Tropical desserts

by Betty Thompson

It was a non-descript square of cake with deceptively plain white icing. I'm not sure why I took it. Maybe it was closest to me. But I was glad I did because the fresh passionfruit flavor was memorable.

The unexpected is fun, sort of like unwrapping a present to reveal a pleasurable surprise. What better way to surprise your guests than to bring a taste of the tropics to your holiday table this season.

Tropical fruit and nut desserts can be refreshing, light and complimentary to the traditional fruit cake and plum puddings.

A simple dessert can be made with assorted fresh fruits cut into bite-size pieces. Combine with jars of "Sunfresh" peeled and sliced papaya and mango, available in the produce section. Canned lychees are also good. Add fruit juice or a simple sugar syrup, crushed ice, coconut milk (canned) and a flavoring such as rum or Cointreau. Serve in stemmed glasses.

The elegant Passionfruit Snowball, shown in the photo on this page, is mousse with bits of angel cake molded in a bowl. When unmolded and frosted with whipped cream and coconut it resembles a giant snowball.

The best frozen passionfruit concentrate to use is Caribik brand. If fresh passionfruits are available, cut one in half and add the flesh and seeds to the juice in the recipe.The whipped cream on the outside is usually done at the last minute so the cream does not weep. If a stabilizer is added to the cream, it can be whipped and held without the cream melting and without freezing. The best choice is a package of Dr. Oetker "Whip-it" available at Globe Imports. Another solution is to carefully fold 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla instant pudding into the whipped cream.

The chocolate crisp crust for the Ice Cream Pie can be put together quickly. Melt chocolate in the microwave or if using the double boiler, the water should not boil. Toasted nuts can be used for part of the rice cereal. The jars of fresh mango and papaya mentioned above need only be sliced for the fruit version. Several ice cream suggestions are given inthe recipe below but almost any chilled pie filling that goes well with chocolate will do. The fillings must be cold so as not to melt the chocolate.

The miniature Piña Colada Cheesecake recipe has advantages. It goes together quickly and easily, bakes a short time, is already portioned out and ready to serve.

All three recipes can be prepared well in advance and frozen.


Passionfruit Snowball

Drifts of cream and coconut engulf this passion angel cake mousse. Try guava, mango, pineapple or tangerine in place of the passionfruit.

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

4 tablespoons cold water

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup sugar

1 12-ounce can frozen passionfruit concentrate

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Grated peel of 1 lime

1 cup whipping cream

10 ounces angel food cake cut into cubes

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup shredded coconut

2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

a few fresh kumquats

Line a three-quart bowl with two sheets of plastic wrap, one across the other; it will be wrinkled. Set aside. In another bowl, soften gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Pour boiling water over the top and stir to dissolve gelatin. Stir in sugar, fruit concentrate, lime juice and peel. Either refrigerate for 45 minutes to partially set gelatin or to speed up this process, place bowl in ice water and stir until mixture begins to gel. Whip cream until it forms soft peaks; fold gelatin into the cream. Carefully fold cake squares into the mixture. Place in wrap lined bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 or 2 days or freeze. If frozen thaw in refrigerator for several hours before serving.

To serve, remove covering and invert bowl on serving plate, carefully remove wrappings. Whip 1 cup cream, add sugar and coconut extract. Frost mound with cream. Press in the coconut and garnish with kiwi slices, kumquats and citrus leaves.


Chocolate Ice Cream Pie

Intense chocolate flavor and crunch provide interesting contrast to a variety of smooth fillings.

6 ounces chocolate chips (1 cup)

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups crisp rice cereal or 1 1/2 cups cereal and 1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 gallon ice cream (see variations)

Fruit, nuts

In the top of a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate. Stir in rice cereal. Put into a 9-inch pie pan. Press into shape using plastic wrap . Chill until firm. Fill with choice of filling, freeze. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Here are three filling suggestions:


Piña Colada Cheesecakes

Individual servings of pineapple-topped, lime-coconut cheesecake wait in the freezer. Use for a large party or have a stash on hand for unexpected guests.

Foil muffin papers (18)

1/4 lb. butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

11/2 cups graham cracker crumbs.

Combine and press about 2 tablespoons of mix into 18 foil muffin papers. Place in muffin tins for ease in handling.

2 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese (low-fat works)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 heaping tablespoons piña colada frozen concentrate

1 teaspoon each coconut and rum extract

2 large eggs

Beat cheese in a mixer, add sugar and blend smooth. Add flavorings and then eggs one at a time at low speed to avoid incorporating air into the mixture. Divide batter into prepared paper lined muffin tins. Bake in 350 degrees 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool then top with pineapple glaze.


1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple with juice. (Reserve 1 tablespoon)

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon pineapple juice

Coconut and candied pineapple for garnish

Purêe pineapple and juice in food processor. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a small stainless pan. Cook over medium heat stirring until thick. Cool thoroughly. Spread on cakes . Top with garnish. Can be done 2 days ahead or frozen.

Once frozen, cakes can be stored in a box sealed in a freezer bag.

Betty Thompson has taught cooking classes locally since 1974.

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