyway. I figured I might learn something when the liquid ratio is off. Of course, I knew what would happen. I’d get another dense cake, but this time it was from too much liquid. Ugh!
On to a third cake. This time I insured I had the exact right ratio of every single ingredient. Not too much flour, not too much liquid.
Hopefully, the additional moisture from the mandarin oranges would not mess up my texture. And just like that…Ding! Ding! We had a winner!
One more thing about the cake…I used baking strips for the first time. I’ve had them for quite awhile and finally decided to try them out.
Basically, you soak the strips in water and then attach them around the base of the cake pan. It helps the cake bake evenly and prevents it from doming.
I have to say, they worked beautifully. My cakes baked up nice and level and I didn’t have to cut any domed tops off the baked cakes.
I do want to test out baking the same cake in pans with and without the baking strips to see what differences I notice. I feel like there might be something that crops up with the texture. We shall see…
Since this is a new recipe, I don’t know if I’d like it better without the strips. Obviously, you can bake your cake without them. That’s how I’ve baked every cake up until this one…and I’ve baked ALOT of cakes.
So, no worries on whether or not you have baking strips. Just know that your cake may bake up a little differently and not look exactly like mine.
It likely won’t be as level. The color may be a bit different. But that’s totally fine. I just wanted to mention it should you start comparing what your cake looks like to what mine looks like.
Bottom line, just follow the baking instructions and make sure you don’t over bake the cake.
If you need to level off your cakes because you have a little dome, no worries. Just cut the bit off the top and consider the cut part a free sample :)
Now, since I was skipping the mango sauce, I wanted something else to add another dimension of flavor and texture.
I wanted to fill the cakes with something besides just the whipped cream. I wanted to make a pastry cream, a pineapple coconut pastry cream!
For that, I looked up a quick recipe. I made the pastry cream and the cake the day before I assembled it.
Let me tell you about the pastry cream…that’s some seriously delicious stuff. I sampled some from the bowl and almost forgot that I wanted to fill a cake with it.
We’ve all had vanilla pastry cream. Love it! But pineapple coconut pastry cream? Soooooo good! It was a perfect addition to this cake.
Then, there’s the pineapple whipped cream frosting. This comes together quickly. Just whip some cream and confectioner’s sugar.
We’re going to be adding pineapple and we’ll need some stability so that the whipped cream can hold up for more than a day, in case you have left overs.
To stabilize it, you’ll need some unflavored gelatin. Oh, and you don’t need to do anything but sprinkle it into your cream right before you add the pineapple. You’ll end up with a thick and stable pineapple whipped cream.
That cream is why this is a Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cream Cake. It’s a creamy, dreamy tropical cake.
That’s it. Once you whip up all of that lovely cream, all you need to do is assemble your cake. You’ll have four layers of cake, two layers of pineapple coconut pastry cream and one layer of pineapple whipped cream.
Then, cover the whole cake with the rest of the pineapple whipped cream. Now, let’s be honest, pineapple whipped cream doesn’t make the prettiest presentation.
It’s delicious, but it’s kinda bumpy from the pineapple. It just doesn’t have that satiny, swirly texture you might want from a frosting.
So, you can stop there if you want. Or, you could cover the cake with coconut chips, which is what I decided to do.
The coconut chips are full of texture so they add interest and flavor to the cake, while masking that yummy, but kinda bumpy whipped cream that lies beneath it.
Then, I needed something colorful to make the cake extra special for a spring holiday. I suppose tropical flowers would have been more apropos, but I live in the Northeast and as I write this, it is snowing. Searching out some tropical edible flowers wasn’t in my week’s plan.
So, I picked irises. I love them! Perfectly springy, yet exotic in their own right. They aren’t edible however, so I did use parchment to keep them from resting directly on my cake.
But, c’mon….pretty striking, no? And the cake…really delicious.
There’s so many layers of flavor and texture in this Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cream Cake! From the orange cake with the juicy mandarin orange bits, to the pineapple coconut pastry cream to the pineapple whipped cream and coconut chips.
This cake is perfect for Easter or any spring holiday. It might even become a requested birthday cake for some of you :)
It’s tropical AND springy! And since yesterday was the first day of spring, and today we’re in the midst of yet another nor’easter…I’ll take all the tropical/springy reminders I can get :)
Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cream Cake
For the cake:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter 1 1/2 sticks, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons orange zest I used mandarin oranges
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 11 ounce can of mandarin oranges drained thoroughly
For the pineapple coconut pastry cream:
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1 cup coconut milk I used full fat
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cut into small pieces
For the pineapple whipped cream:
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream cold
- 3 Tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- 3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
- 12 ounces canned crushed pineapple drained
- coconut chips
Earlier in the day or the day before, make the pastry cream:
In a medium sauce pan, whisk the pineapple juice and coconut milk together. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid is hot and steaming, but not boiling. Remove from heat.
While you're waiting for the juice and milk to heat...in a small bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and egg until fully combined. Whisk in the sugar/cornstarch/salt mixture until light and fluffy. Using a ladle, slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture while constantly whisking. Continue adding the hot milk mixture to the egg one ladle at a time, whisking constantly until all of the hot milk has been fully incorporated.
Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly until mixture begins to boil. Once it's bubbling, whisk vigorously for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, a few small pieces at a time.
Pass the mixture through a sieve onto a small baking sheet or cake pan, pressing the cream in the strainer to remove any cooked egg bits. Quickly spread the cream evenly on the cake pan and cover with a layer of plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly on the surface of the cream so that it doesn't form a skin.
Allow the cream to come to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to assemble cake.
Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or grease two 9" round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and orange zest and mix briefly to distribute. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well and insuring each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next egg.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture and mixing between each step. You'll add in the oranges when you add the last 1/2 of the buttermilk. In other words, add 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour, the last 1/2 of buttermilk plus the drained oranges, then the final 1/3 of the flour. You don't have to measure each part exactly, just eye it as you add it. And you don't have to fully mix at each step. For, example, It's okay to have a few streaks of flour left when you go to add the buttermilk. Just make sure you have it fully mixed at the end. You don't want to overwork the batter and risk a tough cake.
Divide batter equally between prepared cake pans spreading batter evenly in each pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is light golden brown, top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow cakes to cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan. Then remove from pans and allow to finish cooling on a rack.
Make the pineapple whipped cream:
In a large bowl, whip cream and confectioner's sugar until thick but before soft peaks form. Sprinkle gelatin over the cream, add pineapple and beat until mixture has thickened. Take care not to over beat.
If cakes have domed, cut the tops off to level them so that you'll have even layers to fill. Then, cut each cake layer horizontally in two, to make a total of four layers. Place the bottom layer on your serving dish.
Remove pineapple coconut pastry cream from the refrigerator. It's going to be well set and fairly firm. Place it into a bowl and whisk it until it's creamy and easy to spread. Take half of the pastry cream and spread it on the bottom cake layer, stopping about 1/2 inch from the edge. Top with another cake layer.
Scoop a generous amount of the pineapple whipped cream onto the next cake layer and spread evenly. You want the whipped cream layer to be a good 1/2 inch thick. Place the third cake layer on top of the whipped cream.
Cover the third cake layer with the last half of the pastry cream, spreading evenly and stopping 1/2" from the edge. Top with the final layer. Check your layers to insure they haven't slid out of place and that your cake is straight.
Cover the top and sides with the remaining whipped cream. When you're covering the sides, make sure to add enough whipped cream to fill in all the gaps between the layers (like spackling) so that you'll have a nice even edge.
Coat the sides and top with coconut chips if desired. I did not fully coat the top of the cake with coconut, instead choosing to fill the center with flowers. Store cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
*Don't over measure your flour. I use the spoon and sweep method. First, stir your flour to fluff it up and lighten it. Then, lightly spoon it into your measuring cup and sweep a flat edge across the top to scrape off excess.
*Drain the oranges thoroughly. You don't have to pat them dry, but they shouldn't be dripping.
*When I drained the pineapple, I did press it lightly against the strainer to get a little extra moisture out of it. It doesn't have to be dry, but again, not super drippy.
*For the topping/final coating, I used unsweetened organic coconut chips. You can toast them, if you'd like, or use sweetened shredded coconut, if you'd prefer. If you hate coconut, you can skip it entirely. I just think the pineapple whipped cream on it's own does not make the best presentation, though it will still be delicious.
*Other ideas to top/coat the cake? White chocolate shavings, chopped macadamia nuts, etc.
*I used irises to decorate my cake. They are NOT edible. In fact, they are toxic. Because of this, I placed a circle of parchment on top of the cake so that the flowers would not rest directly on top of the whipped cream. I also only placed them on top of the cake at the time of presentation and then removed them for cutting. If you use edible flowers, this step is not necessary.
*The whipped cream is only lightly sweetened. I'm not a fan of super sweet whipped cream and I think this balances nicely with the sweetness of the cake and the pastry cream. I would probably be fine with no sugar in it at all but I know my family likes a bit of sweetness. If you think you'd like it sweeter, just add more sugar. Or, you could just dust the cake with powdered sugar before serving, if you think it needs more sweetness. The extra dusting of sugar on top of the coconut could be very pretty as well.
*I used 12 ounces of pineapple. I started with 2 (8 ounce) cans and used 1 1/2 can's worth. I was tempted to use the full 16 ounces. I think it would be fine since the gelatin is so stabilizing. I didn't try it, so I can't comment on what the results would be.
*I used baking strips to bake my cake. They helped to keep my cakes level and my sides from over browning. If baking without the strips, your cake will likely look different from mine. Don't worry about that. If you get a domed top, just level it with a knife. Just make sure you cake is baked at the right temperature and that you don't over bake it.
*If by some chance you think you've over baked your cake a bit and you're worried about dryness, save the drained juice from either the pineapple or mandarin oranges. When the cakes are still warm, poke them with a toothpick all over the top and brush some of the reserved syrup over. I would only do this if I were worried about dryness. If your cake is fine, then skip it so you don't end up with too much moisture.
Pineapple coconut pastry cream recipe from Epicurious
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