Dear all, since the last time I wrote about cake decorating, my piping skills still suck so bad it could frighten small children. But! *cymbal clash!* I have found a solution to my dismal handicap. And it’s really quite simple.
Don’t know how to pipe? Don’t pipe!
There are other types of cakes in this world that don’t need buttercream rosettes to look good. And, as in the case of this cake, they can even taste better.
Tired of Western cookbooks that don’t work, I’ve been turning to Asian titles for a change. One of the first cookbooks that landed on my desk when I was a food writer was Asian High Tea Favourites by Malaysian author Betty Saw. I remember making her Chocolate Crinkle cookies that came out smelling and tasting like Famous Amos (no joke). So surely her cakes wouldn’t be too far off.
Mysteriously named Surprise Cake, this cake is basically butter cake covered with a moan-inducing topping of minced pineapple, dessicated coconut and crushed cornflakes. Yeah yeah, so it uses canned pineapple, which is loaded with sugar, preservatives and other life-threatening stuff. But I love how it’s so Malaysian/Singaporean/Thai. I mean, South-east Asia is serious about their fake fruit. I can’t think of another region in the world (oh, okay, there’s also China) that has entire industries that peel, deseed, sweeten and basically falsify fruits like longans and lychees to resemble flawless fishballs.
(I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, the best thing about Chinese wedding banquets was dessert – I’d wolf down the canned longans in double-quick time and leave the pukey almond jelly untouched.)
Consider the mutated marvel called stuffed rambutans. How on earth do they remove the seed and present the flesh as if the seed never happened? As if such technical wizardry isn’t impressive enough, they then proceed to stuff them with delicious chunks of pineapple. I love!
So anyway. When you bite into this cake, there is the expected moistness and softness of the butter cake. But then, there’s also a crunch of cornflakes here, and bits of coconut and pineapple there. If pina coladas are to be reborn as cake, this is it.
PINEAPPLE AND COCONUT CRUNCH CAKE (Adapted from Betty Saw’s Asian High Tea Favourites)
You’d need a 9-inch butter cake (you could use any butter cake recipe, such as this one)
For crunch topping, you’d need:
115g brown sugar
30g cornflakes, crushed
1 can (565g) canned pineapple, chopped
30g dessicated coconut
1. Prepare the butter cake and pour batter into a 9-inch cake pan.
2. To make topping, cream butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffly. Then stir in cornflakes, pineapple and coconut.
3. You’d need two spoons for this. Scoop up one spoonful of topping, then, with the second spoon, press it down so it forms a flattened segment. Carefully place the segment on top of the cake batter. Repeat until all of the cake surface is covered. (You can’t just dump all of the topping on the cake and spread it out with a butter knife cos the topping is heavy and will sink. The topping is also not easily spreadable, which is why you have to flatten it and patch up bit by bit.)
4. Then bake the cake and topping together in a preheated oven at 175 deg C, for about 50 minutes.