Hawaiian Island Cake

Traditional White Cake with pineapple-coconut filling and cream cheese icing

Behind the scenes

In the picture above, you see what looks like a chocolate cake layer sandwiched between two vanilla sheets. Alas, such isn’t the case. All layers are actually (supposed to be) of the Old-Fashioned White Cake recipe found in the Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I knew that I wanted to make a cake with strong coconut and pineapple accents, so I took the liberty of substituting a couple of things.

Here’s what happened to the middle layer you see above. First, I doubled Magnolia’s recipe since I was making a 1/2 sheet cake. That was the first mistake. I should have tripled the recipe. Second, I thought I’d ramp up the sweetness and substituted one (of the two) cup milk with a cup of sweetened condensed milk. Third, when checking for doneness  after 30 minutes, I set the timer for 10 more minutes – then fell asleep on the couch – ouch! Well, I woke up well before any burning occurred, but well after the cake had lost its height and started to become a dense, chewy, wavy cookie. It was hours later before I took the courage to use this layer in the final cake. I like dense, chewy cookies, so I got hold of my trusty cake leveler and reduced the overall thickness of this should-have-been cake and took the risk of making it a center layer (see below).


Here’s how the other two layers (top and bottom) came about. I had to start over. I had contracted to bake this cake for someone, so  there was no getting around it. I stuck with the Traditional White Cake recipe but 1) tripled the recipe and 2) substituted regular milk with organic coconut water. I could tell upon pouring the batter into the 1/2 sheet pan that it was going to be perfect – as long as I didn’t fall asleep and overcook it. Indeed, it turned out beautifully, the most evenly cooked, delicate surfaced white cake I’ve ever baked. I let this cake cool slowly for several hours while I got some sleep. I knew I was going to split it and wanted it to be as sturdy as possible.

You can see the light color of the two halves of the split cake compared to the earlier cake that became a cookie.

With three sheets of cake ready to go, the assembly went as follows:

Bottom white layer + filling + middle cookie-cake layer + filling + top white layer-in-waiting.
Top white cake layer in place + icing + shredded coconut + candied pineapple nuggets.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
    • if using all-purpose flour, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk (I substituted this with coconut water because I was looking to concentrate coconut flavors)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites


  • Grease and flour your pan
  • Whip egg white to soft peaks, cover and reserve in fridge
  • Cream the butter and sugar
  • Alternatively add flour and liquids; don’t overmix
  • Gently fold in soft-peak egg whites
  • Place in oven at 350 deg F / 180 deg C
  • Bake for 22-25 min – then test for doneness
  • Let cool.

Half-sheet modifications

  • Triple the recipe – will be able to split once safely.
  • Reduce oven temp to 325 (or even 300)
  • I started checking the cake at 30 min. Mine took 40 min.

ICING – Magnolia Bakery Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Half-sheet modifications

  • Double the recipe above
  • Reserve 1/3 to use in the filling

FILLING – for the half-sheet cake

  • 2 x 12 oz cans of chunked or sliced pineapple in light syrup or in natural juice
  • 16 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/3 of the cream cheese icing
  • Place the pineapple and coconut in a food processor and pulse until combined and there are no large pieces of pineapple. In a large bowl, stir together with icing.

TOPPING – for the half-sheet

  • 8 0z sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 8 oz candied pineapple coarsely chopped

That’s all I can think of.  Have a sweet day!


#31, Carrot Cake, p. 102

“We didn’t make carrot cake at the bakery, but this is a cake that Allysa makes often at home.”(p. 102)

I made this cake for a colleague. It was her birthday and carrot cake is one of her favorites.


Bipitty, biopitty, boo.                                                     (I hyperventilate if I watch this for too long.)

This day, October 30, was a 2-recipe day, that explains all this stuff on the table. I baked the Magnolia carrot cake and a batch of fruitcake muffins. Let’s just take a look at the carrot cake on this blog.


What about that carrot cake? Well, there were detours, and I’ll explain why.

DETOUR(S): Why? I baked a carrot cake for some friends about a year ago and they kinduh went crazy over it. I felt the need to respect and try to repeat that success. I followed the Magnolia recipe, in principle, but made a few changes.

  • The FORM of the cake – which carried icing implications. I used a Maryann Cake Pan. No icing on the side of this. About the only thing it tolerates is a confectioners sugar dusting.
Maryann Cake Pan
Maryann Cake Pan

The pan creates a well at the top that MUST be filled with some gooey-goodie.

Waiting for the gooey-goodie stuff.

  •  The FLOUR. Magnolia only calls for all-purpose flour. At least that’s all I’ve seen so far. My earlier success with this cake had a combination of flours, so 1) I kept Magnolia’s portions, but 2) divided it between four different flours:
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat
    • 1/2 cup barley
    • 1/2 cup spelt  (These older, whole grain flours contain more protein and add a nutty, already sweet flavor to a cake or muffin.)
  • PINEAPPLE. The recipe calls for one 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple with its juice. I had only sliced pineapple available. I chopped it up leaving bigger chunks inside the cake. I would have liked the chunks to be smaller but all those who ate the cake seemed to like it.
  • The ICING. The Magnolia icing for this cake is the Cream Cheese Icing. I made a 1/2 recipe and added
    • 1 cup of yoghurt
    • FRESH, SWEET, pineapple chunks

I got it all mixed up – in the best sense of that expression.


Looks like more fun than the Kitchen Aid mixer.

And it popped out looking beautiful.


Beautiful, until I turned the cake upside-down to take it out of the pan. It MOSTLY came out well, but I had a couple of torn spots. LEARNED: 1) You have to be very careful with the Maryann Cake Pan to grease and flour it well. It is easy to miss a spot or two and have some stick. 2) Let the cake cool completely. As a cake or cookie cools, the form becomes better fixed and less likely to tear. The cooling also lets a cake contract and separate itself from the pan.

I didn’t get a picture of the cake I baked for two reasons. First, I didn’t want to fill the well with the filling (yoghurt-infused icing). So I waited until just before “Happy Birthday to You” to fill the well and COVER IT WITH CRUSHED PECANS !!!. Secondly, we set about to devour the cake rather quickly. It was the right thing to do.

Imagine this smoothed out, then covered with crushed pecans.


I hope you had a sweet day!