Mar 27, 2016

Hawaiian Soda Box Cakes

Local Soda Boxes From Kualapuu Market
Click on photo to view larger
I've lived in Hawaii for many years now and have always been curious about the local custom of baking a large sheet cake in a foil lined corrugated cardboard soda box. The reason locals use soda boxes is that they are the perfect size for a large one layer luau cake, and the box can be acquired free at one of our local grocery stores. 

I began to wonder if the cardboard box would catch fire in my oven? I asked my friend Blossom Poepoe, general manager of our local Kanemitsu Bakery, if there was a fire hazard using a soda box in my oven. Blossom said not to worry, it won't catch on fire, but she didn't say why. 

After considerable research, I found out that corrugated cardboard has a flash point of 451˚F. This means that if you bake a cake in a corrugated cardboard box (lined with foil, placed shinny side down), you don't have to worry about catching your house on fire. Most cakes are baked at 350˚F so it should be safe. I also found out that it is advisable to bake the cake on the center shelf of your oven because the heat is more even in that spot. Corrugated cardboard actually helps to insulate the cake, keeping it from burning and keeping it moist. You should also remember to only use the soda box once, because it gets crispy after baking in it the first time.

The good news is that because of the box, the cake is portable when covered with more foil, and the foil lining is helpful in removing the cake if you want to, then you can just throw away the box without having to clean it. Yes... I like that!

The following recipe is one that I usually bake in a 9 inch square baking dish, so I tried baking the same recipe in a foil lined soda box, just like the locals do, and it came out great. Naturally you can make a larger cake if your box is bigger, just increase the ingredients accordingly. 

Soda Box Pineapple Perfection Cake
This is a wonderful cake, baked in a soda box, for your next luau.

Soda Box Pineapple Perfection Cake
Click on photo to enlarge
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained or 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped fine

1/2 cup flaked coconut
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

Line a 11 x 8 x 3 inch corrugated soda box with heavy duty foil (shinny side down), greased & floured to keep the cake from sticking to it.

In a mixing bowl, blend the sugar and oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the sour cream mixture. Stir in pineapple. Transfer the mixture to the foil lined, greased box. Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Place the box on a cookie sheet or sheet pan, and bake at 350˚F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 9 servings.

Note: Cover cake lightly with a sheet of foil during the last few minutes of cooking to keep the coconut from getting too brown. Also if you like nuts in your cake, add 1/2 cup of chopped and toasted Macadamia nuts, or pecans to the batter.

Soda Box Hawaiian Wedding Cake
Apparently this cake is not served at Hawaiian weddings and the name is not to be taken literally. It is just what it has traditionally been called in old Hawaiian church cookbooks and probably just means that it is for special occasions with the flavor of Hawaii. Regardless, it's moist and delicious!

2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
dash salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 large ripe banana, crushed
20 ounce can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Combine all cake ingredients in a bowl; mix by hand. Pour into a 13x9-inch heavy duty foil lined corrugated soda box (foil should be shinny side down), greased & floured. Bake at 350˚F for about 40-50 minutes until spongy. (It should bounce back when pressed.) Let cool. 

For frosting, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until well-blended. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until completely incorporated. Add whipping cream until you reach the desired consistency; beat on high until light and fluffy. Frost cooled cake with cream cheese frosting. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes 12 to 15 servings.

Note: You can top each slice of cake with a maraschino cherry to make it special.

Mar 14, 2016


Today I was in Friendly Market's produce department and noticed that they had spaghetti squash for sale. Apparently they have been in the produce section for several weeks but I didn't notice them. They looked like yellow footballs and are quite heavy. I bought a 4.19 pound squash for $6.66, easily enough to feed 4 to 6 people, and that was the smallest one they had. 

Spaghetti squash is seasonal and is available on other islands or on the Mainland, but on Moloka'i it usually isn't. If you haven't tried it, it's very easy to cook, and makes for an unusual and delicious side dish. It's got a tough outer yellow skin which you have to carefully cut into with a large sharp knife so that it is cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and hairy strands with a spoon, or whatever gets the job done, then preheat your oven to 375˚F.

Now place the two halves, cut side down, in a roasting pan. Pour about 1 cup of water into the pan so the water is at least 1/4 inch above the sides of the squash. 

Bake until just tender, but not mushy, 35 minutes or so. 

Let the squash cool, then rake a fork back and forth across each half of the squash to remove its flesh in strands... like spaghetti. 

Now simply put the strands of squash in a large skillet, add 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve. Garnish with chopped fresh basil from Kumu Farms, or parsley and chopped roasted red pepper. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese, and serve.

Spaghetti squash is loaded with nutrients 
has a mild, delicious flavor, and should be served so that the strands are slightly crispy, not mushy. One squash will feed several people, and kids love it. Spaghetti squash makes an excellent side dish for chicken, fish, pork, whatever, or use it in a frittata, or as you would spaghetti, with a meat sauce, or make a cold spaghetti squash salad (recipe below). The possibilities are endless.

Spaghetti Squash Salad 
with Papaya Seed Dressing
Cold leftover spaghetti squash can be made into a delicious salad. Because the squash has a mild flavor, and crunchy texture, it works well as a base for almost any other ingredients you might like to add. This is my version of a Hawaiian spaghetti squash salad with papaya and avocado.

4 pound spaghetti squash
4 cups spinach leaves, stems removed
20 cherry tomatoes, halved, or fresh papaya slices
1 large Hawaiian avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup kalamata black olives, chopped
1 cup papaya seed salad dressing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Halve squash lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place halves cut-side down in a roasting pan: add water to a depth of 1/4 inch. Roast the squash for 35 minutes. Drain and cool squash. With a fork, pull off spaghetti-like strands of the squash and place in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste, then cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. When ready to serve, arrange chilled spinach leaves around the edges of four chilled salad plates. Place chilled squash in the center of the plates, and top with the other ingredients. Season salads with salad dressing and serve. Makes 4 large servings.

Papaya Seed Salad Dressing
You can buy papaya seed salad dressing in a bottle from your grocery store, but homemade is better.

Papaya from Kumu Farms on Moloka'i
1 papaya, halved, reserving 1 tablespoon of the seeds
1/4 cup fresh papaya
1/4 cup maui or red onion, minced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil

Add papaya seeds, papaya flesh, and onion to a food processor or blender, and pulse a few times to chop (the papaya seeds should be the consistency of ground pepper after blending). Add the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil, and pulse 3 or 4 times. Gradually add the olive oil in a thin stream, while the processor is running, to thicken the dressing. Taste and adjust the taste to your liking. Makes about 1 cup of dressing.

Note: This dressing makes a great marinade for grilled chicken or pork, use the papaya fruit in a salsa to serve with the chicken. Store dressing in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.