History suggests that Columbus brought the first seeds of an Asian lime tree that came to be known as the key lime to the Caribbean in 1493.
The limes were consumed by generations of British sailors after a Scottish naval surgeon discovered their juice fended off scurvy, which is a deficiency of vitamin C.
Trees were established in the Florida Keys by 1835 and then grown commercially. In 1992, hurricane Andrew's 200-mile-per-hour winds virtually wiped out most of the key limes grown for agriculture. What remains of this crop is scattered all over Florida, and grown in small independent groves and backyard gardens.
The tree is full of thorns and produces a fruit that is small and hard with just a small amount of juice. Key limes are highly acidic in flavor and have a yellow-green pulp with lots of seeds. The everyday variety of the key lime is now mostly grown in Mexico.
Key limes are used in the namesake pie because the acidity of the juice offsets the sweetness of the condensed milk for a perfect balance of flavor.
The cousin to the key lime is our popular and easy-to-find Persian lime. It has dark green skin that is floral and fragrant as zest, juice that is only slightly acidic and just a few seeds. The Persian lime is my choice for any recipe that has lime as an ingredient.
Here is a recipe made from scratch, inspired by my mom's coconut box cake. Perfectly named after the pina colada cocktail, this cake is tropically refreshing with coconut-flavored rum, pineapple, toasted coconut, cream of coconut and a coconut rum soak that completes it perfectly. The topping is more toasted coconut with a sprinkle of fresh lime zest.
Before making the cake, go ahead and toast and cool ¾ cup sweetened coconut until nicely browned. You'll need ½ cup for the cake and ¼ cup for the topping. You will also need the zest of about 2 limes, 1 tablespoon each for the cake and the topping. You can substitute granulated sugar for the cane sugar.
Contact Lorraine Fina Stevenski at email@example.com.
Pina Colada Bundt Cake With a Coconut Rum Soak
For the pan coating:
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
¼ cup cane sugar
For the cake batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup toasted coconut
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
¾ cup cane sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup cream of coconut
8 ounces canned crushed pineapple, drained
2 tablespoons coconut-flavored rum, such as Malibu
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the coconut rum soak:
½ cup coconut-flavored rum
¼ cup cream of coconut
¼ cup cane sugar
For the topping:
¼ cup toasted coconut
1 tablespoon lime zest
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.
Coat a 7- to 10-cup Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Use a silicone brush to get in all the folds of the pan. Sprinkle the cane sugar into the pan so it sticks to the butter. Tap and then tilt the pan until the sugar evenly coats the sides and bottom of the pan. Tap out the excess sugar.
Make the cake: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cooled toasted coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cream of coconut, crushed pineapple (drain the juice), rum, lime zest and vanilla extract. On medium speed, alternately add the flour mixture and coconut mixture into the batter in five increments, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix 30 seconds after each addition.
Remove the bowl from the stand and give the batter a vigorous stir. Spread the batter evenly into the pan using a small rubber spatula to push the batter into all the folds of the pan. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pan 15 minutes. To successfully remove the cake from the pan, gently shake the pan back and forth to free the cake from the pan. Invert over a serving platter.
Make the coconut rum soak: In a medium saucepan, whisk together all the soak ingredients. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until slightly reduced. When the cake is still warm, brush the soak over the top and sides of the cake. Just before serving, top the cake with toasted coconut and lime zest. Whipped cream would be perfect to serve with each slice.
Serves about 12.
Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski