Pineapple Cakes

It’s no secret that I love Asian markets.  The first time I set foot in one, I made straight for the candy aisle.  My love for the markets was born out of my desire for Asian candies available no where else, Pocky, Hi Chews, Kasugai gummies, Japanese tea sweets, marshmallows stuffed with jams, and of course, the classic Taiwanese pineapple cake.

This love has grown exponentially as I discovered my love of cooking, and my view expanded to the produce, sauces and noodles that only those markets could provide.  Still, practically every time I visit an Asian market, a package of pineapple cakes ends up in my shopping cart.

For those who have never experienced the wonder of a pineapple cake, it might not be what you’re imagining.   As you can see from my pictures, a pineapple cake is more of a cookie, but they’re always referred to as cakes.  This is most likely because Chinese culture isn’t really big on dessert and the word for cake can also mean cookie.  Traditionally, the cakes are rectangular, with a shortbread outer layer enclosing a small square of cooked, chewy pineapple jam.

Since encasing the jam would mean more work and making more shortbread, I opted for a different approach, and made an open faced cookie, like a thumbprint.  I am happy to report that my homemade version taste better than the store bought kind, at least to me, since the pineapple jam was more fruity, soft and flavorful.

I brought some to my dear friends in Worcester, who also loved them.  I’m excited to make these cookies a yearly tradition, as I intend to make them to celebrate Chinese New Year!

(As a disclaimer, I measured by weight with my kitchen scale for this recipe.  If you want to measure by volume (i.e. in cups) please convert the amounts accordingly.)

Pineapple Cakes (cookies)

Adapted from Citrus & Candy

Makes about 4 dozen small cookies

For the pineapple jam:

2 20oz cans crushed pineapple, strained of excess juices
250g  sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
juice of half a lime

 For the shortbread:

8 oz plain flour (about 226g)
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 tbsp cold water
pinch of salt

First make the pineapple jam.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently to combine and dissolve sugar.

Reduce heat to low and stir regularly for about 30 minutes until pineapple jam is dry.  Make sure you stir it frequently as the bottom will burn easily. Once it’s thick and jammy, take it off the heat, remove the cinnamon and star anise and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the shortbread.  In a large bowl,  cut the butter into flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers and mix until it resembles bread crumbs.

Add the egg and cold water and mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together (if it’s dry add a little more cold water until it just binds).

Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to a ¼ inch thickness.  Using a small round or fluted cutter (I used a star shaped cookie cutter) to cut out your cookies and use your thumb to make a dent in the middle. Ball up the dough, re-roll out and cut until your dough is used up.  I ended up with one round cookie at the end.  Place the cut outs on a greased/lined baking sheet.

Using a small spoon, scoop out little balls of cooled jam and shape into balls.  Place the molded balls into the dent in each biscuit and bake for 15-20 mins until the pastry is slightly golden. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Repeat until the dough is used up.  I ended up using all my pineapple jam.  Store in an airtight container.



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