Monday, April 26, 2010

Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake and random thoughts

Motive and opportunity. These words come up in murder mysteries quite often, but they can also be applied to the baking blog enterprise. Why keep baking and blogging? I'm sure there are better uses for my time and my waistline. And yet, here I am with cookie dough in the freezer and a cake to write about.
Motive: I love to bake. I love making people happy with baked goods. And I even love tasting my creations. Sure, there's an award-winning bakery right down the street. Sure, that 10 pounds I've been wanting to lose since the late 80s isn't going anywhere. But for me, the process and the product are both worth it. Add to that the desire to prove to my sister that I can keep this up, and you've got pretty strong motivation.
Opportunity: This I have in spades right now. Not just the opportunity to bake, but the opportunity to share my baked goods. The second is really just as important as the first. With dozens of hungry students and weekly dinner parties, I could bake every day and not have to leave any dangerous temptation lying around the house. I'm going to miss that when the program ends in 2 weeks. At that point I'll probably have to send Claire to school with goodies. I'm sure I'll think of something. At some point I may feel too busy or, more likely, may lack the social network to foist my goodies on. But my hope is that very soon, some French people will be glad that they're my neighbor.
OK, enough rambling. On to the cake!

This is pretty much a pound cake with the addition of coconut and a bit of cocoa to make a dark top layer. Julia's comment when she saw the ingredient line-up: "Wow, that's a lot of butter!" My comment: "Wow, that's a lot of sugar!" 1 pound of powdered sugar! That's a lot. Even though I cut down the amount a bit, I still found it to be very sweet. Note also that I used coconut milk instead of most of the cream called for by the recipe. The recipe calls for coconut extract, which I couldn't find, so I thought that might add the necessary coconut flavor.

Instead of the bread crumbs called for in the recipe, I used coconut. It's mostly unsweetened and powdery here in France, so it worked well for this application.

Here's the very small chocolate layer. Maida was right in that "you will wish for more." Which begs the question why there isn't a bigger chocolate layer. The cocoa cuts the sweetness substantially.

And here's the sweet coconut layer. Did I mention that it's very sweet?
No pictures of the finished cake--I'm shy about doing food photography when guests are around. I really liked the moistness and texture of the cake. I wonder whether the sugar could be cut more without sacrificing texture. Many others who ate the cake (at least those who don't object to coconut) loved it. Julia was one of them: I wasn't sure that was the case when I saw her practically force cake on party guests, but she assured me that was her way of resisting temptation. She's learned well...

Here's the recipe. Make it for a large group of people with a pronounced sweet tooth.

Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake

8 oz. (2 sticks) butter
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 T. vanilla
1 t. coconut extract (I didn't use it and I see no reason to go out and buy it if you don't have it)
1/4 t. almond extract
3 cups (14 oz.) powdered sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/4 c. (5 oz.) sifted flour
1-1/4 c. (4.4 oz.) sifted cake flour
1 c. cream or coconut milk or a combination of the two
2 T. cocoa powder
1 c. (3.5 oz) coconut (unsweetened is much to be preferred here)

Heat the oven to 350. Butter a Bundt pan and coat it with dry bread crumbs or powdered unsweetened coconut.
Cream the butter with the baking powder and salt. Add the flavor extracts (be careful with the almond extract--a little goes a long way!) and then gradually beat in the sugar; beat for about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat a good minute after each one. On low speed beat in the flours in three additions alternating with the cream/coconut milk in two additions. Scoop out about a cup of batter into a small bowl and stir in the cocoa powder. Drop spoonsful into the prepared pan and smooth the batter out into a rather thin layer. Then mix the coconut into the white cake batter and spread that on top. Use a spoon to create a bit of a trench in the middle of the batter so that it will rise more evenly.
Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes (check after an hour) or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then unmold. Serve at room temperature. Maida suggests waiting several hours after the cake is cool to serve it, but the cake didn't suffer from being served slightly warm, I found.

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