The aroma of this vegan pineapple coffee cake will take your taste buds to a tropical paradise, even if it is just for a short while.
Hello from the hippie town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii!
After a week of cruising around Oahu with four of my best gal pals, obtaining ‘guava status’ skin (i.e. sunburnt), creating our own Waikiki beach with the sand from our beach towels, exciting our tastebuds with local food, and scaling up the side of cliffs, I landed in Hilo for my month-long internship. I was reluctant to say goodbye to my friends and the convenience of having a personal car, but I knew that feeling out this month alone was something that needed to be experienced.
Prior to arriving at my internship, I found little information online about the organization itself and past intern experiences. That usually sets of warning signals in my head to tell me there’s something slightly sketchy but after browsing through various other Big Island-based websites, you can tell they’re kind of… behind. Especially websites for the Puna district, which is where I’m located; the websites must have been stagnant since the early 2000s. I came to this island with much less information than I usually need to make a decision, but lately I’ve been more accepting of spontaneity and something within me told me to just give it shot. After all, I’m in Hawaii, what could go wrong?
I’ve spent just over a week here and am adjusting well. I like to think that I adapt to new situations quickly. Like most things, it is the people that make the experience bearable, if not worthwhile. The other interns that are here with me are all wonderful, friendly, and charismatic people. As much as I hate the fact my legs look like I have chicken pox from the insane number of mosquito bites, or the inconvenience of having to walk a far distance outside to get to the bathroom, or being situated in the middle of nowhere, I tell myself it’s just one month. Thankfully I have many wonderful interns by my side to guide me or be a companion to test new waters.
I arrived late on a Friday night, and made it my goal to get up in time to attend the Saturday morning yoga class. I was certain that I’d meet somebody there. Although the story-telling yoga session wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I did meet two other interns, one from California and one from Switzerland, who invited me to grab brunch with them after class at the bakery in town. One of them raved about their cinnamon buns, so of course I had to go!
I’m so thankful that I got to explore Pahoa town with my fellow interns on my first day. We walked through the tiny town lined with colourful local shops, of which most were closed because people don’t seem to mind time, stopped at the natural market to grab a few items (classic Leung leaves with a box of cereal in her arms) and the post office before making our way back to our temporary home.
The next day was even more eventful. The Thai intern, who I have come to love and adore, had befriended one of the guests staying on the property. The guest was going to drive around the island to sightsee on her last full day and graciously allowed us two interns to tag along in her white Mustang. Our first pitstop was the Maku’u Farmers Market which was bustling and had plenty of fabulous vendors. I picked up some local lychee (the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever had) as well as some papayas for our road trip. We sampled poi and haupia pudding, and browsed through stalls with local jewellery and natural products. I told myself I’d purchase these things on my last Sunday so I don’t loose them in my room.
Our Sunday road trip continued north to Waipio Valley. We stopped in Honoka’a to ask locals for recommendations, but didn’t get anything other than the obvious ‘Waipio Valley’. Just before reaching the lookout point, we saw another car swerve off the main road and into a sketchy road through a clearing in the forest. Our very outgoing driver was curious to know where the sketchy road led to and wanted to investigate. Instead of following the car into the forest, we parked on the side of the road and asked some locals, who were hanging around a house taking apart an old car, if they knew where the road led to. Apparently, it is where people deal drugs and gamble over chicken fights. Yeah, I’m sure glad we didn’t just drive up unbeknownst to this.
When we got to Waipio Valley, we successfully hitchhiked our way to and from the black sand beach at the bottom. Thank goodness we didn’t have to hike it because the road was literally slanted at a 45 degree angle. A guy heading down to the beach to shoot some scenery for a Pandora ad let us join him. It was windy at the beach and black sand quickly made its way into every item we brought down. After enjoying the beach for a bit, we found another 4×4 car to hitch with, this time a group of hikers who had spent the past three days hiking over to the next valley.
By the time we returned to the top of the valley, it was 3pm and we were starving. Little towns around here are pretty dead on Sundays, and the restaurants that do open on Sundays close at 3 or 4pm. I was disappointed to that both cafes serving acai bowls were already closed, but we managed to find a bar that served homemade pizza. At that point, we just wanted something in our stomachs, and pizza is always a good option. The three of us shared a massive 18-inch pizza topped with fresh veggies and plenty of cheese. As the Hawaiians say, so ono!
We decided the next agenda on our list was to catch a sunset in Kona. To be honest, I would’ve thought it was way to late to start driving across the island but it was the guest’s last day and she was okay with driving in the dark so we headed west. As we drove the road between the two volcanoes, the landscape quickly changed from lush green hills to rocky mountain terrain, to black lava desert. There are numerous climate zones on the Big Island; some say 8 and some say over 20. Regardless of the exact number, this radically changed the picture in my head when I think of Hawaii.
Perched on a rock barrier somewhere in the tourist strip of Kona, we watched the clouds in the sky glow pink, then red, before the sun dropped below the horizon. Before leaving Kona, we wandered into an art gallery and admired some local artwork and went to find something to drink (walked out of a bar because alcohol was unreasonably expensive). I introduced them to the wonderful store called the ABC Store; it’s like a continence store but also a one-stop souvenir store. It was completely dark when we started our journey back to the Hilo side of the island, and unfortunately for us, we had to detour off the main highway due to an accident, which added more travel time as we had to navigate winding roads in the dark. To keep myself from dozing off, I stargazed through the back windshield. It gets incredibly dark here and you don’t even need to go up Mauna Kea to see a sky full of bright stars.
Over 1200 words later and I’ve only told you about my first weekend of adventures on the Big Island. The tropical fruit here is divine and I’m trying to enjoy as much of it as I can during my stay. Most of the fruit I’ve been eating is grown on the property of which I am interning at. So unfortunately for the fruit monsters like myself, there isn’t a steady supply of ripe fruit so I have to be patient and wait or go to the market to buy some. This coconut pineapple coffee cake reflects the flavours I have been enjoying so far in Hawaii. You will want to bottle up the smell of this vegan coffee cake baking in the oven. The essence of ripe banana, pineapple, and coconut transform your home into a tropical paradise, even if it is just for a short while.
- 1 tbsp ground chia seeds + 3 tbsp water
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup crushed canned pineapple with the juice
- 1 medium banana, mashed (about ½ cup mashed)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup oat flour
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ⅔ cup oat flour
- ⅓ cup oats (I like the texture of old fashioned rolled oats but quick cook oats will do)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- A pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 8 inch round pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together ground chia seeds and water until a gel forms. Add the oil, vanilla, pineapple, and mashed banana and whisk until smooth.
- Add all the remaining cake ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
- In a separate small bowl, mix together all topping ingredients.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and top with the crumble mixture
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs and the top is golden brown.
- Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.