Quick! When you hear the word, “Hawaii,” what fruit pops into your mind instantly? Pineapple, right? For more than 100 years, pineapple was a major export of the Hawaiian Islands, but times have changed. To be sure, pineapple is still grown in the islands commercially, but on a much smaller, virtually local scale.
When I’m in Hawaii, I always have fresh pineapple on hand. Mostly I fill my papaya half at breakfast with diced pineapple, banana, and a spritz of fresh lime juice. And when I bake, I make a fresh pineapple crumb cake.
Because pineapple is so juicy, I toss it in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes with some butter and ginger. The heat drives off excess moisture and the ginger gives the pineapple a happy taste.
I’ve found that I can include a pound of fresh pineapple in my crumb cakes. The fruit keeps the cake moist and gives it great flavor.
When buying pineapple, grab the leafy top and sniff the stem end. If you get a decidedly fruity aroma, the fruit was picked ripe. This is the only sure way of picking a ripe pineapple. If your pineapple is cold, you won’t get any aroma, so the fruit must be at room temperature for this test to work. Forget about plucking a leaf from the pineapple top to see if the fruit is ripe.
Pineapple gets its sweetness from sugar that enters the ripening fruit from its stem end. If the fruit is harvested before it’s ripe, it will get softer over time, but never sweeter.
Even in Hawaii, where I expect only truly ripe fruit to be sold, I always do the sniff test. I have to reject many pineapples before I find THE one that is truly ripe.
Fresh Pineapple Macadamia Crumb Cake
This cake is best when very fresh. But it keeps for several days at room temperature. Leftovers may be reheated in a 300-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes to make them taste like freshly baked.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups (1 pound) fresh pineapple, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon peeled grated fresh ginger
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup (3 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, measure by spooning lightly into dry measures to overflowing and sweeping off excess with a straight edge
1/2 cup chopped toasted macadamia nuts
1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt
- Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.
- For the pineapple filling: Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When bubbly, stir in the pineapple, salt, and ginger. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, to drive off excess liquid, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
- For the Streusel Topping: Put the butter into a medium bowl and whisk in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the flour until crumbly, then mix in the macadamia nuts.
- For the Cake Batter: Whisk together thoroughly in a medium bowl the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed just until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat for 3 to 4 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and yolk until completely incorporated. On low speed, beat in the sour cream or yogurt. By hand, stir in the dry ingredients to make a thick batter. Stir in the cooled pineapple. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the streusel, patting it in place gently.
- Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, with no wet batter clinging to it. The streusel will be toasted a golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- To serve, remove ring of springform pan, cut cake into wedges, and serve.
Makes 8 servings.