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The 9 Best Tropical Desserts To Take You Somewhere Surfy

A flight to Hawaii or a long weekend in the Caribbean isn’t always in the cards. But you can take in the sweetness that is somewhere far away and tropical by way of a good dessert.

With so many dessert-friendly ingredients lying around — think rum, coconut, pineapple, macadamia nuts — the most tropical parts of the planet are set up nicely for the last course of a good meal. Here are nine of the best tropical desserts to take you somewhere delightful, sunbathed, and surfy.

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Pineapple and Coconut Cake

A slice of pineapple and coconut cake served on a red plate.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This easy-to-create cake from Jamie Oliver marries pineapple and coconut, a triumphant tropical duo. Even with prep, it only takes about 1.5 hours to make and will nudge you straight to a resort on Waikiki Beach.


  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature), plus extra for greasing
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 250 milliliters sour cream
  • 1 cup self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 23 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1-2 tablespoons icing sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Peel, core and finely chop the pineapple.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs followed by the sour cream.
  4. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate soda, and a pinch of sea salt and fold through, then mix in the coconut and pineapple.
  5. Pour into a lightly buttered and floured baking tin and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Cool slightly in the baking tin, then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Pineapple Linzer Cookies

Pineapple Linzer Cookies on a cookie sheet.

Saveur caught wind of these tasty sweets a while back, the work of Té Company in New York. Not only do these cookies look great, they taste rich and sunny, mixing up hazelnut, vanilla, and tropical fruit flavors. It’s certainly a more involved recipe, but all the more rewarding when the oven timer dings.

Cookie Dough Ingredients

  • 4 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups plus 6 tbsp. hazelnut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved

Pineapple Jam Ingredients

  • 5 cups cleaned pineapple, cubed
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup

    yuzu kosho

  • Maldon sea salt, for serving


  1. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking powder in a bowl; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed of a hand mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth; beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Divide dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours.
  3. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface and working with one dough ball at a time, roll out into a 16-inch by 19-inch oval about 18-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out cookies and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using a 34-inch round cutter, cut out another circle off-center from about half of the cookies. Re-roll scraps once.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating pans in the oven, until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pineapple jam. In a medium saucepan, bring the pineapple and 1 13 cup of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer pineapple to a blender and purée. Return pineapple to saucepan and add the sugar. Cook until the pineapple starts to caramelize, about 18 minutes. Add the rosemary and stir to coat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the salt and lime juice.
  6. To assemble the cookies, spread about 1 teaspoon of yuzu kosho over the cookies that do not have the holes. Top with about 1 tablespoon of jam and cover it with a cookie with a hole in it. Let cookies rest overnight to fully set. To serve the next day, top with fresh lime zest and Maldon sea salt.

Tropical Banana Splits

Tropical Banana Split with cherries and whip cream on top.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This Martha Stewart recipe blends beachy ingredients like mango and coconut to shake up the classic banana split as we know and love it.



  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup cream just to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes; stir to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, whip remaining 1/2 cup cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  3. Peel bananas, and split lengthwise; divide among 4 sundae dishes. Top with a scoop (1/4 cup) each of mango, coconut, and raspberry sorbets. Drizzle each sundae with chocolate sauce; top with whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry. Serve immediately.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on a plate.
Flickr/Kimberly Vardeman

A tropical-themed classic, this dazzling cake almost looks better than it tastes (almost). This Betty Crocker-approved recipe is great for hosting or if you just need to answer a talkative sweet tooth. Try a slice of leftover cake with a cup of coffee in the morning for a tropical touch to your breakfast.


  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (20 oz) pineapple slices in juice, drained, juice reserved
  • 1 jar (6 oz) maraschino cherries without stems, drained
  • 1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix
  • Vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees for dark or nonstick pan). In 13 by 9-inch pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Arrange pineapple slices on brown sugar. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice, and arrange remaining cherries around slices; press gently into brown sugar.
  2. Add enough water to reserved pineapple juice to measure 1 cup. Make cake batter as directed on box, substituting pineapple juice mixture for the water. Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.
  3. Bake 42 to 48 minutes (44 to 53 minutes for dark or nonstick pan) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately run knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Place heatproof serving plate upside down onto pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake 5 minutes so brown sugar topping can drizzle over cake; remove pan. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or cool. Store covered in refrigerator.

Read more: Best Baking Recipes

Coconut Cake

Sliced coconut cake served on a plate.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This recipe from Thomas Keller is near to the chef’s heart as his mother used to make it. Whip one up and see why one of the best culinary minds on the planet admires it so much.

Cake Ingredients

  • unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Meringue Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites
  • 23 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 9-inch cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Place sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix until fluffy. Add mayonnaise, coconut milk, buttermilk, coconut and vanilla extracts; mix until combined. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until batter forms; transfer batter to a bowl and set aside. Clean stand mixer bowl and add egg whites; replace paddle with whisk attachment. Whip whites until soft peaks form; fold into cake batter. Divide batter between prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks and let cool.
  2. Make the meringue: Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites in a bowl until medium-stiff peaks form, 5–7 minutes; set aside. Bring sugar and ¼ cup water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer; cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250 degrees for 4 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle hot syrup into egg whites until combined. Increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks, about 3 minutes more.
  3. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread 3 cups meringue over cake; sprinkle with ¼ cup coconut. Repeat with second layer. Place remaining layer on top; cover top and sides with remaining meringue and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill cake 30 minutes to firm meringue; serve chilled or at room temperature.

Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

Mauna Loa's new line of macadamia nut milk ice cream.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mauna Loa has long been known for its rich Hawaiian macadamia nuts. Now, the company has plunged into the ice cream realm, with a tasty and relatively healthy lineup built around macadamia nut milk. Most flavors are worthwhile but we especially like Vanilla Orchid and the just-launched Strawberry Guava. While we’d like to make this one from scratch, we’ve left it to the pros. Try it on its own or with a snickerdoodle or slice of Key lime pie.


A Kremas Cocktail with cinnamon stick garnish.
Raoul Beltrame

A dessert drink fit for the tropics? You bet. This Haitian classic is enjoyed especially around the holidays but is great as a post-meal sipper all year long.


  • 2 cups of cream of coconut sweetened
  • 2 cups of condensed milk
  • 2 cups Rhum Barbancourt
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Method: In a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Pour into a glass container or glass bottle and refrigerate until serving. It can also be served over ice. Always shake the bottle or glass container before serving. Store in the refrigerator. This recipe should yield about 6 cups.

Read more: Classic Tiki Cocktails

Liliko’i Bars

Scrumptious passionfruit bars on a plate.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Focused on Hawaiian passionfruit otherwise known as Liliko’i, these bars are tangy and wonderful. This Emily Fabulous recipe utilizes the zingy and one-of-a-kind makeup of the very tropical fruit.

Crust Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  cup powdered confectioners sugar
  •  cup unsalted butter

Passion Fruit Filling Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  •  cup passion fruit puree
  • powdered confectioners sugar

Crust Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk the flour and powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your hands. Place the crust mixture into a baking pan (your crust will be thicker or thinner depending on the size of your pan). Press into the bottom of the pan and up the sides as much as you can.
  3. Bake the crust in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown.

Filling Directions

  1. While your crust is baking, whisk the eggs in another mixing bowl until fully beaten together. Add sugar one cup at a time and fully whisk in. Add the flour and baking powder and continue to whisk. Finally, add the passion fruit puree and ensure everything is well combined.
  2. By now your crust is probably out of the oven. Once the crust is ready, add the passion fruit mixture and place back into the oven for another 30-35 minutes. It’s done when the center is firm.
  3. Remove from oven and allow the pan to cool until it can be placed in the fridge for at least an hour to cool and set.

Fried Plantains

Fried plantains on a plate.
Flickr/Valerie Hinojosa

Another easy option with delicious results, fried plantains are a snacky treat. Devour them solo or, preferably, with a finger of good rum or even a Piña Colada.


  • 4 firm-ripe plantains
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying


  1. With a small sharp knife cut ends from each plantain and halve crosswise. Cut a lengthwise slit through the skin along the inside curve. Beginning in the center of slit pry skin from plantain and with the rippled blade of a decorating knife cut flesh crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
  2. In a deep-fryer or large deep skillet heat 1.5 inches oil to 375 degrees F. on a deep-fat thermometer and fry 12 to 15 plantain slices at a time, turning them, 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden, transferring as fried with a skimmer or slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Season plantain slices with salt. (Plantain slices should be slightly crisp on the outside but soft on the inside.) Plantain slices are best served immediately but may be made one day ahead, cooled completely, and kept in an air-tight container. Reheat plantain slices on a rack in a shallow baking pan in a preheated 350 degrees. oven 5 minutes, or until heated through.
Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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