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Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cream Cake. Layers of mandarin orange cake, filled with pineapple coconut pastry cream and covered in pineapple whipped cream and coconut chips. Perfect for Easter or Spring gatherings.

Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cream Cake

Servings 12 -16 servings


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

For topping/coating:

  • coconut chips


Earlier in the day or the day before, make the pastry cream:

  1. 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.

  2. While you're waiting for the juice and milk to heat...in a small bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together. Set aside.

  3. 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. 

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Allow the cream to come to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to assemble cake.

Make the cake:

  1. 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.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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:

  1. 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. 

Assemble cake:

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

Recipe Notes

*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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