Recipe: Fresh coconut layer cake
Makes 8–10 servings
All-purpose (plain) flour for dusting
3 cups (9 oz/280 g) sifted cake
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) unsalted butter,
at room temperature
2 cups (1 lb/500 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄2 tsp coconut extract
1 fresh coconut
2 tbsp confectioners' (icing) sugar
Seven-minute frosting (below)
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly butter two 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper or parchment (baking) paper. Lightly grease the paper. Dust the insides of the pans with the all-purpose flour and tap out the excess. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of waxed paper.
Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer on high speed, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until very light in color, 3–5 minutes. One at a time, beat in the egg yolks. On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coconut milk in 2 additions, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and coconut extracts and beat to blend.
In a large, spotlessly clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and beat until the whites form stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, stir about one-fourth of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pans. Bake the cakes until golden brown and the tops spring back when pressed gently in the center, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto wire racks, lift off the pans, and peel off the papers. Turn the cakes right side up on the racks and let cool completely. Leave the oven on.
Make the coconut syrup (right) and set aside to cool. Using a small, sturdy knife such as an oyster knife or paring knife, pry out the coconut meat from the shell. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the inner skin from the coconut meat. Using a food processor fitted with the fine shredding disk, finely shred the coconut. Spread the shredded coconut on a baking sheet and toss with the confectioners' sugar. Bake, stirring often, until the coconut is dried and lightly toasted, 10–15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
To assemble the cake, place a dab of frosting in the center of a serving plate. Place one cake layer, flat side up, on the plate. Brush the top with 2 tbsp of the coconut syrup. Spread with 2/3 cup (11/2 oz/45 g) of the frosting and sprinkle with 1/3 cup (1 oz/30 g) of the toasted coconut. Top with the second layer, flat side down, and brush with 2 more tbsp coconut syrup. Generously frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Press the remaining coconut on the top and sides of the cake. Serve at room temperature.
Working with coconut
Before buying a coconut, shake it to be sure it's full of coconut water. Make sure that there are no signs of mold around the "eyes." To crack open a coconut, hold it in one hand over a large bowl. Using a hammer, firmly rap the coconut around its equator until it cracks open; catch the coconut water in the bowl. To make coconut syrup, strain the coconut water through a fine-mesh sieve. Measure out 1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) of the coconut water into a small saucepan, add 1⁄4 cup (2 oz/60 g) sugar, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Set the mixture aside to cool.
Makes enough for one two-layer cake
2 large eggs
11⁄2 cups (12 oz/375 g) sugar
2 tsp corn syrup
1⁄4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄2 tsp coconut extract
Separate the eggs, letting the whites come to room temperature and reserving the yolks for another use. In the top part of a double boiler, combine the egg whites, sugar, 1/3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) water, the corn syrup, and cream of tartar. In the bottom part of the double boiler, bring 1 inch (2.5 cm) water to a simmer over medium heat. Place the top pan over (but not touching) the simmering water. Using a handheld mixer on high speed, beat until the mixture forms stiff, shiny peaks when the beaters are lifted, 5–7 minutes. (You can also beat the egg white–mixture by hand with a flexible wire whisk, but it will take about twice as long.) Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and coconut extracts, and beat for 1 minute longer. Use at once.
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Recipe from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook; photograph by Maren Caruso. Copyright 2008 by Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and Weldon Owen, Inc.