Got inspired to try this one after Carolyn and Max sent over some links to the Food Network’s “Good Eats” show on YouTube. I’d read others’ raves about Alton Brown and the show, and I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t discovered the show until now. Neat stuff to be seen, then prepared, then enjoyed.
As usual, there are some recipe fluctuations to be had here, due to availability of ingredients and the particulars of our kitchen. I’m posting our adaptation, but you should compare it with the original if you’re interested in the famous version. Generally we try to stay true to the original, but sometimes that results in less than appetizing results.
There was a learning curve on several fronts in effect. That’s part of the reason why it took us ALL FREAKIN’ DAY to hack up that coconut, make the cake, let it cool, hook up the frosting. And the icing on the cake — so to speak — is that we can’t fit the cake in our cake transporter into the fridge to cool off. It (the transporter, not the cake itself) is too big. So our cake won’t get the chill it richly deserves before we try it out for dessert tonight (and breakfast tomorrow?).
Oh, and speaking of breakfast tomorrow: if you have to tap into a new can of coconut cream just to make this (or another recipe) and end up with some left over, fear not! Substitute it in for cream for a delightfully tropical twist to your morning coffee. On with the show!
- 1 coconut, see Cook’s Note
For the cake:
- 14 1/4 ounces flour, plus extra for pans, approximately 3 cups (can’t seem to find any flour with a lower number than 405 at the Edeka near us)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt (kosher salt? I could swear I’ve seen it here in Regensburg, but we couldn’t find it today when looking for it)
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk (we used canned stuff)
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut cream (we used canned stuff) – not to be confused with Cream of Coconut!
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 16 ounces sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract (we couldn’t find anything like this at the Asian market near us, nor the smaller supermarket — maybe Kaufland? The lady at the Asian market broke into her suprisingly good English (not at our request) to explain that she knew what we were looking for but that it’s hard to find in Germany…wonder why?! Anyway, we had to replace this ingredient with vanilla extract entirely.)
- 4 egg whites
- 1/3 cup coconut water
For the 7-Minute Frosting:
- 3 large egg whites
- 12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups
- 1/3 cup coconut water
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (same deal with the kosher salt as above)
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (we beefed this up to a whole teaspoon since we didn’t have any coconut extract…hope the coconut flavor doesn’t get overwhelmed by vanilla)
- Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces
Cook’s Note: To open a coconut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the coconut onto a folded towel set down in a large bowl. Find the 3 eyes on 1 end of the coconut and using a nail or screwdriver and hammer or meat mallet, hammer holes into 2 of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a container and drain the water from the coconut. Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place the coconut onto a 1/2 sheet pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. The coconut should have cracked in several places. Using an oyster knife or other dull blade, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Using a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the brown husk from the coconut meat. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry. Break the meat into 2 to 3-inch pieces. With the grater disk attached to a food processor, grate the coconut.
That SO didn’t work as planned.
- We didn’t get nearly as much coconut water as expected out of ours. The recipe calls for one coconut and 1/3 cup coconut water. I reckon we got a couple tablespoons, max. And that was after selecting the single juiciest-sounding coconut at the store.
- Baking the coconut as instructed yielded no cracks to speak of and I absolutely couldn’t wedge a cheap, blunt, old knife into the outer shell. It just wouldn’t work. So we had to resort to the web. Thankfully, Sarah found this guide to bashing open a coconut. Method #1 worked for us; which is good because we don’t really have any concrete steps or curbs to do our prep work on.
- The hopper on our food processor lost its plunger a ways back due to mysterious cracks. Consequently we’ve been grating stuff in our food processor with either the weight of the food-to-be-grated as the downward force or by carefully grinding it (carrots for example, when we’re making plov) down as far as we we dare skewered on the end of a fork. That was tricky this time because of the density (lower than a carrot), flexibility (moreso than a carrot) and shape (less fitting to the shape of our hopper) of the coconut flesh pieces. Somehow we managed to get it done, but there was a fair amount of coconut strewn about the kitchen.
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or just use Baker’s Joy and revel in it!) a 9×13″ baking pan. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.
Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Bang the pan on the counter top several times to remove any air and to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is light golden in color and reaches an internal temperature of 200°F.
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled completely cut across the equator to form 2 layers. Place the 1/3 cup coconut water into a small spritz bottle and spray evenly onto the cut side of the 2 layers. If you do not have a spritz bottle you may brush the coconut water on with a silicone pastry brush. We didn’t have enough coconut water to do this part at all. Allow to sit while preparing the frosting.
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. In the meantime, place the egg whites, sugar, coconut water, cream of tartar and salt into a medium size-mixing bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water and immediately begin beating with an electric hand mixer set to low speed. Beat for 1 minute and then increase the speed to high and continue to beat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the coconut and vanilla extracts for 1 minute. Allow the frosting to sit for 5 minutes before using.
Place approximately 3/4 cup of the frosting on the first layer of cake, sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut and top with the next layer. Repeat until you reach the top layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
OK, as mentioned above we couldn’t get our cake to fit in the fridge to chill and with the weather recently an outside chill is also not an option. Maybe this cake is a better winter option for us just for that reason. We could have maybe sliced our single layer rectangle in two pieces to create a layer and use up our extra frosting that way (and why oh why do we habitually have about twice as much frosting as we need?!), but we definitely wouldn’t have had enough coconutty fluffy love to spread around two layers. Therefore: next time TWO coconuts suffer the vengeful wrath of the blunt side of my cheap Chinese cleaver — and maybe we’ll get enough coconut water out that way — and maybe we’ll get someone to smuggle some coconut extract into the country for us (100ml is still carry-on-safe!). And then we can try this whole thing again from the start.