Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Birthday Cake

I've been stalling on this one because this recipe is just so dang long to write out! But we're leaving town in less than a week and I can't put this off til we get back. That would be wrong.

I BAKED recently. It's not something that happens all that often around here because I'm busy making baby food and cleaning up Lake Luciana, ie the dining area floor, after every meal. That takes time, people. But Sky's mom had a birthday not too long ago and she came up to LA to celebrate at our house and I thought the least I could do was make the lady a birthday cake! It was so satisfying to make a birthday cake. It totally justified the cake stand and dome I impulse-bought a month or so ago from Bountiful during their 50% off sale (which seems to still be going on and I do suggest a trip). It was delicious, pretty, and I have a tub of buttercream frosting in the freezer so my work is half done for next time.

When Sky told me his mom likes old-fashioned desserts, I decided on coconut cake. It's one of those things I've never made, always want to order, and rarely, if ever, eat. I have a copy of the New Best Recipe book by Cook's Illustrated and it's one of my go-tos for classic recipes. The recipes are really good, and there are explanations of how they arrived at them which is educational if you want to read. Also equipment and technique tips. I recommend. This one has coconut flavor in the cake, in the frosting, and then coconut is pressed all over it. YUM.

I'll say before I start that this cake is supposed to be 4 layers. Now, I am no professional baker, but I've done my share and I followed the recipe EXACTLY and have good pans and a great oven. My rounds didn't rise enough to make 4 layers remotely do-able. So mine was 2 layers, and totally delicious. I made the cake the night before and frosted the morning of the bday. Both the cake and the frosting use a lot of egg whites so this is a perfect excuse to make ice cream with the leftover yolks. I will also give the disclaimer that the cream of coconut used in both the cake and the frosting is anything but organic. I think there might be some, um, artificial things in it, and the cake is full of gluten and sugar. And it is f-ing delicious and a crowd pleaser. Not for my baby, however. Yet.

said cake stand and dome housing subject of post

Coconut Layer Cake
 from New Best Recipe

for the cake:

2 1/4 c cake flour, sifted, and extra for dusting pans
1 large egg plus 5 egg whites
3/4 c cream of coconut *
1/4 c water
1 t coconut extract
1 t vanilla extract
1 c sugar
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces

2 c packed shredded sweetened coconut

for the buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 c sugar
pinch salt
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, each piece cut into 6 pieces
1/4 c cream of coconut
1 t coconut extract
1 t vanilla extract

To bake cake:

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position; preheat to 325. Grease and dust with flour 2 9-in cake pans.

2. Beat whole egg and egg whites to combine in large liquid measuring cup . Add cream of coconut, water, coconut and vanilla extracts; beat with fork til combined.

3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of mixer and beat on lowest speed to combine--30 sec or so. With mixer still running at lowest speed, add butter, 1 piece at a time, til mixture like coarse meal and there are no large butter pieces: 2-2 1/2 minutes

4. With mixer still running, add 1 cup egg mixture to flour and butter mixture. Increase speed to med-high and beat til light and fluffy--45 sec or so. Add remaining liquid in steady slow-ish speed. Stop mixer, scrape batter down sides of bowl, then beat at med-high speed to combine (batter will be thick).

5. Divide batter between pans and level with rubber spatula. Bake til cakes are deep golden brown, have pulled away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30-40 minutes. (Rotate pans from front to back after 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

6. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen from sides with paring knife, invert onto racks and reinvert so tops face up. Cool to room temp.

7. To toast coconut: while cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet, toast in oven til shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, 15-20 min, stirring a couple of times.

For the frosting:

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in mixing bowl; set bowl over a saucepan containing 1 1/2 in of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly til mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers 120 degrees on instant read thermometer (which I do not own and was fine without), about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Beat whites at high speed in mixer til barely warm (80-ish degrees if you have thermometer), glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes, Reduce speed to med-high and beat in butter, 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer, scrape down sides of bowl, then beat again at med-high speed til well combined, about 1 minute.

To assemble cake: If your cakes got tall enough, split each cake into 2 layers (the book has an illustrated guide as to how to do this well). Otherwise, frost top of one layer, place next layer on top and frost whole cake with a thin layer. Put in fridge to set for 10 minutes, then add as much frosting as you want, spreading and leveling with butter knife (or frosting spatula which, again, I do not have). Sprinkle top of cake with toasted coconut, then press coconut into sides of cake with your hands, letting excess fall onto parchment paper or something. Decorate, light, mount, whatevs and cut and serve when you're ready! You will have lots of frosting left over if you only do 2 layers.

*Cream of coconut is found in the liquor section of the grocery store and it is highly processed artificial stuff. But it makes this cake awesome. If anyone wants to come over for pina coladas, I have a bunch left in the fridge.

1 comment:

  1. I love coconut cake & Cook's Illustrated (the magazine)! VERY WELL DONE! xo.