Coconut galore

Its warm and grey with an occasional shower, a typical London early summer afternoon – a perfect time to make a cake. Here I am, talking about myself as a bread nerd and the very first posting I do is about a cake! The thing is, I went a bit baking mad last week and have made three types of bread. Considering that its only me and Mr Ranty (plus two cats, but they don’t count, as their bread consumption is minimal), I don’t think I can make any more breads this week. But a cake – well, that’s a different matter.

I’ve been feeling very Thai lately and asked Mr Ranty to make me a Thai curry. He dug out his favourite Thai book – “Thai Food” by David Thompson - and we are having Pork and Green Peppercorn curry for dinner. Being an uber foodie, he decided to make his own coconut cream, as you do! We stocked up on coconuts in Chinatown yesterday, and now have a boat full of coconut milk and mountains of shredded coconut. What a girl to do, but make a coconut cake.

I decided to try a recipe from “The Hummingbird Cookbook” book – I bought that book a while ago and have been slowly making my way through it. Most of the things I have tried from it so far have been quite good – a bit too sweet (catering for American taste I think), but that’s easily solvable. As always, I couldn’t leave a recipe as it is, so here is my take on it…

Coconut Cake :

Adapted from “The Hummingbird Cookbook”

For syrup :

60 g light brown sugar

250 ml fresh coconut water

For batter :

120 g unsalted butter, room temperature

300 g caster sugar

500 g plain flour, sifted

1 Tbsp baking powder

50 ml coconut cream

125 ml fresh coconut water

125 ml milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

40 g fresh coconut, grated

3 egg whites

For icing :

3 egg whites

250 g caster sugar

½ tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla essence

150 g fresh coconut, grated for decoration

Make syrup by combining sugar and coconut water together, bring it to the boil and leave to cool off. My syrup tasted nice and sweet, with some white goo floating on top of it, due to the use of coconut water, I think.

For cake batter, beat butter and sugar in a mixer (I have a lovely red KitchenAid that I can’t live without) until white and fluffy, about 5 minutes on speed 4. Mix flour and baking powder in one bowl, coconut cream, coconut milk, milk and vanilla essence in another bowl. Add flour and a bit of milk mixture to the creamed sugar – not all at once, gradually, adding a bit of flour, a bit of milk at a time and mixing it after each addition – I added mine in four lots.

Add shredded coconut to the mixture and mix for a few more seconds, until just combined. The batter looked quite thick and pale, but with a lovely light coconut-y smell.

Whisk egg whites in a separate bowl, until stiff, and add to the main cake batter, gently folding the egg whites.

With oven pre-heated to 160 C (fan oven), its cake time. I only have one cake tin – 20 cm one, and decided to do a two tier cake, baking one at a time. I love my springform tin – easy clip outside means nothing sticks to the sides of the tin, and the bottom is easy enough to take off.

Grease the tin with butter and pour half of the cake mixture – the mixture is still quite thick, so its more like blob half of it into the tin and smooth it out before putting it into the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, turning the cake around once, half-way through.

Once the cake is out of the oven, cool if off slightly in the tin, and turn it out onto a cool rack, until completely cold. My two layers domed up quite a bit in the oven and I had to somehow even them out. While warm, I flipped them upside down on a cooling rack and pressed down on them very gently. Do not apply too much pressure, as the cake is very fragile and already showing cracks on the surface.

When cakes feel cool to the touch, and still sitting on a cooling rack, pour half of the syrup over each cake. Pay special attention to the edges of the cakes, I pricked my cakes with a toothpick first, to make sure that the syrup goes all the way through the cakes. Leave the cakes to absorb all the moisture – for half an hour or so.

Icing is made using double-boiler method – pour an inch of water to a pot and bring it to boil, turn it down, so its steaming, not even simmering. Place egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in another pot / bowl. When choosing a pot / bowl for your icing, make sure that its big enough to sit on top on the first pot with water, but it does NOT touch water in the first pot.

Put second pot / bowl with the icing mixture over first pot with water and beat the mixture, using electric mixture on the highest setting, for about 7 minutes. Take top pot / bowl off the heat, add vanilla essence and beat for another half-a-minute to a minute. The icing will be still and glossy.

To arrange the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or a plate, cover it generously with icing, sprinkle with 50 g of grated coconut (if using) and place second cake layer on top and press down gently. Cover top and sides of the cake with the remaining mixture, until all top and sides are covered. Sprinkle top and sides with the rest of coconut, until completely covered.

Here is what mine looks like :

I am not going to eat it tonight, Mr Ranty is going to take it with him to work tomorrow and I am going to ask him to do a shot of it when its cut, so I can see what it looks like inside.

Next day ...

The cake looked pretty good, even if I say so myself - the icing didn't go as hard as I would have thought, it was still soft when I packed it this morning for Me Ranty to take it to work. I did ask him whether his work colleagues thought it was odd that I was making these cakes and sending them off without even having a taste, biut no, apparently they just think I am great :)

Here is what it looked like inside, and I got really good comments on it - not too sweet, lots of people thought it was really light, and I even got a "its magnificent" comment - things people say for a slice of a free cake, huh?

Mr Ranty thought it could have been a bit lighter, but everyone else thought it was just right. My Mr Ranty is very fussy when it comes to food, makes a good judge, but to be honest I don't think he is used to soaked cakes, and I've decided I am happy with hiw this one turned out.

If I was to make it again (and I think I will), I would probably look for younger coconuts and toast them a bit to enhance the coconut-y flavour, and use all coconut water instead of coconut water and milk. I saw some recipes use coconut essence to make the coconut flavour more pronounced, but I am not a big fan of essence other than vanilla essence, so I think I'll skip that. Might increase the amount of fresh coconut in the cake, and see what that'll do.


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