I didn't become introduced to Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes until we moved to Kenya. It came up one day in conversation and then I actually got to try one when a friend of ours brought some back with her from a trip to Taiwan. I don't know how I could have missed out on this delectable pocket of tangy sweetness for so long, but I'm glad that we finally met. Since then, we've coincidentally been enjoying somewhat of a steady stream of these Taiwanese treats. While in Korea, our good friend Suzie gifted us with a box of cakes from Ding Tai Fung which we enjoyed with much enthusiasm. And then this past Monday, as if on schedule, I ran into a recipe for Taiwanese Pineapple Cake on my Pulse feed and also came to inherit an overripe pineapple and papaya all in the same day. Again, it was as if, the baking gods were willing me to make some TPC.
After some more online research, I decided to combine parts of numerous different recipes while also throwing in a couple of my own original moves. For one, I know TPC usually comes in a small rectangular blocks but I was having a lot of trouble shaping the dough by hand. I found myself desperately wanting some kind of mold and decided to try using a muffin pan. I understand that I risk offending some purists out there in saying this, but the muffin pan idea turned out to be nothing short of a stroke of genius on my part (in my always humble opinion). Not only was I easily able to get a crisp, vaguely rectangular-esque shape, but it allowed me to get golden brown surfaces all the way around without having to flip them repeatedly in the oven. I also threw in some papaya into the filling, largely because it would have went bad otherwise. I can't say that I noticed a huge difference in taste but it did seem to mellow out the distinctly tangy pineapple flavor in favor of a more general tropical fruit taste.
In conclusion, I'd say the TPCs were a relative success but not without a lot of effort. Honestly, I think I'd rather just pay for someone to make them for me as they do tend to take more work than your average pan of brownies. But then again if you are a curious masochist like me, I invite you to take a crack at the recipe below.
Pineapple Papaya Filling
Adapted from The 350 Degree Oven and Serious Eats
1 medium-sized pineapple
1/2 large papaya (optional)
1 c. (8 oz) water
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp cornstarch + 1/2 tsp. water
1.) Cut off the fronds and base from the pineapple. Holding it upright, slice off the thick skin all around the pineapple. Chop it into halves lengthwise and then chop each half into quarters lengthwise. Slice off the thick strip of the pineapple's core from each quarter along its length. Chop the remaining pineapple coarsely and transfer into a food processor.
2.) Slice papaya in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds with a spoon. Slice off the skin and chop papaya flesh coarsely and transfer into food processor. Pulse pineapple and papaya mixture until it takes on the texture of apple sauce.
3.) Dump the fruit mixture into a sauce pan, add sugar, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low to cook at a rapid simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid starts to thicken and reduce to a thick jam-like consistency and the color is orange.
4.) Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, and add to the pineapple mixture. Cook another 10 minutes until the mixture becomes a thick paste. It should be thick enough to pick up with your hand and roll into a ball. Allow the filling to cool completely.
Adapted from Suzie Sweet Tooth
10 Tbsp. (250 gm) unsalted butter
5 Tbsp. (50 gm) confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
350 gm (2 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp.) all purpose flour
6 Tbsp. (50 gm) corn starch
5.) Preheat the oven to 350° F. (180° C).
6.) Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light; about 1 minute. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla and salt then blend.
7.) In a bowl, whisk the flour and corn starch together. Add dry ingredient mixture to the butter and sugar mixture until dough starts to come together. It may be easiest to use your hands to gently combine and knead the dough.
8.) Take about 2 tablespoons of dough and flatten it out in your hand. Press dough into one of the wells of a muffin pan* so that all of the walls are covered with about half a centimeter of dough. Spoon about a tablespoon of filling into the well. Flatten another tablespoon of dough in your hand and use it to "cap" your cake. You may want to carefully massage the dough along the edges to secure the seams and ensure that the dough completely encases the filling. Press the top of the dough so that it appears to be evenly flat.
* Normally I hate using silicone muffin pans but for this project, they were actually ideal because it was easier to pop each cake out of its well by pressing up from the bottom. If all you have in a metal muffin tin, you could try extracting the cakes out of their wells by placing a cutting board over the tin and flipping the whole thing over.
** When I first tried this step, my dough was very soft and hard to handle. I therefore stuck it in the fridge for about an hour so that it would firm up. It made it much easier to deal with.
9.) Continue filling each well of your muffin pan with dough and filling. When complete, slide pan into the 350° F oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let the cakes cool completely in the muffin pan before handling them to prevent crumbling.