Friday, October 22, 2010
I want to have this cake at my wedding. God, doesn't that sound pretentious. "Hey guys, check out this great cake I made. It's so delicious that I want to eat it at the most important celebration of my life." I promise I don't mean it that way. I've been thinking about weddings and coconut cakes ever since I first saw When Harry Met Sally. In the last scene when Harry and Sally are sitting on the couch together telling the camera about their love story, Sally explains that they ate coconut cake at their wedding (with a very rich chocolate sauce, on the side). I hadn't ever given coconut cake a second thought before that moment, but if Sally loves coconut cake, then by-golly I should too.
Coconut cake has a moist richness unlike any other cake. I actually have made cake with coconut milk before (and for a wedding, incidentally). This time I used a recipe that called for more coconut milk, making the flavor more apparent in the cake itself, and then I echoed the flavor by adding coconut milk in the frosting and by adding toasted coconut shavings on top. The result was an elegant cake with sweet, rich coconut flavor. I couldn't help going back for a second slice, and then proceeding to run my fingers around the cake pan collecting crumbs and frosting from the sides.
I followed different recipes for the frosting and the cake. Apparently, there's some pretty big and important distinctions between coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut water, so rather than substitute anything, I went with a simple recipe that called for just coconut milk. A lot of recipes ask for coconut extract which I'm sure would taste wonderful, but I was not about to go out and buy a $10 vial of something for one recipe. For the frosting, I whipped cream cheese and butter into oblivion until it was fluffy, glossy, and the perfect creamy topping for a too-good-to-be-true cake and sprinkled it with toasted coconut shavings (most recipes don't toast the coconut toppings, but I happen to adore the nutty taste of toasted coconut and think it adds beautiful color). I've posted the recipes I used and the adaptations I made below so feel free to use them or tweak them as you like (I tripled the cake from its original recipe to feed my house, but have scaled it back down here for much more practical purposes). But whatever you do, give this cake a try. I love it completely, and I think that Sally would too.
Adapted from Paula Deen
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Flaked, sweetened coconut, toasted
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 6-8 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating with each addition until well combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking, powder and salt. Add flour and milk to egg mixture alternately, starting and ending with flour. Stir in vanilla extract. Divide batter into three 9 inch round pans (to make a layer cake like Paula did) or pour all of the batter into a large sheet cake pan (like I did). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely and frost with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows).
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
This should be enough to frost the amount of cake I made and then some. When I made this, I tripled the cake recipe and doubled this frosting recipe and I still had some frosting left over. However, if you're making a layer cake you may need a bit more to compensate for that extra surface area.
1/2 pound cream cheese
2 sticks butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
2-3 tablespoons coconut milk
In an electric mixer (or with electric hand beaters) cream together butter and cream cheese. Add sugar, one cup at a time, until light and fluffy. Add coconut milk and beat until smooth, glossy, and light. Frost cake.