This is a great afternoon-tea type of cake and, while it looks fairly dense, is actually light and delightfully moist - and it happens to be gluten-free. The pineapple gets caramelised with jaggery, a Sri Lankan palm sugar, to give it a molasses-like sweetness and the addition of star anise lends an excellent aniseed flavour that matches the fruit well.
- 1 small pineapple (about 1.2 kg), trimmed
- 40 g butter
- 100 g jaggery (palm sugar), finely shaved
- 250 g butter, diced, at room temperature
- 200 g caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- 4 eggs
- 125 g almond meal (ground almonds)
- 125 g fine polenta
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 good pinches black pepper
- 1 good pinch table salt
- 1 star anise, finely pounded
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- 100 g pure icing sugar, sifted
- 300 g pouring (single) cream
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Cut the pineapple into 2 cm rounds and remove the core with a small pastry cutter.
Melt the butter and half the jaggery in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the butter starts to froth, add in enough of your pineapple pieces to form a single layer in the pan. Cook each side for 4 minutes or until nicely darkened, removing from the pan as they’re done and adding another batch of the pineapple. About halfway through this process, add the remaining jaggery to the pan.
Arrange the pineapple in the base of a 24 cm diameter cake tin, so it’s tightly fitting. You may need to cut some of the pineapple into small pieces to make it fit in a pretty jigsaw-puzzle pattern. Pour over any pan juices. Place in the oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Remove the tin from the oven and set aside.
For the cake batter, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.
Fold in the almond meal, polenta, baking powder and spices and mix until just combined.
Spoon the cake mixture on top of the pineapple. Bake 35–50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the tin. Carefully - as to avoid burning yourself with any stray caramel - flip the cake tin onto a serving platter.
To serve, whisk the vanilla, sugar and cream together until soft peaks. Serve with the warm cake.
• Jaggery can be found in a Sri Lankan grocer but can be substituted with any other palm sugar or even brown sugar.
Photography by Benito Martin. Food styling by O Tama Carey. Prop styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.
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