Pina Colada Cake! I’ve turned the classic cocktail into a fabulous layer cake. Velvety white cake is doused with plenty of coconut rum syrup then it’s layered with creamy coconut-rum frosting and pineapple curd.
How to make the best Pina Colada Cake:
There are three essential ingredients in the classic Pina Colada Cocktail:
- Coconut milk
- Pineapple juice
To create a cake version of the cocktail I needed to include those three components.
- The rum? Well, what’s a cake named after a cocktail without plenty of the good stuff? The rum is brushed onto the cake as a syrup, it’s mixed into the frosting and it’s added to the pineapple filling.
- The coconut milk? Naturally, a “milk” frosting is the perfect way to add coconut to the cake. There’s also a good dose of coconut milk in the syrup and the cake is coated with shredded coconut for a final flourish.
- The pineapple juice? We use the juice to make a luscious curd filling for our Pina Colada cake.
A word of caution: Don’t be tempted to use fresh pineapple thinking it would be better than canned juice. This is one case where the fresh fruit is not the best option. Why?
When I use fruit curd as a cake filling I add a little gelatin as a stabilizer. Most fruit curds set soft, like a jam. A soft curd would just ooze out of the cake layers without a little help. The gelatin helps the filling keep it’s shape when the cake is sliced.
But pineapple poses a problem for any recipe that contains gelatin.
Why can’t I use gelatin with fresh pineapple?
Gelatin is an animal by-product made up of proteins. When gelatin is mixed into a hot liquid (like fruit juice) the molecules are free to move around. A warm gelatin solution is a free-flowing liquid.
As the solution cools down and the molecules move more slowly, the proteins form links. The protein links trap the water in the solution. The cooled gelatin solution is no longer free-flowing. The liquid has become a solid gel.
Fresh pineapple (and papaya, melon, and kiwi) contains a chemical called bromelain. Bromelain contains protein-digesting enzymes. If you add fresh pineapple to a recipe with gelatin, those enzymes will continuously break down the proteins in the gelatin, preventing them from linking-up to form the gel.
When pineapple is heated the enzymes are deactivated, so they no longer prevent the gelatin from setting up. So, for any recipe that includes gelatin you must use canned (or cooked) pineapple instead of fresh.
Now, lets see how to make this fabulously boozy Pina Colada Cake:
Scroll through the process photos to see exactly how to make this recipe:
How to work ahead to make this cake:
- The cakes can be baked ahead and kept at room temp, wrapped, for 1-2 days. The cake can also be frozen for up to a month. Defrost in the wrapping at room temperature.
- The coconut rum syrup can be made 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to a month.
- The pineapple curd can be made 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated in a covered container or frozen for up to a month.
- You can make the “pudding” for the frosting a day or two ahead and refrigerate. When you’re ready to assemble the cake bring the pudding back to room temperature, then whip the butter and finish making the frosting.
- The fully assembled and crumb coated cake can be frozen and double wrapped. Save the extra frosting and curd in the refrigerator to finish decorating the cake. The icing will need to be brought back to room temperature and rewhipped before using.
If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.
Pina Colada Cake Recipe
- 1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin powder
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 3 oz unsalted butter
- 3 each large eggs
- 10 oz granulated sugar (1 1/4 cups)
- 4 oz canned pineapple juice (1/2 cup)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Coconut Rum Syrup
- 4 oz granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
- 4 oz water (1/2 cup)
- 1 oz rum
- 4 oz coconut milk (1/2 cup)
Coconut Rum Frosting
- 2 1/2 oz all purpose flour (1/2 cup)
- 12 oz granulated sugar (1 1/2 cups)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 12 oz coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 oz rum
- 12 oz unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups, room temperature)
- 1 recipe Velvety White Cake ( baked in two 8"x3" pans)
- 7 oz sweetened coconut flakes
- 16 maraschino cherries
- Bloom the gelatin in 2 tablespoons rum in a medium size bowl. Place the butter on top of the bloomed gelatin. Put a fine mesh sieve over the bowl and keep it near the stove.1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin powder, 2 tablespoons rum, 3 oz unsalted butter
- Thoroughly combine the eggs and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add the pineapple juice and lemon juice. Heat the egg/juice mixture over medium low heat, stirring constantly. You must be sure to keep stirring across the entire bottom and corners of the pot so the custard does not have a chance to stick. The mixture will start out opaque with a fine white foam over the surface. As it heats up the curd will thicken, become more translucent and the foam will disappear. Cook until the curd coats the back of a wooden spoon and it JUST BEGINS to boil. Don't allow it to come to a full rolling boil.3 each large eggs, 10 oz granulated sugar, 4 oz canned pineapple juice, 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Immediately remove from the heat and pour through the sieve over the butter and gelatin. Stir until the butter and gelatin are melted and thoroughly incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until the gelatin is set, at least 3-4 hours.
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat. Add the rum and coconut milk and cool to room temperature. The syrup can be made several days ahead and refrigerated4 oz granulated sugar, 4 oz water, 1 oz rum, 4 oz coconut milk
Make the frosting
- Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a small saucepan, whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk until smooth. Heat the mixture over medium low, whisking constantly, until it begins to boil.2 1/2 oz all purpose flour, 12 oz granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 12 oz coconut milk
- Continue to cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until it thickens to a pudding-like texture. Immediately remove from the heat. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the vanilla and the rum, cool to room temperature.1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 oz rum
- Cream the butter until light and fluffy. With the mixer running on low add the pudding a little at a time until completely incorporated. Remove the beater from the mixer and scrape the bowl. Switch to the whisk attachment and whip the buttercream until it’s light and fluffy.12 oz unsalted butter
- Trim any browned edges off of each cake layer. Split each cake in half horizontally so you have 4 layers.1 recipe Velvety White Cake
- Scoop 1 cup of frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. The rest of the frosting is for filling and icing the cake.
- Place the first cake layer on the serving platter and brush generously with 1/4 of the coconut-rum syrup. Scoop 1/4 of the frosting from the bowl onto the layer and spread evenly.
- Place the second layer on the cake. Brush generously with the syrup. Pipe a "dam" of buttercream around the edge of the layer. Use a spatula to loosen up the pineapple curd so it's easier to spread. Spread 1 cup of the pineapple curd onto the layer within the dam.
- Place the third layer on the cake and brush with syrup. Spread coconut filling over the layer and place the fourth layer on the cake. Brush the final layer with syrup.
- Use some of the frosting to ice the cake with a thin "crumb coat", then refrigerate until firm. Use the remaining icing to frost the top and sides of the cake with a final coating. While the buttercream is still soft, coat the sides of the cake with coconut flakes.7 oz sweetened coconut flakes
- Use the piping bag to pipe 16 rosettes around the top of the cake. Spread a 1/2 cup of pineapple curd within the rosette border. Place a maraschino cherry on each rosette.16 maraschino cherries
- Refrigerate until 2-3 hours before serving. The cake is best when it has time to soften up at room temperature.
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