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Sophie’s Pineapple and Coconut Sandwich Cake

Makes: 1 large cake (serves 12)

Hands-on time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Baking time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Skill level: Needs skill

This simple sandwich cake is made with chunks of fresh coconut and pineapple, layered with coconut-flavoured buttercream and topped with a pineapple ‘flower’.

For the sponge mixture:

100g pack fresh coconut chunks

1 medium pineapple

170g margarine for baking, or softened unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

5 medium eggs, at room temperature, beaten

240g self-raising flour

For the buttercream:

300g caster sugar

6 tablespoons water

3 medium egg whites, at room temperature

250g unsalted butter, softened

Coconut flavouring, to taste

For the decoration:

2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes

You will also need:

2 x 20cm deep sandwich tins, greased with butter and base-lined with baking paper

Food processor

Electric hand-held whisk/stand mixer

Baking sheet, lined with baking paper

Mini-muffin tray

Sugar thermometer

Large disposable piping bag

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.

Step 2 – Using a serrated knife, carefully remove any brown husk edges from the coconut chunks. Blitz in the processor until you have small, gravel-like pieces.

Step 3 – Cut the peel away from the pineapple and take off the top and tail. Using a serrated knife, cut three thin discs from the base of the pineapple to make the decoration and set aside. Cut the rest of the pineapple into small chunks, discarding the core. Weigh out 150g for the cake mixture, drain thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen paper towels. Set aside 50g for decorating the cake, and save any remaining pineapple for a fruit salad.

Step 4 – Put the margarine (or butter) into a bowl and beat together with the sugar using the electric stand mixer or hand-held whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the eggs, beating well after each addition and, on the last three additions, adding a tablespoon of the flour to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Step 5 – Sift the remaining flour into the bowl and gently fold in with a large metal spoon or plastic spatula. Add the pieces of coconut and pineapple and fold in.

Step 6 – Divide the mixture equally between the 2 prepared tins, either by weight or by eye, and spread evenly. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until each cake is golden, well-risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Run a round-bladed knife around the insides of the tins to loosen the sponges, leave to cool for 2 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Turn down the oven to 140°C/120°C fan/275°F/Gas 1.

Step 7 – While the sponges cool completely, prepare the pineapple ‘flower’: pat dry the 3 thin slices of pineapple and arrange them on the baking sheet lined with baking paper. Place in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they feel leathery. Turn over the slices and repeat until they are dry but still flexible, with light golden-brown edges. Remove from the sheet and press each slice into a different hole of the muffin tray. Return to the oven for about 20 minutes, until the slices are dry and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray. When they’re cold, stack the slices on top of each another to make a flower and set aside.

Step 8 – Make the buttercream: put the sugar and water into a medium pan and place over a low heat. Leave to melt gently, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, to prevent a build-up of sugar crystals. Towards the end of this slow process, put the egg whites into the (clean) bowl of the electric stand mixer and whisk until the whites stand in soft peaks when the whisk is lifted. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, turn up the heat so the syrup boils rapidly and reaches 121°C on the sugar thermometer.

Step 9 – Remove the pan from the heat, turn on the whisk to full speed and slowly pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites in a thin, steady stream – aim for the middle of the bowl rather than the sides. Continue whisking until the meringue is very thick, glossy and has cooled to room temperature (be patient and don’t skip this part or when you add the butter it will melt and turn the mixture runny).

Step 10 – Gradually add the butter in small flakes, whisking after each addition to make a smooth, thick buttercream. Incorporate enough coconut flavouring to suit your taste. Scrape down the mixture from the sides of the bowl, cover and chill until firm enough to pipe.

Step 11 – To assemble the cake: place one sponge (top-side down) on a cake stand or plate. Spoon the buttercream into a large piping bag and snip off one corner. Pipe large ‘kisses’ on top of the sponge, making sure you save half the buttercream for the next layer. Place the second sponge on top (top-side up) and cover with more ‘kisses’.

Step 12 – Place the pineapple ‘flower’ in the centre and decorate with toasted coconut flakes and the 50g of tiny pieces of pineapple reserved earlier.