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Sunday Cooking with Chef Jon Ashton: Crispy Coconut Shrimp and Rich Rum Cake

Summer Sights are Set on The Bahamas

Tropical scents of coconut and the toasted aroma of rum coming from the kitchen this week have us thinking about ocean waves, swaying palms, and seafaring voyages. We culminate our Crystal@Home journey with sumptuous island favorites as we set our sights on sun-washed beaches and Crystal’s return to cruising with Luxury Bahamas Escapes beginning in July. Join us for this week’s recipes as we set the clocks to island time, plant our feet in the sand, and let our thoughts wander on the breeze…

Chef Jon Ashton’s Crispy Coconut Shrimp recipe celebrates everything we love most about Caribbean cuisine – fresh seafood, sweet and savory flavors, and a bright burst of spice that takes a dish to the next level. Speaking of celebration, rum cake is often the sweet centerpiece of holiday gatherings and special occasions throughout the Bahamian isles. A tropical twist on the traditional English Pudding brought to the island by 18th century settlers, todays decadent dessert reflects the island inspiration of adding rum to the moist, buttery cake to preserve it in the warm climate.

Pair these delicious Caribbean favorites with a refreshing Hemmingway Special, spotlighted on this week’s upcoming Thirsty Thursday, and let the island vibes carry you away…

If today’s delectable island theme has inspired your wanderlust for white sand beaches and sparking seas, check out Crystal Serenity’s seven-day Luxury Bahamas Escapes, sailing roundtrip from Nassau and Bimini this summer beginning July 3rd.

Check the detailed recipe below and gather your ingredients for Sunday Cooking with Chef John Ashton, this Sunday, May 23. Join us at 3 p.m. ET on the Crystal Cruises Facebook page. We’ll see you in the kitchen!

Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Chili Mayo 

By Chef Jon Ashton



1/2 cup (120 ml) Asian Duck Sauce 

1 cup (240 ml) water 

1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt 

1½ pounds (680 grams) extra-large shrimp

1⅓ cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour, divided   

2 cups (214 grams) sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup (80 grams) panko bread crumbs 

Salt and pepper 

1½ teaspoons (7 ml) baking powder 

¼ teaspoon (1 ml) five spice powder

¾ cup (180 ml) light lager beer

1 large egg 

3 quarts (2.8 liters) peanut or vegetable oil for frying


Butterfly the shrimp.  Insert a knife about three-quarters of the way into shrimp near the head and cut nearly all the way down the center of the shrimp’s back to the tail. Remove the vein with the tip of your knife. Using your hands, open the flesh of the shrimp until it lies flat.

Whisk together the duck sauce, water and salt in a large bowl and add the butterflied shrimp. Place in fridge and let marinate for 30 minutes. 

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 200 F degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  Set a wire rack on the second rimmed baking sheet, and line with a triple layer of paper towels.

Spread ⅔ cup (80 grams) flour in shallow dish. Combine the sweetened shredded coconut, panko, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a second shallow dish. Whisk the baking powder, five spice powder, and remaining ⅔ cup (80 grams) flour together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the beer and egg until fully incorporated and smooth.

Remove shrimp from the marinade and pat shrimp dry with paper towels.  Working with 1 shrimp at a time, dredge in flour, dip into batter, letting excess drip back into bowl, and coat with coconut-panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Arrange the breaded shrimp on parchment-lined sheet pan.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. 

Add enough oil to a Dutch oven until it measures about 2 inches deep and heat to 350 F degrees. Add one-third of the shrimp, 1 at a time, to the hot oil.  Fry, stirring gently, until shrimp are golden brown, 1½ to 2 minutes. Adjust the burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 F degrees.

Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to prepared wire rack with paper towels, and place first batch in the oven to keep warm.  Allow the oil to return to 350 F degrees and repeat with remaining shrimp in 2 batches. 

Serve with Sweet Chili Mayo

Sweet Chili Mayo:

1 cup (240 ml) mayonnaise 

1/4 cup (60 ml) Thai Sweet Red Chili Sauce 

1 garlic clove, finely grated (microplane) 

1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon zest  


Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. You can adjust the amount of chili sauce to your own liking, start at 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) and work your way up!

Rich Rum Cake 


16 Tablespoons (226 grams, or 250 ml) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan

6 large eggs 

1 1/3 (313 grams) cups white sugar 

1/3 cup (75 grams) brown sugar  

Zest of 2 oranges  

Juice of one large orange 

2 1/2 cups (240 grams) almond flour 

1 teaspoon (5 ml) kosher salt  

1/2 cup (60 grams) plus 2 Tablespoons (17 grams) all-purpose flour   

4 tablespoons (60 ml) dark rum  

Confectioners’ sugar (optional dusting)

For the Rum Syrup:

3 tablespoons (38 grams) white sugar 

Juice of one orange 

1/2 cup (120 ml) dark rum


Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 F degrees. 

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan evenly with some of the extra butter. 

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, beat the eggs.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugars and orange zest on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.  Add the almond flour and salt, then beat on medium until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, gradually add the eggs and beat until homogenous, scraping the bowl as needed. Increase to medium-high and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl sides and bottom a couple times. 

With the mixer running on low setting, add the all-purpose flour and mix until incorporated.  Now add the rum and beat just until combined. Scrape the bowl to ensure no pockets of flour or rum remain on the bottom.  The batter will be thick.

Using a spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan, then spread in an even layer and smooth the surface.  Bake until deep golden brown and the center of the cake springs back when gently pressed, 50 to 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the rum syrup.  In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and juice of 1 orange.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 3 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum.  Set to one side. 

When the cake is done, let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.  Invert the cake onto another wire rack; do not re-invert.  Immediately brush the top and sides of the cake with all of the rum syrup. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Transfer the cooled cake to a serving platter.

Just before serving, dust with 1 tablespoon of Confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 6 

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