Monday, September 29, 2008

Story of a Cake.

Last year, my good friend Cara posted on her blog this cake. She stole it from another blog I often go to and browse desserts, Cream Puffs in Venice. Well I LOVE coconut. Seriously, it has this indescribable pull over me. So when I saw the cake, I too wanted to make the cake. It did look like a lot of work, so I waited for something to bake it FOR. A few months later there was an office Christmas party and I thought, "Hey, I'll make that cake!" Eight months pregnant and mega tired I made the cake. It could have been better, I decided if I did it again with what I knew it would be better, but I liked it and told my mom about the cake I made. She said she'd liked to have tried it. She also, is a coconut fan.

So now that I see my mom all the time, and cook a little around here she had been bugging me a lot to make that coconut cake. I kept saying, "Mom, that cake is a lot of work and takes a lot of time for just any old day of the week. I'm not making it unless there's a good reason." Well, my mom is nothing if not resourceful, a couple of weeks ago my mom returns from an outing with her sisters to plan my Grandpa's 90th birthday party and she says, "I told everyone that you would be willing to make a cake for grandpa's birthday. I was thinking you could make that coconut one." Devious, no?! What am I going to do? Say 'no, I don't really care about grandpa and his birthday'.

So alas, I was committed. But armed with my knowledge I made the cake once more. And this time I have to toot my own horn and say... perfect. I definitely had an advantage having made it before and learning a few tricks. The cake was super soft and delicate. The pastry cream tasted amazing and was much smoother and creamier than the last time, and the frosting/cake ratio was much better! I took special pride in my cousin Stacey (who lived in Manhattan for a few years) coming over to me and telling me it was the best cake she'd ever had. So here is a cake in brief:

Starting with a from scratch cake that includes coconut milk in the batter,

Then a lovely coconut-y pastry cream fills the layers,

A cooked frosting surrounds the cake,

Top it off with some freshly toasted coconut,

And the purchased chocolate sheet cake (for the non-coconut fans, and kids),
sits mostly there whilst the coconut cake has been completely devoured.
Like my dad says, 'Nothing left but the crying'.
(Don't ask what it means, I really don't know.)

So for budding pastry chefs out there (and those there that claimed to be interested in making it, whom I promised to post the recipe for) that read this blog, here is the recipe:

Cream Puff’s Very Favourite Coconut Cream Cake
From Caprial’s Desserts by Caprial Pence and Melissa Carey.

Note: It’s best to make the pastry cream and the cakes the day before assembling the cake. I usually make them the night before. I make the buttercream just before I’m ready to begin assembling the cake. Once I begin assembling, I like to refrigerate the cake after each step. To frost the cake, I find that a cake stand is invaluable. If you want to read an amazing post about what it takes to bake and decorate cakes, read Anita’s post all about it on her blog Dessert First. This cake will easily serve 12 people.

For the coconut cake:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), cold and cut into small cubes
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
3 cups sifted cake flour
1-1/2 cups coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and grease two 9-inch pans. Line the bottoms of the pan with parchment paper and then grease the parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar at high speed. Mix until the butter is light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes).

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the vanilla extract and mix well.

Combine the dry ingredients (salt, baking powder and flour) and add to the butter/egg mixture in two additions, alternating with the coconut milk. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 25 minutes to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before unmolding them and peeling off the parchment paper. Let the cakes cool completely before filling them. If you make the cakes the day before assembling the cake, wrap them in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

For the coconut pastry cream:

1 cup half-and-half
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1-1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups heavy cream

In a saucepan, combine the half-and-half and the coconut milk and heat on high until the mixture is just about to boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, the cornstarch and the sugar. Whisk until well combined and the eggs are pale yellow (about 3 or 4 minutes).

Dribble in a few drops of the milk mixture and whisk. Continue dribbling in a bit of milk (don’t add it all at once or you may cook the egg yolks) and whisking. Once you’ve added about half of the milk, you can then add the rest in a steady stream, whisking all the time.

Return the milk/egg mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat (whisking constantly) until the mixture becomes very thick. This should take about 5 minutes or so. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture bubbles and you can see the bottom of the pan as you drag the whisk through it. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded coconut.

Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should touch the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate overnight.

When you’re ready to fill the cakes, whip two cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream into the cold pastry cream until combined.

For the buttercream:

2 cups half-and-half
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 pound unsalted butter (2 cups), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Combine the half-and-half, the egg yolk and the cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly to ensure that it’s smooth. When it comes to a boil it will thicken considerably. Remove from the heat and pass it through a sieve. Refrigerate for two hours.

After two hours, combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes, stopping every once and awhile to scrape down the sides of the bowl. After 10 minutes, the mixture will be almost white in colour and very light and fluffy.

Add the salt and mix.

With the speed on low, add the cold half-and-half mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure it’s well incorporated.

Add the vanilla extract and mix.

Use the buttercream right away.

To assemble the cake:

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Split the two 9-inch cakes in half so that you have four layers.

Place one layer, cut side up, on a cake plate or cake cardboard. Spread about half a cup of coconut pastry cream on the cake layer. Leave about half an inch border all the way around to ensure the pastry cream doesn’t leak out.

Top with a second layer of cake, and once again spread about half a cup of pastry cream on the layer.

Top with a third layer and repeat with the pastry cream.

Top with the final layer and press down to ensure that the cake is firmly in place. At this point I like to refrigerate the cake for about half an hour to give the pastry cream a chance to settle and firm up a bit. I usually make the buttercream while the cake is in the refrigerator.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and begin icing. There are many different opinions on how to ice a cake. The way I like to do it is to spread a thin layer of icing on the top and the sides of the cake. Don’t worry if you pick up cake crumbs. Once you’ve done this, put the cake back into the refrigerator for about half an hour to firm up the buttercream.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and this time, add a nice thick layer of buttercream all around. Begin by putting a cup or so of icing on the top of the cake. Spread it evenly across pushing the buttercream all the way to the edges. Once it’s even on top, begin pushing the buttercream at the edges down the sides of the cake, adding more buttercream as needed. Once you’re done, smooth the sides of the cake as best you can. Even out the edges of the cake by placing your icing spatula flat on the edge and smoothly sliding it towards the centre of the cake. This should give you a nice edge all the way around.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about ten minutes. Remove the cake and carefully apply the toasted shredded coconut all around the sides of the cake and on the top of the cake if you wish. If you have any extra buttercream, feel free to pipe a decorative design on the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 or 4 hours before serving.


cara lou said...

Yum! I love that cake. It is a lot of work, but I am sure I'll make it again. It's SO good!

Kaja said...

That cake looks really delicious, but I'm sorry to say that the scrolling through the recipe has made me NOT want to make that cake...*sigh* I guess i'll just have to wait until I'm childless again in like 20 years and I actually have the time. You're amazing for doing it!

Nellie and Jason said...

my mouth is watering....mmmm.

Nikki said...

oh my delicious! i LOVE coconut, especially toasted coconut. i think you need to make one for me for a halloween present. it can be delivered at any time between 9 and 5. i will be waiting.