Even as a little girl, I was always “in charge” of providing the dessert at family gatherings for every birthday or holiday. And even though the desserts have gotten more and more complex and dramatic over the years, my family was just as proud of and impressed with my box-mix concoctions back then as they are of the more labor-intensive treats I serve now. One cake I can specifically remember making numerous times, as it was a family favorite and repeatedly requested, was the “Pineapple Sunshine Cake.” It was a simple recipe involving a box of yellow cake mix and a can of crushed pineapple, and it was my sugary-sweet masterpiece.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was unable to make it out to spend this Easter with my family this past weekend. However, I was able to spend Easter Sunday with my little local church family. Every Sunday morning I help run a nursery at a church in Alexandria, Virginia. The congregation is super warm and friendly, and those with children are a tiny but tight-knit and family-oriented group that I’ve truly grown to love. I look forward to seeing them and their beautiful children every week and wanted to share with them a little treat that reminds me of holidays with my family.
I decided to revamp the overly-sweet recipe from my childhood and make something a little more special and gourmet. I incorporated some vanilla bean and citrus into the sweet pineapple to make a refreshing and tropical-tasting treat. I started with a pineapple chiffon cake recipe as a base, made it a little less stiff and a lot more moist, filled it with my very own pineapple-lemon curd, and topped it off with a sweet citrus buttercream. As it was Easter, I decorated some of the cakes with lemon jellybeans and some with buttercream roses for spring. I was very pleased with how the cakes turned out and was even more pleased to be able to provide an Easter treat to the families that I spend my Sunday mornings with.
Pineapple-Citrus Curd Cupcakes
Inspired by: Pineapple Sunshine Cake
Pineapple & Vanilla Bean Cakes
Adapted from Diana Rattray’s “Pineapple Chiffon Cake,” Southern Food
8 egg whites, room temperature 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour 5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon baking powder 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened ½ cup pineapple juice*
¼ cup vegetable oil ¼ cup crushed pineapple*
-recipe yield: about 24 cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a very large bowl, whip all egg whites to stiff peaks, starting on a lower speed at first and increasing mixer speed as the whites start to stiffen. Set bowl aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved into the mixture and is no longer grainy, about 5 minutes. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. While continuing to beat, add in vanilla bean seeds or paste until the vanilla flecks have distributed throughout the mixture. Mix in the pineapple juice until incorporated. When mixture is homogeneous, stir in the crushed pineapple and the orange zest.
In small, alternating batches, sift in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, fold, and then fold in about 1/3 of the stiffened egg whites. Continue folding in the sifted dry ingredients alternating with the egg whites until all have been gently incorporated. Distribute the batter into the pans, filling each of the cupcake papers almost completely full (about 5/6 full). Rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time, bake the cakes for a total of about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
*To ensure even measuring of crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, I like to first empty the contents of a can of crushed pineapple into a strainer over a small bowl to collect as much juice as possible. Then, I place only the crushed pineapple into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse the fruit a few times to break it down further. The finer-ground pineapple helps to infuse the flavor throughout the entire cake and adds a lot of texture, but without weighing down the entire cake. Next, I put the ground, crushed pineapple through the strainer one more time, extracting even more juice, leaving only the fluffy pulp of the pineapple.
Adapted from Marlene Sorosky’s “Lemon Curd,” Easy Entertaining
6 egg yolks
zest of ½ lemon
1 cup pineapple juice
¼ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
½ cup sugar
2 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
-recipe yield: about 2 ½ cups
In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, lightly break apart egg yolks with a small whisk. While whisking, add in the zest, fruit juices, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Place saucepan over medium heat and, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, constantly stir mixture for 4-6 minutes, or until it thickens up to the point where it coats the spoon and holds its shape when you run your finger across the spoon.
At this point, immediately remove the saucepan from heat. Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of butter, allowing each piece to dissolve into the curd before adding the next piece. Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth, transfer the curd to a small bowl and continue to stir until it has cooled.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that the curd doesn’t develop a skin. Store cooled, covered pineapple-lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Sweet Citrus Buttercream
Adapted from Wilton’s “Lemon Buttercream Frosting”
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup vegetable shortening ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice 4 cups (about 1 pound) confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon pineapple juice 1 tablespoon heavy cream
In large bowl, cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Drizzle in fruit juices and zest and beat well. Gradually add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating on medium speed and scraping sides of bowl often. After sugar has been incorporated, continue to beat the mixture while drizzling in heavy cream. Beat at medium speed until homogeneous and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use and, if needed, re-whip before using.
Optional Ingredients for decorating:
Yellow food coloring, sprinkles, jelly beans, etc.
Once cupcakes are completely cooled, I use an apple corer to remove the inside of each of the cakes and a pastry bag to fill the cakes with the pineapple-lemon curd. Fill the cakes with as much of the curd as desired, rip off the bottom half of the removed piece of cupcake, and replace the top over the curd.
The sweet citrus buttercream can be gently spread on the cakes with a small spatula or piped on with a pastry or plastic bag. Decorate as desired.