If you're in need of a beach getaway, but can't actually make it to the beach, make this piña colada cake with coconut swiss meringue buttercream! This tropical inspired cake has pineapple and coconut extract baked right in without compromising the soft and fluffy crumb.
I made this cake for my best friend's 21st birthday because she has always been obsessed with pineapples. Even though she did not get the blowout part she had planned due to covid, I was at least able to make her day a little extra special with this cake! I hope you can make this cake to celebrate someone or to pretend you got to go on that beach vacation.
For more birthday cake recipes, try Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Cake, Small Vanilla Cake, White Cake with Strawberries and Mascarpone Frosting, and Graham Cracker S'mores Cake.
- Cake Flour: Cake flour gives this cake a super soft crumb, but if you do not have it on hand you can use an equal amount of all-purpose flour and make a DIY version by taking out 4 tablespoon of the all-purpose flour and adding 4 tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Granulated Sugar: You'll need granulated sugar for both the cake and the buttercream.
- Baking Powder: Check the freshness of your baking powder by testing it in some water.
- Baking Soda: Check the freshness of your baking soda by testing it in some vinegar.
- Unsalted Butter: You'll need your butter at room temperature, but not so soft that it is yellow and greasy.
- Plain Whole Milk Greek Yogurt: A half cup of yogurt makes this cake super moist! Whole milk yogurt provides the best flavor, but a reduced fat yogurt will work fine. You could also use sour cream for a similar result.
- Coconut Milk: Canned coconut milk adds moisture, but it also adds to the coconut flavor!
- Vanilla Extract: Though we're looking for the pineapple and coconut flavors to shine in this cake, adding vanilla helps to tie all the flavors together.
- Coconut Extract: Coconut extract really amps up the flavor in both the cake and the buttercream!
- Canned Pineapples: It is so so important to only use the pineapple pieces and NO juice. After testing this recipe a few times, I found that adding juice leads to a very dense cake.
- Egg Whites: To ensure that the cake has that silky smooth and light texture, you need to whip the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the batter.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and individual quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
Here are step by step photos and instructions on how to make this piña colada cake recipe! For the full ingredient list and method, see the recipe card at the end of this post.
STEP 1: Make the cake. Sift the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a standard mixer, and in a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add the butter in chunks to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until it resembles wet sand. Add half of the wet ingredients to the flour butter mixture, and mix until mostly combined. Scrape down the bowl, then add the remaining wet ingredients and mix until just combined. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter until just combined. Pour the batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when you touch it. After cooling for 15 minutes or so, turn the cakes out of the pans, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
STEP 2: Make the buttercream and assemble. Make the meringue over a double boiler and let cool. Using a standard mixer, cut the butter into cubes and add to the meringue one piece at a time. Once the buttercream has mostly come together, change the whisk attachment to the paddle and keep mixing on low speed until homogenous and smooth. Add the coconut extract until fully combined. Spread buttercream between the cake rounds, stacking and completing a crumb coat before chilling in the fridge for one hour. Frost with remaining buttercream and cover in toasted coconut.
Expert Baking Tips
- To ensure completely flat cake layers use cake strips on the outside of your pans. I like the ones by Wilton! Cake strips ensure that the cake bakes evenly, rather than the outside of the cake baking faster than the center, which makes the cake rise more in the center. If you bake cakes often, these are a very good investment! You can also make DIY ones by wrapping wet paper towels with aluminum foil and wrapping them around the cake pans.
- Once you have added all of the butter to the meringue, it will likely look curdled, but do not panic! As you keep beating, it will come together after a couple of minutes.
- For the shredded coconut decoration, I toasted half and mixed it with the rest of the coconut for some color contrast. You could also toast all of it or none of it.
You likely have added the butter to the meringue too soon. DO NOT add the butter to the swiss meringue until it has cooled down to below 85 degrees F. I have made the mistake of adding it too soon, and the meringue ended up melting the butter and turned the whole thing into a soupy mess. If your meringue has reached stiff peaks before it is cool enough, turn the mixer down to low speed and keep it there until it reaches the right temperature.
If your egg whites did not whip, there may have been a greasy residue in the bowl or on the whisk, or an egg yolk might have broken. Any amount of fat can hinder the meringue from whipping. To avoid this, wipe all appliances down with white vinegar to make them squeaky clean. When separating eggs, use cold eggs and gently break the entire egg into a shallow bowl. Use your hands to pick up the egg yolk and gently pull the white away from it. This will ensure the egg shell does not puncture the yolk and mix in with the whites.
Store cake slices in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Baking in Grams
All of the recipes on this blog are carefully developed with gram measurements so you can easily recreate them in your own kitchen with success. Volume measurements are extremely inaccurate and leave room for significant errors. Not all measuring cups are made equally, so your one cup of flour will be different from my one cup of flour. By providing precise measurements in grams (aside from minor ingredients, which are given in tsp/tbsp), you can make these recipes accurately and with less cleanup! All you need is this kitchen scale.
If this still isn't enough to convince you, I have provided volume measurements in the recipe card. If you are interested in understanding the conversions, this is the best conversion chart.
But trust me, once you try baking in grams you'll never turn back!
Happy baking! x
Other cake recipes you'll love
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Piña Colada Cake with Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For the Cake:
- 270 g cake flour
- 250 g granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 170 g unsalted butter, room temp
- 113 g plain whole milk greek yogurt, room temp
- 113 g canned coconut milk, room temp
- 8 oz canned pineapple, no juice (pureed)
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 140 g egg whites, about 4 (room temp)
For the Buttercream:
- 200 g egg whites, about 6
- 350 g granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 340 g unsalted butter, 3 sticks, room temp
- 2 teaspoon coconut extract
For the Decoration:
- 100 g shredded coconut
- 1 pineapple top
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degreed F and line three six-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate bowl, prepare the wet ingredients by beating together the yogurt, coconut milk, pureed pineapple, vanilla extract , and coconut extract. (To puree the pineapple pieces, simply pulse in a blender)
- Add the butter in chunks to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until it resembles wet sand.
- Add half of the wet ingredients to the flour butter mixture, and mix until mostly combined. Scrape down the bowl, then add the remaining wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter until just combined.
- Pour the batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when you touch it.
- After cooling for 15 minutes or so, turn the cakes out of the pans, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
For the Buttercream:
- In a double boiler, heat the egg whites, sugar, and salt, whisking frequently until it reaches 160 degrees F or until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites do not feel grainy.
- Transfer the egg white mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Cut the butter into cubes and add to the meringue one piece at a time, allowing each piece to fully incorporate before adding the next. Once all of the butter is added, it will likely look curdled, but keep beating for a few more minutes and it will come together.
- Once the buttercream has mostly come together, change the whisk attachment to the paddle and keep mixing on low speed until homogenous and smooth. Add the coconut extract until fully combined. If there are still tiny pieces of butter, keep beating on low speed. Do not increase the speed too high or you will incorporate too much air into the buttercream and it will not spread smooth on the cake.
- Secure the first layer of cake on the cake stand with a small amount of frosting on the bottom. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to measure out the frosting for each layer. I used a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop and put 3 scoops of frosting on each layer. Cover the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting for the crumb coat. Place in the fridge to firm up for one hour.
- While the cake chills, prepare the coconut decoration. Place 50g (half) of the shredded coconut in a small frying pan over low heat and toast until golden. Mix the toasted coconut with the non-toasted coconut and set aside.
- After one hour, frost the cake with a thicker layer of frosting, making it as smooth as possible. With your hand, press the toasted coconut mixture all over the cake.
- Top the cake with the top of a pineapple if desired.