Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes

My husband works with a lot of Taiwanese people and whenever they return from trips home they bring a variety of sweets to share with the office. One of everyone's favorites are these shortbread-like cookies stuffed with a pineapple paste. These treats are popular for the Chinese New Year but are available all year round.

After bringing them several times to the office, some of Joey's coworkers challenged him to try and make them. One coworker offered to translate a recipe for us to try. It turns out nobody ever makes these cookies. They buy these cookies. But now we were making these cookies. When the translation was done we compared it with a similar recipe online (there were seriously like 3 recipes online) and set off to the Asian market for some unusual ingredients.

At the store we found some winter melon. Later we learned that winter melon is just a stabilizer to help the cookie's filling last longer and could be left out of the filling. Winter melon is a bland melon that tastes like a cucumber but has a the texture of a watermelon. Either way, it wasn't obvious in the filling at all.

Pineapple cakes are kinda like fig newtons except there's really no flavoring in the butter crust and the pineapple filling is more sticky.

We had a ton of trouble with the recipe. There was the hunt for the maltose & winter melon (we used malt syrup actually which is kind of like corn syrup although we did see maltose we just decided against it). Our filling never got thick like they said it would, this probably due to the different maltose. But whatever the problem, we got some use out of the turkey baster and extracted all the liquid from the pan to artificially thicken our pineapple paste.

We had no issue with the dough part but we think that if you were going to make these and go a little nontraditional a little bit of almond extract would go a long way.

After a taste test of the ones we made vs. a packaged pineapple cake we purchased at the Asian market the difference is night and day. The packaged kind have a sticky filling and a dry outside. Our kind is sort of like a really delicious butter/shortbread cookie filled with a wet pineapple jam. I don't like the real version, but ours were delish!

We used this recipe. But in case it disappears for them web, reprinted here:

Pineapple Cakes

Makes 24 pineapple cakes.


2½ cups cake flour
⅛ teaspoon. baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons nonfat milk powder, passed through a fine mesh sieve
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup shortening
½ cup confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks
1 recipe Pineapple Paste (recipe follows)


  1. Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and milk powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Place the butter, shortening and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat on medium-low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Stop the mixer and add half of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed. Add the remaining flour and beat until all of the flour has been absorbed, 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat 1 minute. Divide the dough into 2 even pieces and roll each piece into a 10-inch log. Wrap each log tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  4. Cut each log into 12 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Use a tablespoon measure to divide the pineapple paste into 24 evenly sized 1-tablespoon balls.
  5. Place a dough ball in the palm of your hand and flatten into a disk. Place a pineapple paste ball in the center of the disk, bring the edges up together and pinch shut. Roll between the palms of your hands until the seams are no longer visible. Press into 1¾-inch-wide square pineapple cake molds or gently shape into squares by hand.
  6. Place the pineapple cakes 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, turning the cakes over once and rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through baking. Place the baking sheets on wire racks to cool 10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the racks to cool completely.

Pineapple Paste

Makes 1½ cups pineapple paste

This pineapple paste is more intensely pineapple-y than the filling in commercial pineapple cakes. If a milder flavor is desired, reduce the amount of pineapple and increase the amount of diced winter melon by the same amount. Winter melon and maltose syrup can be found in most large Asian markets.


12 oz. (weight) peeled, cored, diced pineapple (from 1 pineapple)
1 pound, 4 ounces of peeled, seeded, diced winter melon (from about 2½ pounds winter melon wedges)
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup maltose syrup


  1. Place the pineapple in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, 18 to 20 pulses. Pour into a Dutch oven.
  2. Place the winter melon in the food processor and pulse until very finely shredded, 20 to 22 pulses. Transfer to the Dutch oven.
  3. Cook the combined mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the winter melon begins turning translucent, about 20 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar, and cook until the mixture has thickened, about 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in the maltose syrup and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, sticky, and uniformly light amber in color, 10 to 12 minutes.

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