This week we’re celebrating National Macadamia Nut Day, which falls on September 5. Although native to Australia, you’d be forgiven for thinking they originated in Hawaii. There we find a bevy of macadamia, or Hawaiian nut desserts. Let’s explore the nutty link between the two locations before we jump into the most popular macadamia desserts!
Before it found its way into white chocolate cookies and banana bread, the macadamia nut was a regular part of the bush tucker diet for the aboriginals living on the east coast of Australia. Once you crack into it, which is a tricky feat in itself, the buttery and creamy taste is a hard one to forget. It didn’t take long for the botanist among the early settlers to discover this hidden gem. Eventually, they even recommended its cultivation in books like The Useful Native Plants of Australia. Locals obeyed, cultivating the majestic trees and eventually taking them over the Pacific to Hawaii. Here, they were first used as a windbreak for sugar cane plantations in the early 1880s.
Later, it was used to supplement the Hawaiian coffee plant production. But it wasn’t until the late 1930s when things really kicked off for the bush nut. The University of Hawaii’s Agricultural Experiment Station successfully grafted the plant. This cut years off the typical growth time (commercial quantities of nuts are only available at 7-10 years of age). By the end of WWII, a large commercial plantation was established. The Aloha State soon overtook Australia to become the number one producer of macadamias in the world.
With this change came subtle renaming of familiar macadamia desserts. The macadamia nut tart, for instance, quickly became referred to as the Hawaiian nut tart. The popularity of which saw the rise of other macadamia sweets like Hawaiian nut bread with banana, and the Hawaiian nut poke cake. The latter, also known as the Hawaiian cake, is a very North American dessert. It features a vanilla cake filled with coconut cream pudding and crushed pineapples. Then they coat it in icing with crushed macadamias scattered on top.
There’s even the baked Hawaiian islands cake, which reminds us of the bombe desserts. This version involves a basic pineapple sorbet that coats a vanilla cake. The cake is placed in the freezer to set. Next, we coat the sorbet with a layer of meringue, which goes into the freezer once again. Once set, we pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes to toast the meringue. Finally, we use pre-toasted macadamias for garnish. These are all pretty elaborate macadamia uses when you compare them to Aussie desserts.
The most popular Australian use for the macadamia, aside from eating them in salted snack form, is the white chocolate and macadamia biscuit or cookie. Versions of these can sometimes include dried cranberries, and these three ingredients can come together in blondie form as well. Another popular dessert you’ll see in cafe cake displays Down Under is one we mentioned earlier, the macadamia nut tart. A sticky, syrupy tart, it can sometimes include a dash of dark rum because a) Australians grow a lot of sugar cane, so they like to consume rum, and b) the locally distilled rum does lends itself well to a number of boozy desserts!
While you look at ways to incorporate macadamia nuts into your week, don’t even think about sharing any macadamia dessert crumbs with your best four legged friend, because they are in fact toxic to dogs… More for you then!