Pineapple cakes in Taiwan are like fruit cakes in the West.
They're both ostentatiously packaged and often given as gifts. You rarely buy them to eat yourself, let alone make them.
But we did, at a cafe just outside of Taipei that specializes in a pineapple cake made with a local ingredient called maqaw.
Pineapple cake's Chinese name, 凤梨酥 fenglisu, means "pastry of good fortune and happiness." But in English, the word "cake" is a misnomer. It's more like a tart made with a shortcake pastry dough.
Nonetheless, the dessert has become associated with Taiwan, particularly for its use of local pineapples for the filling.
(Read more: Hong Kong's famous pineapple bun has no pineapple)
Flour is combined with butter, powdered sugar, powdered milk, powdered cheese, and egg to make the pastry dough. (The cafe we went to adds maqaw powder to the dough for a lemony ginger zest.)
The pineapple filling"made with chopped pineapples, sugar, flour, and butter"is folded in with the dough and placed in a mold.
The whole thing is baked for 10 to 15 minutes.
For the pastry dough
For the filling
But how did pineapple cakes become associated with Taiwan?
Pineapples were first brought to the island from South America around 250 years ago. The industry flourished during the Japanese colonial period of the early 1900s.
(Read more: The colonial history of the egg tart)
By the 1970s, there was a surplus of pineapples, and the pineapple cake was born from that oversupply.
These days, most fillings are made with a combination of pineapple and winter melon.
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