Saturday, April 3, 2010

Still Crazy for Coconut Cake

To tell the truth, my coconut cake saga began many years ago. When I ask my mother what kind of cake she would like, she always says, "something easy." On one memorable Mother's Day, I asked the standard question, but instead of the standard answer, she pointed to a coconut cake recipe in a fancy magazine. It was gorgeous. White and lofty, with swirling peaks, I could understand why she was attracted to it. No problem. The recipe seemed fairly straight forward.

For those of you who have never seen a southern coconut cake, I should explain that they are huge. Not just in diameter. They tower over everything. Set one on a buffet table, and it is automatically the center of attention.

So I baked the cake. It was four feet tall. That might be a slight exaggeration, but I'm certain it exceeded one foot in height. It was so tall that I had to put wooden skewers in it to keep it from becoming the leaning tower of coconut cake. There's no telling what they did to the original to take that fantastic photo.

On Mother's Day, I proudly served the cake. Have you watched the cake competitions on The Food Network? You know how they have to move their cakes to a display table and everyone holds their breath hoping it won't collapse? I almost needed help carrying the thing to the dining table. Worse, though -- we hated it. It was dense and heavy, and unappealing. My father, who loved desserts and never criticized anything I baked because it might discourage me from learning to cook -- hated it. Everyone disliked it except my mother. She bravely froze it and had her own private little teatime with tiny slices of that monster for an entire year.

So, when I set out to bake this coconut cake, I was determined to keep it light. I'm still totally in love with raw coconut oil, so I knew I would use that instead of butter. Last weekend, I gave it a try. With the notion of a Mounds bar in the back of my mind, I made both chocolate and white icing. Oy vey! It looked like a coconut volcano. My company thought it tasted good, but it was a mess.

I confess that I have a fascination with cakes that are missing ingredients. One of my favorite cakes has only two tablespoons of flour in it! It's made in a food processor, which I also find intriguing. The blade whips the sugar and eggs into a light froth. So I tried that method, but it turned out dry. Unbearably dry.

The third time was the charm. This cake recipe is light with just a hint of coconut. It doesn't tower to the ceiling, and frankly, it's sweet enough to eat plain with a lemon curd or whipped cream and some fruit. Best of all, it's made in the food processor and couldn't be easier to make. I'm sure I'll be playing with it again!

I kept the icing light, too. This is definitely a cake for those who like sweets! Seven Minute Icing has long been one of my favorites. I always worry about salmonella in the eggs, though. I've made many frostings in a double boiler with steam wafting up at me, and a hand-held mixer throwing frosting everywhere. This version heats the egg whites first to kill the salmonella, but lets a stand mixer do the hard part.

Light Coconut Cake

2 8-inch cake pans

1 whole egg
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 cup raw coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour plus extra for dusting the pans

Preheat the over to 350. Use a bit of coconut oil to grease the pans and then dust with flour.

Place the egg, egg whites, and sugar in the food processor and spin a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk and spin again. Add the coconut oil, vanilla, salt, and baking powder and spin. Finally add the flour and spin until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the baking pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the edge of the pans and a tester comes out clean.

Easy Seven Minute Icing

2 large egg whites
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl that fits your electric mixer. Place the bowl inside a large pot with about an inch of bowling water. Stir with a whisk (note, do not whisk, just stir to combine the ingredients). Stir continuously until the ingredients reach 160 degrees.

Remove from heat, dry the bottom, insert into mixer, and beat until the egg white mixture forms firm peaks. Cool to room temperature and ice your cake.


coconut flakes

Spread icing on the bottom layer. Sprinkle with coconut. Slice the strawberries in very thin slices and lay on the icing in one layer. I added a little bit more icing on top of the berries, but beware, they like to stick! Place the top layer on the cake. Add more icing. Sprinkle coconut flakes in the middle of the top. Slice strawberries in half and press around the bottom.

Happy Easter!

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  1. It looks beautiful! And sounds as light as you wanted, too. I LOVE coconuts!


  2. LOL..when I first read the ingredients all I saw was flour for dusting the pan and wondered how you were making cake without flour. Yeah, I looked again and saw the numbers.

  3. Wow, Krista, that is a saga, and I'm thrilled that you came up with something that, um, "takes the cake"! Can't wait to try it. I love coconut. Remind me some time to share my Dr. Pepper coconut cake recipe with you. ~Avery

  4. This is gorgeous, Krista, and I loved hearing about all your cake attempts. Your mom is such a sweetie, keeping the cake and having small portions of it all year. Love the stories! And I would love to try this cake!


  5. Any recipe tested with this much rigor is an automatic keeper. Gorgeous result, and I loved your tale of the chocolate volcano/mounds coconut disaster cake. All of us who cook can relate. LOL! :) Brava to our Domestic Diva for another fantastic recipe.

    Have a wonderful Easter weekend, Krista!

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. You had me at "notion of a Mounds"! I am a
    chocolate and coconut lover of the first order!
    This cake looks just lovely and delicious.
    I'll have to give it a go!

  7. Elizabeth/Riley, it wouldn't pass muster with Lulu of Delicious and Suspicious. Not tall enough!

    Dru, I tried going very light on the flour. That was the version that turned out so dry. Apparently there's a coconut flour. I've never seen it anywhere, but it sounds interesting.

    Thanks, Avery. Dr. Pepper and coconut -- interesting combination! I considered using coconut rum in the cake, but it really tasted of rum, not much coconut flavor.

    Thanks, Julie. I think my mom is enjoying my baking variations. I've been working on Red Velvet cupcakes for my next diva book -- consequently, her freezer is currently stocked with chocolate cupcakes!

    Thanks, Cleo. I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend, too.

    ~ Krista

  8. Happy easter to you all! Nothing says easter to me like a coconut cake in the shape of a lamb... great memories...

    And best of luck with the BBQ themed book... I will be putting my Amazon order in soon (any chance of getting a signed book somehow... way to order that???)

  9. Jenn, I haven't quite mastered the chocolate frosting that would taste like a mounds bar. But I know I'll be working on it! Yum!

    Happy Easter, Dave! Gee, a signed book from Riley? I'm going to be seeing her -- if the two of you pay for plane fare, I'd be happy to hand deliver a signed copy to the islands! ; )

    ~ Krista

  10. This sounds wonderful. Can't wait to try it. I've never done well baking a coconut cake, maybe this one will be the right one.

  11. Ah, memories ... Seven-minute frosting was a staple for cakes in my childhood. I can remember my mother making it--and cursing when the humidity was too high and it came out sticky!