When Bowling Green's Ella McGowan walked into a statewide Pastry Arts Competition hosted by the Ohio Family, Career and Community Leaders of America a few weeks ago, she was intimidated, to say the least.
"I was very nervous. I was a junior going into what seniors have been doing a lot longer than me."
But nerves counted for little as the Penta Career Center student spent the next several hours methodically concocting a dream of a cake that ended up wowing the judges and garnering a gold medal.
Her Coconut Pineapple Cake is a visual, structural and gastronomic masterpiece that frankly, many of us will only dream about.
But for the truly dedicated bakers out there reading Cook's Corner, and I know you're there, Ella is flinging down the gauntlet.
She is willing to share her recipe, which has five distinct components: a two-stage yellow cake, a white chocolate frosting, a delectable pineapple sauce that seals the multiple layers of the cake, a toasted coconut topping, and a final decorative layer of 12 pineapple flowers. A sixth and final recipe explains the steps necessary to put the masterpiece together.
There is not enough room on this page for six different recipes, so we are printing both the yellow cake and the frosting recipes here, and for anyone who wants to examine all six recipes, they will all appear in their entirety on the newspaper's Website: sentinel-tribune.com.
Ella's instructors at Penta knew she had a winner on her hands when she took gold with the cake at FCCLA's regional competition at Archbold.
But the level of baking she encountered at the state stunned her.
"There were some of these cakes that were amazing," among them a peanut butter and jelly cake, a dark chocolate cake, a fondant-frosted cake, and a chocolate sundae cake with cherries on top. "Some looked almost like wedding cakes."
Two judges evaluated each student's work, initially.
"Then, in the cooking room, five different judges were walking around, one looking just at my cleanliness, another at my cooking skills" and so on, as each student worked on his or her masterpiece. The judges in this room never spoke to the students, but each knew they were being evaluated throughout the ordeal.
"The time we put into these cakes really showed."
Ella estimates her coconut pineapple cake takes four hours to prepare, not counting cooling time, actual baking and icing.
"I like it," she said of the process, while conceding, "it's a lot of work."
She pulled the overall recipe together from multiple sources.
"The cake we found in a cookbook at school; the flowers I found online. The frosting was in a cookbook we bought from a cooking store."
Ella began working on the cake in early March, first preparing it for a lab at Penta.
"I've always done this a lot with my mom and grandma, since I was little. Baking I prefer more, but I do cook."
"My parents' family is all from Cleveland" and family get-togethers always include an emphasis on food, especially at holidays, which are "a big deal!"
Some of the family specialties, she said, include baked macaroni and cheese, cakes, sweet potato pie, and red velvet cake, which is what she requested for her 17th birthday last Friday.
Among her biggest baking fans are her younger brother, a fifth grader, and sister, a seventh grader.
Ella says her career goal is to obtain a business degree at Bowling Green State University and then enroll in the pastry arts program of the Johnson and Wales culinary school in Colorado.
But in the meantime, prize-winning baking is not her only achievement.
Ella has played the viola since fourth grade at Conneaut Elementary, and currently plays with the orchestras at both BGHS and at her church, Dayspring Assembly of God. She is also a member of the BGHS girls' basketball team, having seen action on both the JV and varsity teams this past season.
For anyone looking to tackle her coconut pineapple cake, she offers three cautionary hints:
¥ Don't let your chocolate harden, when you melt it.
¥ Don't knock over your cake when you're putting on the coconut!
¥ Make sure your pineapple flowers are all the way dried out before you put them on top.
"It's not really hard," Ella adds encouragingly. "It just has a lot of steps."
Yellow cake recipe
2 1/4 c. Cake Flour
1 1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
4 oz. Emulsified Shortening
1 c. Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Equipment: Mixer & paddle attachment, mixing bowl, 2 rubber scrapers, 10-inch cake pan, Parchment - cut 10-inch round to line pan with, whisk.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F, coat the pan with shortening line with parchment paper.
2. In the mixing bowl with the paddle attachment blend cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add emulsified shortening and blend together on low speed.
4. In a separate mixing bowl combine milk, vanilla extract, and eggs and whisk together.
5. Add half of the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend till moistened.
6. Add the rest of the liquid ingredients until batter is smooth.
7. Pour cake batter into prepared pan.
8. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes.
9. When tooth pick comes out clean, cake is done baking.
10. Let cake cool, remove from pan and place on cooling rack.
Yield: 1 -10" cake layers
1 1/2 lbs. White Chocolate
2 lbs. Cream Cheese
1 lb. Unsalted Butter
2 oz. Lemon Juice
Equipment: Mixer and paddle attachment, 3 mixing bowls, 2 rubber scrapers, 4 qt. sauce pans.
1. Place white chocolate in a mixing bowl.
2. Pour water into 4 qt. sauce pan and place on burner
3. Set the mixing bowl with white chocolate on top and melt it completely while stirring constantly.
4. Remove bowl from heat and let cool to room temperature.
5. Place cream cheese in mixer with the paddle attachment and blend until creamed.
6. Pour cooled white chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and blend.
7. Add the unsalted butter and lemon juice and continuing blending until mixture is creamy.
Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator up to 7 days. Yield: 4 ½ lbs.
2 cups Pineapple juice
1 Tbsp. Lime juice
8 oz. Granulated sugar
¼ cup Cornstarch
5 oz. fresh pineappl,e cut in small dice
3 1/2 qt. sauce pan
1. Blend the pineapple juice, lime juice, and sugar in sauce pan.
2. Place on burner and bring mixture to a boil.
3. Add cornstarch using wire whip and let come to a boil again.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in the small diced pineapple.
6. Let cool
7. Store in refrigerator.
Yield: 1 1/2 lb.
TOASTED SHREDDED COCONUT
3 cups Shredded Coconut
1. Line half sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle the shredded coconut on top.
3. Bake at 350 °F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and let cool.
Yield: 3 cups
Storage: Can be stored up to a week in a covered container.
12 fresh pineapple, thinly sliced
1 can Pan coat spray
Half Sheet pan — To bake ingredients on
Parchment Paper — To bake ingredients on
Rolling Pin — To roll over cookie cutter
Flower Cookie Cutter
Mini Fluted Mold Pan — To bake flowers on
1. Slice pineapple thinly.
2. On the cutting board, arrange pineapple slices.
3. Set the flower shape cookie cutter on the pineapple slice. Using a rolling pin, roll over the cookie cutter until it goes though the pineapple.
4. Put the cut piece of pineapple on a half sheet pan with parchment paper to bake for 60 minutes at 250 °F.
5. Remove from the oven let them cool they should be pliable and slightly moist.
6. Pan coat the mini fluted mold pan.
7. Take the flower and fold it around the center piece of the mini fluted mold pan so that the core of the pineapple is in the center of the pan.
8. Return to oven for another 30 minutes and bake until golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Yield: 12 flowers.
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