Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The gift of cake.

Don't you agree that a layered coconut cake just embodies retro charm? I think so. That is why for my birthday yesterday I gave myself the gift of baking. And I baked a coconut cake. Growing up it was always the birthday girl's choice of birthday cake flavors on her special day, and I always chose chocolate. My mom makes mean chocolate cake, and an even meaner chocolate frosting, all from scratch. However my childhood tradition of chocolate birthday cakes came head to head with my desire to bake a coconut cake this year, which is why I originally wanted two cakes, a chocolate and also a coconut cake. I have been waiting and waiting for the chance to try a Martha Stewart coconut cake recipe, and what better opportunity than to bake it as a birthday cake?

But I came to my senses, realizing that alone Sam and I could not consume two entire cakes. As much as I like cake, even I cannot each four pieces of cake a day without exploding. So I made a tough decision and deviated from tradition to try something new, albeit new with an old-school retro charm. It was a good decision. This coconut cake is heavenly.

I will say that part of what made my cake delicious was the frosting. I skipped the light, fluffy, egg-white based frosting of the original recipe and went with the always delicious buttercream. No matter how many cakes I eat, I always prefer the cakes with buttercream over whip, fondant, or meringue frosting. I also skipped the step where I purchase a whole coconut, demolish it with and ice pick, and peel individual curls to roast in the oven. That just seemed too violent and time consuming for birthday baking.

And of course I displayed the cake on my vintage milk glass cake plate, my favorite piece of serving ware in my kitchen. The combo of a good cake, a better frosting, and the best cake plate made me a very happy birthday girl.

Coconut Cake
from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

This cake was fabulous, absolutely fabulous. It had an almost pound cake-esque buttery richness, and it was dense, but still very cakey. I deviated from the recipe and toasted the coconut before I pulsed it into a powder to blend with the flour. This may or may not have resulted in a drier cake. Regardless, the cake remained very moist and rich, a real birthday keeper.

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed sweetened, shredded coconut
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 large whole eggs, plus 4 large egg whites
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
Buttercream frosting
Coconut curls, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9x9 inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess, set aside. Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse shredded coconut in a food processor until finely chopped. Stir chopped coconut int the flour mixture until combined; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the whole eggs, egg whites, and vanilla; beat until fully incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the coconut milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.

Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of the cake layers to make level. Place one layer on a cake plate, and spread top with frosting. Place other cake layer on top. Spread remaining frosting over entire cake, swirling to cover in a decorative fashion. Spring entire cake with toasted, sweetened coconut. Cake can be kept in the refrigerator, cover with a cake dome, for up to 3 days.

Buttercream Frosting
This is a memorized, taste-as-you-go recipe that works on almost anything. I say just mix the butter, sugar, and flour until you like the flavor, and add the milk until you reach the consistency you prefer. We added a pinch of salt to cut the sweetness, and it was good. If I was very clever, I would have saved some of the leftover coconut milk from the cake recipe and subbed it for the milk in the frosting.

2-2 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
5 - 6 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tsp. vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons milk or cream, or coconut milk

Cream butter and half of the sugar. Add remaining sugar, vanilla, and half the milk. Add additional milk as needed until you reach desired consistency.

1 comment:

lorrwill said...

Happy Belated Birthday!


Thanks very much for the recipes!!!! I fully plan on copying you on my birthday in February - or possibly sooner.