Hawaiian Sunrise Cake

When you just need a break from winter...

My husband and I just got home from a week in Hawaii, celebrating our second anniversary <3 It was an *amazing* week away, the weather was absolutely BEAUTIFUL when it was cold, dark and rainy back home in the Pacific Northwest.   We were ready to be back home, but also sad to leave the beautiful island of Oahu.

We (well, I) tried several local cocktails while we were there – Joe’s not a huge fan of pineapple or coconut, so I tried more of them than he did ;p  A couple of the drinks I tried – mixes of orange, pineapple, and the orange-flavored liqueur blue curacao – were the primary inspiration for this cake! I also loved the look of some of the sunrises and sunsets we saw on the island- the orange and yellow hues in the sky against the deep blue of the ocean water. My cake-take on all of those things together – this fun colorful Hawaii-inspired cake! Recipe below! 


(Disclosure: As a way to keep my kitchen stocked with butter, sugar, and flour I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn a commission by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
My posts often contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you!) 

Hawaiian Sunrise Cake Layers:

Note - this is my favorite slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!! 

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup  granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon  salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
5 eggs 
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup triple sec
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil

Note – a simpler/faster option is to use two white boxed cake mixes and bake according to package directions but with 1 c less water!) 

Save & add to cake layers once batter separated -
1) ¼ c chopped pineapple + ¼ c pineapple juice, yellow gel food coloring if desired
2) 1/8 c orange juice, ¼ c triple sec, 1-2 T orange zest, orange gel food coloring if desired
3) ¼ c blue curacao, ¼ c tequila, blue gel food coloring if desired


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk on low speed. Add in vanilla and oil and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly between three bowls (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part – dividing the batter with a kitchen scale guarantees that your layers will bake to the same height). Mix the remaining ingredients into each bowl of batter. Pour the batter into your 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake for 35-37 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the fridge or freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

While you’re waiting, make your frosting!

Triple Sec Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons Triple Sec
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with Triple sec until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.

Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles)
- ¼ c each triple sec, tequila, and blue curacao
- food-safe paint or basting brush (or you could also use a squeeze bottle
- 1 small drink glass – I used a plastic martini glass, but these cake layers are dense enough to hold a real glass if you’d rather use one!
- 1 small lemon and small-to-medium orange
- small white flowers, drink umbrella, and a few pineapple leaves/fronds to use for decoration if desired
- White chocolate ganache for colored drip – recipe below!
- Small piping bags or squeeze bottles (for adding the drips)
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)

Once your cakes are cool, level and trim them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler.
Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle.
This part is optional, but I wanted a strong kick from the orange liqueurs and tequila from this cake, so I used a basting brush to infuse about ¼ of blue curacao into the bottom layer, and a mix of Triple sec and tequila into the top two layers. Up to you!
Spread the layer with frosting, and if desired, add a sprinkle of orange zest over the frosting. I also wanted just a bit more color between the layers, so I added a light sprinkle of dark blue sprinkles. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers, adding the last layer on top.

Now you're ready to crumb-coat. If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the freezer to set the frosting and to ensure that your ganache drip will set when it’s poured on.

Okaaaay......the drip!
White chocolate ganache:
I used a white chocolate ganache for this cake – I found my favorite white chocolate ganache recipe so far on ChelSweets.com.

-1/3 cup heavy cream (77 grams)
-1 cup white chocolate chips (175 grams)
-1 squirt each blue, orange, and yellow gel food coloring (I love this gel color set from Americolor!)

Place heavy cream and white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between. Divide into three parts and stir in gel food coloring.

I used small zip-lock bags to pipe this drip since my squeeze bottles were full of chocolate ganache and caramel. >< I’ve squeeze bottles before though, and I find them to be the easiest to work with. You can also use a piping bag or even a spoon. Up to you!
When your ganache has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping bag.
Slowly drizzle ganache into the base of your glass, and press the glass upside down into the cake. I let some ganache run away from the glass and then piped more across the top of the cake and over the edge to create drips. Add orange and yellow drips from the cup toward the edge of the cake. Return cake to the fridge or freezer to set the drips.

Cut your lemon and orange into slices, and cut a slit down the middle of a few slices to twist the slices open so it will stand up on top of the cake. Add flowers and pineapple stem sections at the back if you’d like – and you’re done! High five yourself on your awesome cake!!  Enjoy!


Make this recipe? Let me know  how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!

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