A Tropical Birthday – Coconut cake with exotic fruits

I never used to make a birthday cake for Keith’s birthday. I used to be very lazy. One birthday I made some vanilla muffins topped with shop bought lemon mousse, one year I made a coconut cake with whipped cream and topped with all sorts of sweets and another birthday I made a gooey chocolate cake topped with a mint chocolate icing and that’s as close as I got. I never made a proper cake that’s well thought out and that I spent lots of time and thought on. However, I’ve changed. Last year I made him a chocolate cake filled with a chocolate arrack ganache topped with whipped cream and marzipan, he loved it. This year I asked him what he wanted and he just said “something fruity”. I should have known; he’s getting around to rich chocolate desserts and dark chocolate but most of the time he’ll still prefer something fruity.

I spent lots of time thinking up this cake. I had decided on a cake with meringue, vanilla sponge, lemon curd, strawberry compote and strawberry mousse but one sleepless night I had en epiphany when I imagined a tropical cake with a coconut sponge, another coconut element of some sort, orange curd, mashed bananas and passion fruit mousse. After much thinking I decided that the second coconut element would be a macaroon disc, because the cake had to be balanced in terms of consistencies as well as flavour. I also decided to add banana in the passion fruit to provide it with some more complexity and to complement the tropical flavours further, as well as softening the tartness of the passion fruit and the orange. As an afterthought I decided to add a orange jelly mirror with some Passoa liquoer in it. I wanted it as a decoration only but it added yet another consistency dimension to the cake and made it a bit fresher.

Soft sponge, chewy and slightly hard macaroon, deliciously juicy orange curd, slightly chunky mashed bananas topped with airy and velvety passionfruit banana mousse and a fresh jelly mirror. Perfect!

You will get some leftover sponge, bit of leftover mousse and probably some leftover orange curd.

The recipes are my own apart from the passionfruit banana mousse, which I borrowed from Joe Pastry, slightly changing the batch size.

Tropical cake with coconut, passion fruit, orange and banana

Coconut sponge

1 egg
90 g/3.2 oz light brown sugar
50 g/1.8 oz melted butter
38 g/1.3 oz orange curd
50 g/1.8 oz desiccated coconut
45 g/1.6 oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Put the oven on 175 degrees C/347 degrees F (150 degrees C/302 degrees F if you’re using a convection oven). Butter and flour a 5 inch cake tin. Melt the butter together with the orange curd. Stir together the coconut, the baking powder and the flour. Whisk egg together with the sugar until it’s light and pale, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk together the egg mixture and the dry ingredients and the butter mixture until it’s combined nicely. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake it for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Slice the cake into three pieces, two pieces that are about 40% the thickness each and one that’s about 20% (this is the leftover one, do what you want with it).

Macaroon disc

1/2-1 egg
50 g/1.8 oz desiccated coconut
22 g/0.8 oz light brown sugar

Put the coconut and the sugar in a bowl and add egg until it’s a sticky batter. Let the batter swell for ten minutes. Pat it out into a 5 inch circle on a sheet of greaseproof paper and bake in the oven at 175 degrees C/347 degrees F (150 degrees C/302 degrees F if you’re using a convection oven) until it’s golden.

Orange curd

Juice and zest of two oranges
Juice and zest of one lemon
90 g/3.2 oz butter
200 g/7.1 oz sugar
3 egg yolks
Pinch of pectin sugar (you can omit this but the curd wont be as thick as I like it)

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook it on medium heat while whisking until it’s thick and covers the back of a spoon, this might take over 20 minutes. Strain it through a sieve into warm jars and let it cool down.

Passionfruit banana mousse

264 g/10.4 oz sieved passion fruit pulp
110g/2.82 oz banana
56 g/2 oz sugar
20 g/0.7 oz lemon juice
2.3 teaspoons/just over 9 g/just over 0.3 oz gelatine powder
300 g/10.6 oz whipping cream

Make the mousse just before you’re about to pipe it into the spring form tin. Put the banana and the sieved passion fruit in a blender together with the sugar and blend the fruit until it’s a purée (if you don’t have enough passion fruit then make up the weight with more banana), add the lemon juice and strain the mixture through a sieve. Put about a third of the mixture into a saucepan, warm it gently and add the gelatine. Stir until it’s dissolved and put this mixture in a large bowl and add the rest of the purée. Let it cool while stirring every now and then. When it’s close to room temperature whip the cream to soft peaks. Put the fruit puree in a cold water bath and scrape it with a spatula until the puree is getting thicker, remove the bowl from the bath and whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold in the fruit puree.

Orange juice jelly mirror with Passoa

200 ml/7.1 oz orange juice
20 ml/0.7 oz Passoa
2/3 teaspoons lemon juice
Just under two teaspoons gelatine

Make this about an hour before you’re going to pour it over the cake (see below). Put the gelatine, the passoa (don’t weight out the Passoa as it contains alcohol and has a different density to water) and the lemon juice in a bowl, stir slightly and wait a few minutes for the gelatine to become spongy while you put the orange juice in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Stir the gelatine mixture in the saucepan and pour it into a jug that you put in a cold water bath. Stir every now and then until it becomes thick (this takes quite some time).

Assembling of the cake

If you have some suitable acetate sheets then take one or two of these and line a 6 inch spring form tin with it, grease the bottom of the tin with vegetable oil. The acetate sheets needs to be so thick that they don’t feel flimsy and so that they hold their shape in the tin, if you don’t have any then just grease up the sides and the bottom of the tin. Mash up 2 big or 3 medium bananas. Put the macaroon disc at the bottom. Arrange some of the banana mash in a circle, like a border, over it (this is so that the curd wont spread out over the sides). Spread some orange curd (as thick as you want it) on top. As you assemble the layers you pipe passion fruit mousse around the edges, making sure it gets all around the cake (I didn’t do a very good job). Put one of the thicker coconut sponge discs on top of the mashed bananas and the orange curd and put another layer of banana and orange curd the way you did it the first time on top of the sponge. Pipe more fruit mousse around the cake, top with the last of the thick coconut sponge discs and pipe the rest of the mousse of top, spreading it with a palette knife as well as you can. Put in the fridge overnight. Pour the passoa mirror over the cake while it’s in the spring form tin a few hours before you’re going to serve the cake. Carefully loosen the spring form tin from the cake and carefully peel of the acetate sheets. If you didn’t use any sheets the risk is that your mousse might break a little bit. If you’re brave then try to move the cake from the bottom of the tin, if you don’t want to risk anything then just leave it.

Decorate it how you want it, with chocolate decorations, some sliced up fruit (strawberries, passion fruit, kiwi would be nice for example) or with some coconut flakes.

passion fruit mousse


2 thoughts on “A Tropical Birthday – Coconut cake with exotic fruits

  1. Wow, this looks (and sounds) so, so delicious and professional! Keith is one lucky guy! I only ever make key-lime pies for Stephen’s birthdays (it’s his favorite but gets a bit boring in the long run (for me, haha)).

    • Thanks! I was quite pleased with it apart from the fact that it looked a little bit leaky. And Keith is super spoilt (but then he spoils me in return!). I made pistachio marzipan with rose oil and dipped it in chocolate for his birthday as a present as well. And key lime pies are great. I made one for the first time this last weekend and we were all surprised by how tasty it was (wasn’t a real key lime pie because I couldn’t find key limes but still). It’s surprisingly easy to make as well, I thought it’d be harder. I like those desserts with a biscuit crumb shell, like cheesecakes, key lime pies and banoffee pies. I think they’re much nicer than the normal pastry cases.

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