Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake, paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!

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14 thoughts on “Tropical desert island cake

  1. Mmmm… Mango and lime curd. That sounds tasty.

    I can almost hear those wave lapping at the shore when I look at the cake photos. Very nicely done. Do you take orders for birthdays and other special occasions? 🙂

  2. Oh wow Nat, this not only looks amazing but it sounds delicious too. Wish I’d made the effort to got to Falmouth now. Your ideas are so impressive and your execution is fantastic. How easy was it to make the chocolates? I’ve not tried making any with white chocolate.

    • Falmouth is ages away from you though! Rock will be good in a couple of weeks though 🙂

      The chocolates went pretty well actually, I didn’t bother with proper tempering because I thought adding yellow food colouring would ruin it anyway, so I just melted it on a low heat and it was fine…

  3. Pingback: Ten chocolate based recipes for Valentine's Day | Foodies 100

  4. Rum soaked sponge – that is music to my ears! What a fantastic and inspired cake! Looks and sounds absolutely delicious. The blitzed cake makes such a good sand effect!

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