Tropical Strawberry Torte Cake
Makes four generous, luscious desserts. Six, if you make thinner layers of pie crust.
  • FRUIT:
  • 2 cups, packed, thinly sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, in small chunks
  • ¾ (approximately) teaspoon agar-agar, divided (I buy this in bulk at my local health food store.)
  • ****
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (you can use the cheap stuff! Or if you prefer, you can use white vinegar.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup shortening, very cold
  • Coarse sugar (I use sparkling sugar)
  • 1 ounce of melted dark chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • ****
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk (you can substitute half & half if you want a richer cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ****
  • FOR DECORATING (optional)
  • Whipped coconut milk (using can of chilled coconut milk)* or lightly sweetened whipping cream
  • Chocolate curls
  • Toasted coconut
  1. Place sliced strawberries in a small bowl and add ½ cup sugar. Stir well and set aside. (Stir now and then, when you think about it.)
  2. Heat oven to 400 F.
  4. In a small cup, combine the milk and vodka. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. With your fingers (or a pastry blender), blend the cold shortening into the flour mixture until well combined. Use a light hand; it's fine if there are small lumps of shortening visible.
  6. Add milk and vodka all at once. Stir gently, using fingers or fork, until you can gather it into a rough ball.
  7. Flatten dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Sprinkle with flour and cover with parchment. Roll out about ¼-inch thick.
  8. Remove top sheet of parchment and lightly sprinkle with coarse sugar. Pat gently with your hand. Place the top piece of parchment back on dough and, grabbing one edge (make sure you have both pieces of parchment AND a little of the dough in your hands), flip it quickly over.
  9. Peel off top, sprinkle that side with sugar and pat. Cut with 3-inch square cookie cutter. You should easily get 12 squares, with a little dough left over. (bake and eat the scraps!)
  10. Using flat spatula, move squares to ungreased baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until just beginning to get brown around the edges. Move to a cooling rack.
  11. Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a small pan on low, or in the microwave. Melt it slowly, stirring often. Drizzle over cooled pastry squares. (I like to use a small zipper bag with one corner snipped off.)
  13. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, water, and egg yolks until frothy.
  14. In a medium pan over medium heat, bring milk almost to the boiling point. You should see bubbles all around the edges, and bubbles just beginning to come up in the middle.
  15. Pour half of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking thoroughly. Return the mixture to the pan and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens...1 -2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Whisk well to avoid lumps. Cover lightly and whisk every 5 minutes or so until it cools completely.
  17. Place pineapple in blender and blend until smooth. Measure out 1½ cups of puree. If you don't have quite enough, add some of the sugar-juice from the strawberries.
  18. Place puree in a small pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon agar-agar. Whisk until mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat if necessary to keep mixture at a low simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally until room temperature.
  19. Add one-third of the cooled pastry cream to the pineapple mixture and stir well.
  20. Drain strawberries, reserving the liquid.
  21. Place one pastry square on each dessert plate.
  22. Place a spoonful of pastry cream on each square, spreading cream slightly.
  23. Place a spoonful of pineapple puree on the pastry cream, spreading slightly.
  24. Divide half of the strawberries between the four squares, and top with another pastry square.
  25. Repeat, ending with pastry square.
  26. In a small pan, combine ½ cup reserved strawberry juice and a pinch of agar-agar. Stir on medium high until thickened. Drizzle over desserts.
  27. Top with whipped coconut milk or whipping cream. Garnish with chocolate curl, a strawberry slice, or toasted coconut.
  28. Serve proudly!
  29. *To whip coconut milk, open chilled can of coconut milk and carefully scoop out the solid cream at the top. Discard (or use elsewhere) liquid at the bottom. Beat in a cold bowl, just as you would whipping cream. Sweeten to taste after cream forms peaks.
Recipe by The Rowdy Baker at