Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fresh Coconut Fantasy

Some days I read my horoscope for fun. I don't really take it seriously, but it provides a different perspective sometimes. Today's spoke about using your latent talents, among other things. That's a good way of looking at planning the day (or days) because we all have latent talents, sometimes more of them than we realize. I'll bet you can think of one or two talents of yours that are undeveloped or have gotten dusty with disuse. Maybe this week is the one where you experiment with strengthening a known talent or finding an unknown one.

For me frosting cakes is a poorly exercised talent. I did much better when I was a teen and made all the birthday cakes for our large family. Sweetie isn't a big cake fan, so the layer cake making talent is mostly unused. Fortunately the icing for this fantasy cake is easy to work with.

Shortly after Christmas I was looking through a library book on cake baking, just for fun. I'm always on the lookout for new or interesting techniques. This wonderful book, Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri, had a recipe for stand mixer fluffy white icing, perfect for making a coconut layer cake.Then my Mom mentioned that she had made a coconut layer cake for Christmas dinner. The idea of making one myself was now firmly fixed in my mind.

One of the things I remember about winter when I was small was that my Mom always made a fresh coconut cake for my older sister's birthday. The freshly grated coconut applied generously over fluffy white seven-minute frosting looked as pretty as fresh snow fall. Mom always used a white cake, sometimes from scratch and sometimes from a mix. The taste was light, delicate and very coconut. Perhaps it was that taste of the tropics combined with the snowy visual, but for whatever reason I always think of that cake around this time of year when we have rain instead of snow and the weather is far from tropical.

Wishing that she were here, I created this fantasy fresh coconut cake for my deep south sister. I think she would like the changes I made to her old birthday favorite. Since I love raspberry and think that it goes well with coconut, I added seedless raspberry jam to part of the cake batter. Since I also love lemon and it goes well with both raspberry and coconut, part of the cake batter has lemon zest and a bit of yellow food coloring. Vanilla is truly tropical and blends the rest of the flavors together, so the rest of the batter is vanilla.

The concept of creating rings of different batters is something I read on Peabody's blog Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Hers was more dramatic and better executed. Mine is softer with the pastel colors. Having the three flavors of cake in each layer is brilliant. Peabody is so creative and original in her baking!
For filling I was going to use straight lemon curd, but found I didn't have enough, so I mixed in some of the fluffy frosting, creating a sort of marbled filling.

Finding the perfect frosting recipe in Nick Malgieri's book Perfect Cakes actually started the ball rolling for making the cake. Traditionally this cake is iced with Seven-minute Frosting where the egg and sugar mixture is beaten in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. A hand beater or, better yet, a hand held electric mixer are used at high speed for seven minutes to whip and thicken the frosting. Since I don't own either and couldn't imagine whisking for seven minutes, I long ago gave up the idea of making this kind of frosting.

Then I read about his version that uses a stand mixer. I had to try it! I'm here to tell you that it works beautifully. An added bonus is that you can be washing up and putting things away while the mixer does all the work (instead of standing over a hot stove with a hand held mixer getting warmer all the time). The icing is wonderfully thick and glossy and fluffy and just the right amount of sweet.

Finally there is the grated fresh coconut. Sweetie demonstrated how to pierce the eyes and empty the coconut water before cracking the husk with the back of a large knife. Once the shell has been breached, he pried out pieces of the coconut meat. I used a vegetable peeler to remove the tan inner shell from the pieces. Then the best part...I got to use my new Microplane rotary grater.

I grated nuts with it for Christmas cookies, but used the larger holes for the coconut to get those nice strands. Unlike my childhood memories of grating and grating and grating with a box grater (and having the coconut more of a pulp than strands), with the Microplane rotary it went quickly and was almost fun.

You can use packaged shredded coconut if you don't have fresh, but if you can find a fresh coconut and are able to take the time to create a wonderful pile of freshly grated coconut, you will find that the fresh stuff is absolutely wonderful...moist, fragrant, not too sweet, and full of true coconut flavor.

This sounds like a lot of work for a cake, especially when you read about putting the different flavored batters into the pans, but you can certainly make it more manageable by doing some of it ahead of the day you plan to serve. Coconut can be grated ahead and lemon curd can be made ahead (or you can used purchased coconut and/or lemon curd). Just make sure to ice and assemble the cake the same day you will be serving it.

This cake looks like a party, so consider having a party to enjoy it with friends and's a great way to chase away the winter gloomies.

Fresh Coconut Cake Fantasy

Classic White Cake with Embellishments
Fluffy White Frosting
Lemon Curd
Freshly grated fresh coconut
Note: You can make the lemon curd and grate the coconut in advance. You can make the cake the day before if necessary. Make the frosting and assemble the cake within an hour of serving the cake.

Classic White Cake with Embellishments
recipe from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody...embellishments are mine

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup milk
¼ cup coconut milk

1/2 cup seedless raspberry preserves
red food coloring
¼ teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
yellow food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Butter the bottom of two 9-inch round. Line bottom with parchment or waxed paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Combine egg whites, milk and coconut milk. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scape the bowl and beater often.

Take about 1/2 of the batter out and place into a separate bowl and set aside. Take 1/3 out of the remaining batter and pace into a separate bowl and set aside. Add raspberry preserves and one drop red food coloring to remaining batter in the bowl and beat to combine thoroughly.

Take the smallest bowl of set aside batter and add the lemon zest, lemon extract and 2 drops yellow food coloring. Stir to combine fully.

Stir the vanilla extract into the larger amount of set aside batter until combined fully.

To make the cake:
Set out both prepared cake pans.

In the first pan scoop half of vanilla batter around the outside edges of the pan bottom, spread out with spatula to level. Next scoop half of the raspberry batter into the center of the pan. Spread out to form a circle. Lastly scoop ¼ of the lemon batter into the center of the pink batter. Spread to level. Place blobs of the next ¼ of the lemon batter around the edges and spread over the vanilla batter so that the pan full of batter is mostly level.

For the second pan. Scoop remaining raspberry batter into pan the same way you did the vanilla batter in the other pan, spread out with a spatula in a ring. Scoop remaining vanilla batter into the center of the raspberry batter, spread out with spatula to form a circle. Scoop half the remaining lemon batter into the center of the vanilla batter and spread to level. Place blobs of the remaining lemon batter around the edge of the pan and spread over the pink batter so that the pan full of batter is mostly level.

The batters will look sort of like the rings of a bulls-eye. Don’t worry if colors mix…this is a fantasy.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, OR until the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Flip cake over onto a rack and remove parchment or waxed paper. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

Fluffy White Frosting
Note: If you have wanted to make Seven-Minute Frosting but have a stand mixer and no hand-held mixer, now you can! This recipe heats the icing elements over hot water, then uses the stand mixer to make it a fluffy white icing, perfect for coconut cake.

Fluffy White Icing – a version of 7-minute Icing

from Nick Maglieri's book Perfect Cakes

3 large egg whites (scant ½ cup)
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Half fill a 1 ½ quart saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the water simmers.

Use a hand whisk to combine the egg whites, sugar, salt and corn syrup in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and gently whisk until the ingredients are hot (about 130 degrees) and the sugar has dissolved.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and ship the icing with the whisk attachment on medium speed until cooled, about 5 minutes: touch the outside of the bowl – it should feel cool.

Use immediately to cover a cake. Can be used as filling, too.

Makes enough for filling and covering a 9-inch two-layer cake.

Elle’s Lemon Curd
Yields 3 Cups - Stores up to 3 months in fridge

3-4 fragrant, bright-skinned lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut up
Pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/4 cups sugar

1) Run 2 inches of water into the base pan of a double boiler and set over medium heat to come to a brisk simmer.

2) Grate or shred enough lemon zest from washed & dried lemons to make 1 1/2 tablespoons, packed, lemon zest. Place the zest in the top pan of the double boiler. Juice the lemons and strain juice to make 1/2 Cup; add to the zest. Add the cut up butter & salt to the pan. Set aside.

3) Beat the egg yolks and whole egg together at high speed in the large bowl of an electric mixer until they are foamy; gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat the mixture until it is pale, fluffy, & very thick, about 5 minutes.

4) Scrape the egg mixture into the double-boiler top and set the top into the base containing simmering water. At once begin whisking the mixture; cook it, whisking constantly, until it has thickened smoothly and is steaming hot, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the cur; it is done when it will coat a metal or wooden spoon heavily. Remove the upper pan from the hot water.

5) Pour the curd into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and press it through with a rubber spatula, leaving the shreds of zest behind (discard shreds). Scrape the curd into sterilized jars. Let it cool uncovered. Cap jars of cooled curd with sterilized lids. Refrigerate the curd.

Note: This can be made with lime zest & juice. Use 1 Tablespoon lime zest and 1/2 Cup lime juice and follow the recipe the same way for everything else.

Fresh Coconut

Buy a coconut that has ‘eyes’ that show no sign of leaks or darkness. Shake it to make sure there is liquid inside. Once you are ready to prepare, pierce two of the eyes with a small sharp knife. Drain out the coconut liquid. Using the back of a heavy knife, strike the coconut shell all around the ‘equator’, but closer to the eyes, about halfway between the eyes and the largest part of the coconut. As the shell cracks, pry the coconut open. Using a sharp knife, pry out pieces of the coconut meat. When the meat has been removed from the shell, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the tan inner shell. Use a grater to grate the coconut into shreds. You will most likely have more than enough to cover the top and sides of a nine inch layer cake. Leftovers can be used for other recipes or frozen.

To Assemble the Cake

Place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake plate. Spread with one cup lemon curd. Spoon on dollops of the fluffy icing and spread over the lemon will look marbled. Top with second cake layer, bottom side down.

Spread fluffy white frosting in swirls over top and sides of cake. Be generous. Sprinkle handfuls of the coconut over the top of the cake. Cup your hand containing lots of coconut as you apply a handful to the sides. Repeat until sides are fully covered with coconut. Brush excess coconut from cake plate. Serve as soon as possible.

Verdict: This is a fine textured, moist cake. You could really taste the different flavors in the layers and the lemon curd and coconut tied it all together and added richness. The pink and yellow colors were pretty subtle. I liked it that way, but you may want to increase the food coloring by a drop or two for more distinct colors. I plan on making this again...even Sweetie enjoyed it and he isn't a big cake fan.


  1. Anonymous1:01 AM

    That looks SO GOOD!! Mother told me that you had a stand mixer version of 7 Minute Frosting, but, oh my! the cake is incredible, too! Quite amazing, as usual. See you very soon!
    Love and hugs,

  2. I love frosting more than cake and coconut more than frosting - this is a real winner for me!

  3. What a gorgeous pastel cake! Wow!
    I love coconut -- in anything -- and so this is a big winner for me. I tend not to be able to eat cakes with coconut shag on the outside of them very neatly, but that's at least half the fun!!

  4. I think coconut cakes are breathtaking - a fluffy snowdrift of tastiness. I love all the ways you personalized your cake. Thanks for the tip on the 7 minute frosting in a stand mixer. Definitely better than standing by the stove!

  5. The cake looks fabulous! It looks like it was worth all the effort. Just delicious

  6. This looks great! I'm not a big fan of coconut but this cake I would eat quite happily! Love the marbled effect of combining and flavouring the batters. The icing is something I should try out soon too!

  7. This cake promises a taste beyond fantastic.
    I'm a new follower and the thing that caught my eye on your blog was that oh so cozy lookin' barley soup which I am currently making a list for.
    LOve your cooking.
    Thanks for sharing

  8. Totally beautiful cake.
    (even though I'm tut-tutting about the use of food colouring) ;)

    I would borrow you my electric hand mixer, if you borrowed me that massive grater. :)

  9. Anonymous7:27 PM

    Wish I had been there, too. I would have loved to have shared your beautiful cake! It reminded me of so many special birthdays, of Dad grating coconut, and of Lane Cake to follow. Lots of love!
    Southern Sis

  10. Anonymous6:56 AM

    LOVED the cake... and the visit!!
    Hugs, Edwina

  11. I have been looking everywhere for something that will finely grind nuts without turning them into paste. How fine does the rotary microplane work? Or am I misunderstanding its use?

  12. Natasha, you must try the frosting this like a charm!

    Rose,just make the frosting and dump in some coconut and eat it with a it would be fabulous!

    Tanita, a dusting of coconut on my blouse means I've really enjoyed it :)

    Lynn, They really are pretty cakes...and this frosting is really good!

    Katie, Yep, really worth it. Hard to share.

    Dharm, you are such a great cake baker that you will probably love a cake like this.

    Juno, Your blog is fun! Hope you enjoyed the soup.

    Andreas, it is such a small amount of food color...can you forgive me if I lent you the Microplane grater?

    Southern Sis, Dad loved gadgets, so I suspect he would have had this grater before I did. Bet you get a version of this cake next time you are home.

    Edwina, thought you might! Everyone missed you today, but saw your painting and love it. You will get it and a visit from me ver soon.

    Desserts Divine, This is Microplane brand rotary grater. It has a fine drum and one with larger microplane holes. I used the larger holed one and it made lovely long strands/shreds. The smaller holes did make a sort of paste with fresh coconut. Worth finding the Microplante rotary. Now I wish they would give me some money for endorsements :), but they won't.

  13. Grandma's Christmas coconut cake was heavenly, but I can't wait to try and make your version when I get home! (Although, I might stick to the original 7 Minute Frosting, since I don't have a stand mixer.)

    Love and thoughts of wonderful food,