spring in the air, coconut cake seems like the perfect
spring in the air, coconut cake seemed like the perfect
recipe to offer readers. But which cake?
no generic formula. Oh my, no. Cakes can be white or yellow,
filled with custard or lemon curd or frosting, be coconutty
through and through, or simply sport a drift of flakes.
recipe that’s often referred to as the
"ultimate," from the Peninsula Grill in
Charleston, S.C., includes 2 pounds of butter, 6 cups of
heavy cream, 11 cups of coconut and 7 cups of sugar. You can
order this 12-pounder for $100, which also is about what
shipping costs will run you. No doubt it’s marvelous.
recipes looked promising and, when auditioned, got their
share of compliments. Still, one cake could have been more
tender. A lemon filling was refreshing, but did it
complement or undercut the coconut? An Italian buttercream
frosting is to die for, but in an era of serviceable stuff
in cans, how many bakers would take on boiling sugar and
water to the soft-ball stage?
a recent visit to my folks in South Dakota, I’d baked
another version that was perfectly good, yet still not what
I was seeking. Then my sister mentioned a scrumptious cake
that we’d loved as kids, a feather-light sponge cake
layered with custard that our Aunt Faye made from a recipe
she’d gotten from her sister-in-law, Helen. (In a small
town, it’s good form to track a dish’s provenance.)
all once had the recipe, and all had mislaid it. So when my
sister said that she’d found it, the rejoicing commenced.
with most nostalgia, the recipe didn’t match the memory
— nor the times. It called for gelatin, no longer a
custard filling was vanilla, with coconut only folded in. We
could do better, and still honor its roots.
starters, we boosted the batter’s flavor with coconut
extract. Today’s bakers also have more access to coconut
milk, so that was an easy swap for the custard’s plain
milk and also made it unnecessary to fold in coconut flakes,
which improved the texture. Scalding milk no longer is
necessary for health concerns, and cornstarch provided the
body that gelatin once did.
of folding the custard into whipped cream, we used the
custard as filling and the whipped cream as frosting for a
more attractive cake.
we shifted from that church basement standard, the 9- by
13-inch pan. Turns out the batter makes two lovely 8- or
9-inch rounds, which result in a showier, multilayered cake.
final plus: This dessert should be made the day before —
even two days! — so it can thoroughly set and chill,
making it a perfect do-ahead. Swoosh on the whipping cream
anytime within 24 hours of serving and toss on a generous
blanket of toasted coconut.
result is even better than a childhood memory, which is no
12 to 16 (makes two 8-inch cakes).
recipe calls for 8 eggs, divided, with 4 yolks in the cake,
and the remaining 4 in the custard (recipe follows). Coconut
milk is usually found in the Asian foods aisle at the
supermarket. This recipe should be made 1 to 2 days in
advance. Don’t want to make a layer cake? The batter could
be prepared in a 9- by 13-inch pan, as well.
teaspoon vanilla extract
teaspoon coconut extract
teaspoon cream of tartar
coconut flakes or chips, sweetened or unsweetened
Custard (see recipe)
Cream Frosting (see recipe)
oven to 325 degrees and place rack in center position. Using
2 (8- or 9-inch) round pans, cut and fit 2 rounds of
parchment paper. Spray paper with cooking spray.
the 8 eggs, placing all the whites in a large bowl and
placing 4 yolks each in two small bowls. Set 1 bowl of yolks
aside for the custard.
vanilla and coconut extracts to remaining bowl of yolks and
whisk together. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together
the flour and salt until airy and free of lumps. (You can
also use a sifter.) Set aside.
mixer, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar on
medium speed until frothy, then slowly begin adding the
sugar, a spoonful at a time. Increase the speed and beat
until the whites hold a soft peak when beaters are lifted.
With a spatula, fold the egg yolks into the whites, then
fold in the flour, scraping and lifting from the bottom of
the bowl, being careful to deflate the whites as little as
possible, until no streaks of dry flour remain.
batter among the 2 pans. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until
cake springs back when pressed gently in the center.
pans on wire rack to cool completely. The cakes will shrink
a bit as they cool.
oven still is hot, spread coconut on a rimmed pan and toast
until golden, watching carefully and stirring occasionally.
This will take about 5 minutes for chips, 10 to 15 minutes
for flakes. Pour toasted coconut into a bowl and set aside.
assemble the cake: Remove cooled cakes from pans and peel
off parchment paper. Turn right side up and, with a long
serrated knife, carefully split each cake into 2 even
layers. Place 1 layer on a serving plate and cover with a
third of the custard (about ¾ cup). Repeat with the
remaining cake layers and custard. Spread any remaining
custard over the top of the cake. Wrap the outside and top
of the cake with plastic wrap, pulling it firmly against the
sides, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to two days.
within 24 hours of serving, whip the cream and spread over
the top and sides of the cake, then cover generously with
coconut. Return the cake, uncovered, to the refrigerator
until serving time. Slice with a serrated knife.
information per each of 16 servings: Calories 400;
Fat 23 g; Sodium 160 mg; Carbohydrates 45 g;
Saturated fat 16 g; Calcium 60 mg; Protein 6 g;
Cholesterol 135 mg; Dietary fiber 1 g.
exchanges per serving: 1 bread/starch, 2 other carb, 1/2
medium-fat meat, 4 fat.
from Kim Ode.
about 3 cups (enough for a 4-layer cake)
(13.5- to 14-oz.) can coconut milk (not low-fat or lite)
cup milk, or enough to equal 3 cups with the coconut milk
small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks; set aside.
medium saucepan, stir together the cornstarch, sugar and
salt. Open the can of coconut milk, taking care to open the
end indicated on the can (because the solids will have
settled), then pour into a 4-cup measure and whisk to
recombine the liquids and solids. Add milk to equal 3 cups
and whisk together.
the milk mixture into the cornstarch and, stirring
constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1
minute. Remove from heat. Tip about ½ cup of the hot
mixture into the yolks, whisking briskly so the eggs warm
without forming lumps.
the saucepan to the heat and whisk in the yolk mixture,
stirring at a boil for another minute. Remove from heat,
stir in the vanilla extract, then pour into a bowl. Let cool
for 10 minutes, then stir. Cover with plastic wrap and
refrigerate until cool.
from Kim Ode.
about 5 cups (enough for 2-layer cake).
heavy whipping cream
cup powdered sugar
the cream with the powdered sugar to stiff peaks.
from Kim Ode.