Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Separate pineapple rings and juice. Chop enough rings to fill a 1/4 cup measure. Pour 1/4 cup juice into a small bowl. Set aside remaining rings.
Melt butter for caramel in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar, whipped topping, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil. Pour caramel into a 9-inch round glass cake pan, coating the bottom evenly. Arrange pineapple rings over top, slicing them if desired. Set aside.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl.
Cream sugar and butter together in another bowl. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until it resembles a coarse pastry dough. Add eggs; mix thoroughly. Stir in coconut milk, pineapple chunks and reserved juice, and vanilla extract. Stir in grated coconut. Carefully pour batter over the glazed pan.
Place the cake pan on top of a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
When baking, the caramel could boil over, so the baking sheet will catch any excess. Baked caramel is a pain to clean off the bottom of the oven.
The coconut milk you need should have a creamy consistency. If it’s semi-clear and watery, that’s coconut water.
Variation: Replace the vanilla in the caramel sauce and cake with tequila to create a pina colada cake.
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