Baked Hawaiian Islands: Your New Favorite (Vegan!) Summer Dessert
Gelatin molds are a little disgusting, and ambrosia salad is a thing of the past. Amp up your go-to list of summer dessert ideas with this vegan variation of the Baked Alaska, made with coconut cake, salty and sweet roasted macadamia nuts, pineapple-brown sugar sorbet, all topped with a rum-infused aquafaba meringue. Prepare to be the most popular guest at your next barbecue.
Let's get started by preheating the oven to 350F and greasing a 13 x 9 x 2" metal baking pan with pan spray. (I usually layer my cake pans with parchment paper prior to greasing so that my cakes can pop out as easily as possible!) You can replace the pan spray with an unsalted vegan butter if you'd prefer to use that instead. Just remember that you want to make sure that the cake will separate from the pan easily when you're ready to remove it.
Next, it's time to prepare the wet and dry ingredients for our coconut cake. Begin by whisking the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In another larger bowl, whisk the egg replacer, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, and 1/2 cup water. (You can use other egg replacers, but I love how easy Ener-G Egg Replacer makes my cakes and cookies. If you've never used Ener-G Egg Replacer before, you can find out all about it in my Vegan Pantry card.) Next, beat the dry flour mixture into the wet mixture, and stir in the coconut flakes until you've thoroughly combined the cake mix.
Using an electric mixer, beat 6 tablespoons of aquafaba in another medium bowl until soft peaks form, which might take a little longer than traditionally whipped ingredients like eggs and butter, but trust me - it'll be worth the extra effort.
I've been obsessed with aquafaba lately. It used to be impossible to create certain textures in vegan baking until word got out on how versatile the brine in canned chickpeas can be. Now, you can pretty much use aquafaba for most recipes that involve egg whites, subbing it out with a 3 tablespoons to 1 egg ratio. In this case, the aquafaba we're whipping up is going to make your coconut cake layer nice and spongey, but later you'll see how aquafaba also creates a beautiful meringue.
After it's reached a good consistency, gradually beat in a 1/4 cup sugar, folding it into the batter just to blend. Pour the cake mix you set aside into the prepared pan, and bake it until it's puffed and lightly golden - about 30 minutes. You can check with a toothpick to be sure.
Now, when you're finally ready to take the cake out of the oven, be warned that it might fall slightly. (Don't freak out. It's all going to be covered up with yumminess later anyway.) Simply let it cool out on a rack while you prepare the pineapple-brown sugar sorbet.
Prep your sorbet-making by setting a strainer over a large bowl and setting it aside. In a saucepan, combine the cubed pineapple, sugar, and 3 cups water, stirring to dissolve the sugar as it comes to a boil. In a blender, puree the pineapple mixture until smooth. I prefer using an immersion blender for soups, sauces, and different kinds of purees, but any type of blender should do!
Next, pour your finished puree through the strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible before throwing them out. Stir in the rum and lime juice, and resist temptation to do any shots because now you need to process everything in your ice cream maker. Churn responsibly.
While your ice cream maker is preparing your sorbet, start prep for the sweet and salty macadamia by preheating the oven to 325F. Then, in a small saucepan, combine sugar, salt, and 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. This is going to create a salty-sweet glaze that really cuts into the brown sugar sweetness of your sorbet.
Reduce heat to medium, and stir the macadamia nuts into the glaze. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally as to keep both the sugar and the nuts from burning. Strain, then transfer the nuts onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cook the macadamias until golden and roasted (about 10 - 12 minutes), and allow them to cool.
Now for the meringue - the star of the Baked Hawaiian Islands and pretty much every other 'Baked Alaska'-style recipe. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the required amount of aquafaba with cream of tartar until it's nice and foamy. Next, with the mixer running on medium speed, you'll want to gradually add your sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until it's fully incorporated. Finally, add the rum and xanthan gum (if using), and continue beating your meringue until firm peaks form. Again, this is going to take a little extra time, but TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Now, we can finally, finally assemble our dessert! Start by inverting the fully cooled coconut cake onto a work surface and peel off parchment, if used. Next, cut the cake into 6 small rounds, so that each will fit into an 8-oz. ramekin. (I like to use my ramekin as a stenciling guide when doing this to make sure it fits well. You might have to shave down the cake rounds to make sure they fill the ramekin appropriately, see photo above.)
Working with one ramekin at a time, drop in a 3/4 cup of the pineapple-brown sugar sorbet, smooth the top, and place one of the cake rounds over it, pressing to adhere. Immediately transfer your finished ramekin to the freezer, and repeat the steps until you've finished filling all of them. Freeze your ramekins for 4 hours.
Once your dessert base is nice and frozen, take out the ramekins one at a time and running a knife around the each so each dessert can be easily inverted onto a work surface. Spread 1 scant cup meringue over top and sides of cake with an offset spatula - or if you're feeling particularly decorative, you can pipe the meringue on with a cut ziplock or standard pastry bag.
Transfer your finished desserts to a rimmed baking sheet and return them to the freezer for 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining cakes and meringues, and then add them all to the rimmed baking sheet in your freezer. (Assembled cakes can be made 3 days ahead, which I'd recommend because - let's be real - this recipe is huge! Just remember to keep them covered and frozen until you're prepared for the next step.)
Next is the last big step - the part where your 'baked' dessert finally gets baked! Preheat your oven to 450F, then transfer the sheet pan of cakes to your oven. Bake until the meringue is toasted, around 1 - 2 minutes. Finally, using a large spatula, transfer each finished cake to a plates. Spoon passion fruit juice and pulp around the plate to create a beautiful and tropical garnish. Sprinkle lime zest over meringue, and finish with your macadamia nut garnish!