Aunt Annette’s Island Delight Cake

published Jun 13, 2024
Juneteenth
Island Delight Cake Recipe

This lightly sweet and fruity cake is sure to be a favorite at your next family cookout.

Serves20

Prep45 minutes to 1 hour

Cook30 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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head on shot of slices of aunt annette's island cake on a pink marble surface.
Credit: Photo: Erik Bernstein; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

My Aunt Annette’s island delight cake is the dessert that I look forward to at every family gathering (she’s been making it for 35 years!). The buttery cake, fruity custard, and fluffy whipped cream topping make it the perfect dessert for hot summer days. Recently I made a couple of calls, and it turns out Aunt Annette got the recipe from her Aunt Naomi, who first made it for a family function. There’s a little bit of “debate” among the family members who were there about exactly how the cake was prepared. Some cousins distinctly remember there being a middle layer of custard and fruit sandwiched between two layers of cake, while Aunt Annette swears it was just the single layer of cake, custard, and cream like she makes it. 

This cake has been such a fixture in our family for so long now that many of my cousins (and myself included) have started making it as well, each with our own little twist. I prefer to make the different components from scratch and favor fresh pineapple, while my cousin Ragina has come up with a chocolate version. 

Credit: Photo: Erik Bernstein; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

In this recipe, I call for making one large cake (in an 18×12-inch pan) like we’d always have at family gatherings when I was growing up. I like to make the butter cake from scratch, but if you’re short on time, you can swap it with 1 prepared box of your favorite cake mix (butter or yellow). You can even do the same for the homemade custard by substituting in 1 prepared (3.4-ounce) box of instant vanilla pudding. Whatever you do, my advice is to have fun with it and make it your own.

Credit: Photo: Erik Bernstein; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Why You’ll Love It

  • Every bite is delightful. Between the buttery cake, creamy custard, fluffy whipped cream,  pineapple, coconut, pecans, and maraschino cherries on top, it’s irresistibly delicious. 
  • This dessert is very customizable. You can opt for making one large cake or three smaller cakes — whichever works best for your family gathering. 

This is part of Family Legends, celebrating Juneteenth favorites that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Island Delight Cake Recipe

This lightly sweet and fruity cake is sure to be a favorite at your next family cookout.

Prep time 45 minutes to 1 hour

Cook time 30 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 20

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3

    sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 6

    large eggs

  • Cooking spray

  • 3 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole milk, divided

For the custard and whipped cream:

  • 3

    large egg yolks

  • 1

    large egg

  • 2 cups

    whole milk

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 1/2

    plus 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided

  • 1 1/3 cups

    cold heavy cream

  • 3 tablespoons

    powdered sugar

For the toppings:

  • 1 cup

    small dice fresh pineapple or drained canned crushed pineapple in 100% juice

  • 1 cup

    sweetened, shredded coconut

  • 1/2 cup

    maraschino cherries

  • 1/4 cup

    pecan halves

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Place 3 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 6 large eggs on the counter. Let both sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, coat a 12.5x18-inch, 3-inch high baking pan or 19.5x11.5-inch, 3.5-inch high disposable aluminum baking pan with cooking spray. Place 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed, scraping down the bowl once or twice, until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes total. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula as needed.

  4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Beat in 3/4 cup of the whole milk, followed by half of the remaining flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the remaining milk, then remaining flour, and beat until just combined. Transfer to the baking pan and spread into an even layer.

  5. Bake until the top is golden-brown, the edges are pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. While the cake is baking, prepare the custard and whipped cream. When the cake is ready, let cool completely in the pan, about 1 1/4 hours.

Make the custard and whipped cream:

  1. Place 3 large egg yolks, 1 large egg, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk to combine.

  2. Place 2 cups whole milk and the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan. Do not stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat. While whisking constantly, ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk until combined. While stirring constantly with a heatproof flexible spatula, pour this mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more.

  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and 1/8 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is combined. Transfer to a medium bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

  4. Place 1 1/3 cups cold heavy cream, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 4 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Assemble the cake:

  1. If desired, run a thin knife around the cake to loosen and remove from the pan. Spread the custard evenly over the cake. Scatter 1 cup small dice or drained crushed pineapple evenly over the custard. Dollop the whipped cream over the pineapple and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut. Arrange 1/2 cup maraschino cherries and 1/4 cup pecan halves in an alternating pattern around the edges.

Recipe Notes

Cake pan alternative: Instead of one large pan, this cake can be made in 3 smaller cake pans. Divide the batter between 3 greased (8-inch) round cake pans (about 3 cups or 20 ounces each). Bake for about 24 minutes. If desired, run a thin knife around each cake to loosen and remove from the pan. Top the cakes evenly with the custard, pineapple, whipped cream, and coconut. Decorate each cake with 8 whole pecans and 8 maraschino cherries, arranging them in an alternating pattern around the edges.

Substitutions: The pineapple can be substituted with diced mango, peaches, berries, or other fruit.

Make ahead: The cake can be baked in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Thaw at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. The custard can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.

Storage: Leftover cake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.