Foodiva's Kitchen: Starry Night Grape and Pineapple Cake with Pineapple Curd

Friday, July 15, 2011

Starry Night Grape and Pineapple Cake with Pineapple Curd

La tristesse durera toujours. (The sadness will last forever)
~ Last words, Vincent van Gogh

Whenever Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment makes an appearance on my bedside table, I get slightly worried. It usually means that there's been too much going on in my life, I can't sleep well (hence the punishing read) and I'm simply....tired.

In my current state of mind, I found inspiration in Vincent van Gogh's painting, Starry Night. A prime example of my optimistic side trying to override the crushing voices in my head. We all have these moments, and please don't tell me that you don't. Starry Night, unmistakable and perhaps the most recognized Van Gogh painting, depicts the view outside his sanatorium room window at night although he apparently painted it from memory during the day. You see, being in a sanatorium does that to a person. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience... well, I can be funny-insane sometimes (my friends and family tell me so), but not to that point. 

My original intention was to create a 'zebra' cake, in hues of blues and yellows, full of those unmistakable swirls. Not just in terms of the frosting on the cake, but swirls inside the cake itself. A cake that cleverly presented concentric circles when viewed from the top but vertical stripes when cut into slices. The end result didn't turn out that way, but hey, that's life. You can only plan so much, but sometimes life takes you down a different path. I'll show you what I mean. You'll see that I'm not always a baking maestro after all, but that's really okay...I'm human. Next time I'll just make the batter less runny and use different ingredients for greater color contrast and see if it works.

For the original zebra cake, I thought about how to attain the blue and yellow shades - naturally. Any number of ingredients could have offered me these two colors but I picked black seedless grapes and fresh pineapple. Once pureed, the grapes offered a deep purplish-red  hue that turned blue with the addition of baking powder (good thing I remembered my chemistry lessons from long ago. But darn the chemistry too for not producing the reaction I wanted!). To the pineapple, I added turmeric powder to enhance the yellow color and also the sweet tangy flavor of the fruit. Come on, don't be a wuss, just dump in the turmeric! Your cake will taste better for your courage.

I baked this at night so the layers looked eeriely orange and grey here, 
but I promise you that these were actually yellow and blue!

No layers but yumm-azing nevertheless!

Despite the layers not showing up, the cake tasted moist and scrumptious due to the fruity ingredients. I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was to go over to Kate's blog, It's The Norm to look at her easy lemon curd recipe. I thought my cake could do with a pineapple curd topping to bring some sunshine into its life, and into mine. While you're over at Kate's, please do check out her attempt at my red dragonfruit ice cream recipe. It's such a joy for me to see somebody recreate this dazzling ice cream and enjoy it too! Kate currently lives in Brunei, by the way, so she can easily buy dragonfruit the same way I can. 

You'll be glad to know I wasn't the only person who wanted to turn this Van Gogh painting into something else beautiful, because it also inspired Don McLean write the hit song, 'Vincent' back in the 1970s. It came to him one morning while he was sitting on the veranda looking at a book about Van Gogh. As he studied a print of Starry Night, he realized that a song could be written about the artist through the painting. I remembered the first time I heard this song, it was on my uncle's vintage vinyl record player. I was all of 6 years old and I played it over and over and over again until one day a nasty gash appeared across the black vinyl and my access to Vincent was promptly curtailed. To this day though, I still remember the lyrics and it has become a song I always, always request whenever I've had the opportunity to chill out at a piano lounge. The many piano lounge singers I've encountered have all had 'Vincent' as part of their repertoire, could it be that it's a criteria to being a successful lounge crooner?

Of course, being the hipster that (I think) I am, I've moved on with the times. As such, I share with you this more recent rendition of 'Vincent' by Joanna Wang, she of the sexy-smooth-like-velvet voice, my lullaby singer of choice. 

Today also happens to be a public holiday in Brunei, we're celebrating the birthday of our King and Prime Minister, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. I know of hardly any Bruneian who hasn't met him in person. We are after all, only 300,000 people in this country and he does get out and about often. I think he still looks quite dapper for a 65 year old and besides, who doesn't like a guy in uniform?

Have a chilled out weekend!

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!
(well, just in case he reads this blog)

Starry Night Grape and Pineapple Cake
Yields one 9in or 8in round cake

1 cup caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup pineapple, cubed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cup black seedless grapes
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly spray an 8 x 2-inch or 9 x 2-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment, and spritz again. Set the pan aside.
2. Place the pineapple cubes in a blender, add the turmeric and blend into a puree. Strain into a bowl to remove any hard bits or lumps. Set aside.
3. Blend the grapes whole. Here, you have the option to strain to remove the skin or not. I chose not to because I like the flecked effect the skin gives to the cake. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of your mixer, blend the sugar and eggs on low speed until lightened, about 2 minutes. Blend in the oil and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
5. In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the wet ingredients above. Combine on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until the batter is smooth. Be sure to scrape down the bowl halfway through mixing.
6. Divide the batter into 2 equal portions (about 2 cups each). Into one portion quickly whisk in the pineapple and turmeric mixture until well incorporated. Into the other, whisk in the blended grape juice.
7. Now for the stripes. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of pineapple batter into the center of the cake pan. Next, spoon 3 tablespoons of the grape batter into the center of the pineapple batter. This causes the pineapple batter to spread out. Continue to alternate batters, in bulls-eye fashion until all batter is used. You will now have thin rings of each batter on the outer edges of the pan, thicker rings towards the center.
8. Bake the cake in the center of the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Top with pineapple curd just before serving and make swirl patterns with a small spatula.

Easy Pineapple Curd
75g butter (salted is better)
3 large eggs
75g caster sugar
125ml/1/2 cup pineapple puree (about 1 cup, cubed)
1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric

1. Puree the pineapple flesh in a blender and add turmeric. Blend again and strain the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add all the other ingredients and whisk to a custard over a gentle heat. Let cool before completely before frosting the cake. If not used immediately, keep in the fridge and cover the top with a piece of cling film to prevent a skin from forming.


Jenny (VintageSugarcube) said...

That cake is sooo creative and looks absolutely delicious. And I love the honor you paid to the Sultan. I can not believe he is 65yo. I think the peeps in Brunei much better than Americans. PS.. How's that red kitchen? XOXO

Jenny (VintageSugarcube) said...

Goodness, I just realized I didn't finish my sentence; "The peeps in Brunei age much better than Americans". :)

Foodness Gracious said...

Very interesting post and I had to remind myself it was for a cake. There was just so much more other info in there including some about your Sultan, awesome.
Thanks for sharing!

Foodiva said...

Jenny, it must be something in the water! LOL.

As for the kitchen and home, we have finally moved! I featured the red kitchen in my last post. Go check it out, girl...hope you like it ;-).

Foodiva said...

@Foodness Gracious...haha, why do I feel like I should be apologizing? Admittedly, this is a mashed up post but I wanted to fit in everything today...and except for the birthday, all the other stuff are inter-related. The common links - beauty and yes, insanity ;-). In a good way.

Norm said...

That's one amazing cake Maya! I love the idea of making it swirly and 2-coloured. Definitely one to try again. I'm really excited by your pineapple curd topping too... I've done lemon, and I've done cranberry, but I feel like I need to do some more experimenting with fruit curds. Thanks too for the shout-out (I've just had some more delicious pink ice-cream for my lunch!)

I'm just thinking of a Birthday post for the Sultan as well - I went to see the parade this morning which was amazing. My husband was there in his uniform too (although his doesn't have QUITE as much gold as His Majesty's does!!)

Foodiva said...

Kate@Norm, just as well your husband kept the gold to a minimum... I do think it takes a bit of the macho-ness away from the uniform. Can't remember the last time I woke up really early to watch the national day parade. Terrible, I know, but so glad you enjoyed it! I'll try to catch it on the 8pm news ;-).

Btw, now you have me dreaming about that cranberry curd. Will have to wait until the day when fresh cranberries reach our shores...or maybe I'll cheat and use cranberry juice out of the carton?

Cher said...

Love this cake - especially the pineapple curd.

Tina @flourtrader said...

Nice background story to a lovely cake. It is difficult sometimes to get great flavor and great color all in one cake, but in the end it truly is the taste that matters. Thanks for sharing!

PFx said...

Hey I think even Van Gogh would have his shares of failures but you never know when you'll struck the moment of brilliance. Such a cheerful attempt to layer the batter!

My first time of listening to vincent was when I was learning English language 12 years ago. I memorised it.

Joanna's video... dear.. I am in tears. If I ever meet her, I'd kidnap her to the jewelry store and marry her then and there. Lingering and suave gentle lullaby like that... I am ... speechless...
(Do you know where she lives?)

Happy holiday!

PFx said...

Ow op! Nevermind, she's from Taiwan. And guess what! I just got my Taiwanese visa for my trip in August! Yayyyyy!!!! (this way planned before knowing her... or is it?)

Foodiva said...

Pierre, I was just going to say she's Taiwanese but you beat me to it! I would like to kidnap her too and have her sing for me live every night before I go to sleep. Pity she's a girl and I don't find the need to swing that way - yet. LOL, not serious ok!

You must get her album, the first one is brilliant. Her voice is ah-mazing beyond anything I can describe!

Adora's Box said...

What an absolutely lovely post. I enjoyed reading the recipe while lulled by the beautiful rendition of Vincent. The cake is such a nice interpretation of Starry Night. Love the whorls of contrasting coloured batter. So Van Gogh.

Foodiva said...

Why, thank you, Adora! I enjoyed the process of whorl-making even though the circles blended into each other whilst baking. Oh well, another day, another try at this recipe. Glad you liked the song, it lulls me too much if I let it...

Viviane Bauquet Farre said...

Wonderfully creative! What a showstopper. Thanks for the lovely post.

Isabelle @ Crumb said...

Great cake! It's too bad that the layers didn't show through, but I think the swirls of pineapple curd still capture that whole Van Gogh vibe. (Plus the whole flavour combo sounds delicious, regardless of inspiration)

Foodiva said...

Viviane, thank you.

Isabelle, the pineapple curd was probably the saving grace for linking this cake to Van Gogh's painting. I shouldn't really say that because the cake itself WAS delicious! Thanks for coming by.

Kathy said...

Maya, Such a gorgeous cake! The pineapple curd sounds heavenly! Happy Birthday to your King!

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Ah too bad ythe layers did nto turn out but the curd looks amazing and love the decoration. looks like your night is turning into a sun. Happy Birthday King! Oh and please...don't cut off your ear!

Michael Toa said...

That is one gorgeous cake Maya! Pineapple curd sounds very exotic and refreshing. I hope you're enjoying your day off. Happy Birthday King.
He doesn't look like he's 65.

Tante Kiki said...

Good evening! Your blog is very nice and the pineapple cake and curd very yummy and creative! If you want, visit me at: and follow me! I'm glad having found your blog. Have a nice weekend.

Amy said...

This cake is intriguing! I love all of the elements of it from all of the different fruits and flavors to the brightly colored frosting to the association with starry night! Sounds amazing :)!

Anonymous said...

Love the look of this cake! And, your preparation was very creative.

Maureen said...

If the Sultan does read your blog, Sir, you are pretty swish for 65 ! Happy Birthday.

Now about this cake.. it looks so rich and moist and delicious I can't wait to bake one for myself.

msihua said...

Woah.. that is a mightily delicious looking cake! So what if the swirls didn't turn out :) Happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

Love your post! There is such a fine line between insanity and creative genius!
Love your cake and love your inspiration!
(And your king does not look 65!)

the [sugar] apothecary said...

Your Vincent cake came out great! The concentric circle were daring... but so is turmeric and pineapple, you wild woman! I think the swirls in the pineapple curd are my favorite part - It came out lovely :)

And happy birthday, Mr. Majesty!

createwithmom said...

beautiful innovative cake looks wonderful

Foodiva said...

Evelyne@Cheap Ethnic Eatz, the only parts of my body I'm inclined to cut right now are my hair (it's unruly) and my nails (interferes with baking when long)! LOL.

Carolyn said...

Wow, Maya, I am amazed. I've never taken inspiration from a painting for baking, but you are just so creative in this regard!
And yes, your King and Prime Minister looks incredibly young for his age!

Spicie Foodie said...

Totally agree with Carolyn, you are so creative and talented. Even though you say it didn't turn out as you wished, it still looks a thousand times better than if I would have done it. I love the turmeric you used. Lovely, lovely post and cake. Hope you are well :)

Trix said...

Well my dear, you know how you have on occasion given me incredibly gracious compliments re: my creativity with savory things? I cannot hold a CANDLE to you when it comes to your inspired way with all things sweet. This is really brilliant, i love it.

Victoria said...

What a great tribute to one of my favorite paintings in the world!! I stare at it profusely every time I'm at the MoMA in NY. It's incredible. I'm sorry the zebra stripes didn't turn out in the cake, but the flavor is all that matters in the end :) Also, what a beautiful song! I've never heard it before, but it's really lovely. Hope you're well!

Sandra said...

Your cake is beautiful..very very delicious idea and to find the inspiration in Gogh's totally speechless!

Kate@Diethood said...

WOW! Your delicious creations never cease to amaze me... beautiful!

Working london mummy said...

What a lovely post, and an inspired recipe absolutely beautiful

Foodiva said...

Thank you all for your beautiful comments, for which I am truly humbled. I am also very tickled by your cute greetings to His Majesty and I find myself wishing that he DOES read this blog! I thought all 65 year olds look like him...LOL. Well, I want to look like him 20 years from now, for sure!

spcookiequeen said...

I love that painting and your creative, inspired cake. I see where you were going with it. You have given me something to think about here, i might have to do an interpretation of this one. Hope you had a lovely and restful weekend.

Magic of Spice said...

Well even if it was not your original intent for the cake, it turned out wonderfully :)
And a very Happy Birthday to the King, looks very young for his age...

Foodiva said...

Gina@SPCookiequeen, and I can't wait for your interpretation of my interpretation! I'm pretty sure it will be incredible, knowing you ;-)

Foodiva said...

Alisha@Magic of Spice, thank you. I'm sure the Sultan will be flattered by your (and everyone else's) pronouncement of his youthful looks. That's how I feel when people say I look 27... Ok, I lied. I don't actually feel that way, LOL!
PS. People don't say I look 27 either, even on a good day ;-).

Nami @ Just One Cookbook said...

Maya, you are such an expert in making unique and creative food/dessert and this is no exception. I have never had cake that has pineapple and I'm missing out. I know.... Beautiful creation! I still have no idea how you spread the batters so nicely. Mine would major mess 100% guarantee! >_<

Foodiva said...

Nami, I think if you baked more and more, you will be better than me! If you've never had pineapple cake, it's a good time to try it...I mean, better late than never, right?

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