serendipitous reflections

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Coconut Cake

A couple of weeks ago we had Dr. Jones and Barbara over for her birthday dinner. Instead of getting a bakery cake, I made this cake. It's a Martha Stewart recipe that I've had for years. It's one of my step-mom and dad's favorites. Come to think of it, it's probably one of my favorites too. I've never made this cake where people just don't fall in love with it. It's a little time consuming, but worth every minute, I promise. Please make sure to read through the whole recipe before making it.

Coconut Cake
makes three 6" layers*

2 C sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pans
1 C superfine sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten (reserve 2-3 eggs whites for frosting)
2/3 C sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Coconut-Cream Filling (recipe follows)
11 ozs sweetened angel flake coconut
Seven-Minute Frosting (recipe follows)

Heat the oven to 350. Arrange two racks in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of three 6"x2" buttered cake pans with parchment paper.** Dust the bottom and the sides of the cake pans with flour and tap out any excess. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Cream the butter on medium-low speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, and keep beating until the mixture is fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Gradually drizzle in the egg yolks, beating on medium-low speed between each addition until the batter is no longer slick. Beat until mixture is fluffy again, about other 3 minutes.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and sour cream to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat in the vanilla. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven, if needed, for even browning, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer cake pans to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cakes from the pans, and let cool completely on racks with tops up.

To assemble, remove the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cakes. Split each layer in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Set aside the prettiest dome; it will be used for the final layer. Place another domed layer, dome side down, on a serving platter. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of coconut over the cake. Spread a generous 1/2 C of coconut-cream filling over the coconut flakes. Repeat sprinkling and spreading process on the remaining layers are used. Top the cake with the reserved domed layer. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator to firm, 1-2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator, and frost the outside of the cake with seven-minute frosting. Sprinkle the remaining coconut flakes all over the cake while the frosting is soft; do not refrigerate. Cake can be left out at room temperature for several days. (I toasted the coconut for the outside. It is not necessary to toast it.)

Coconut-Cream Filling
makes 4 cups

6 large egg yolks
3/4 C sugar
6 Tbl cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
3 C milk
4 ozs (1 1/2 C) sweetened angel flake coconut
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp unsalted butter for coating plastic wrap

Place egg yolks in a large bowl; whisk to combine; set bowl aside. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture thickens and just begins to bubble, 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk 1/2 C hot sugar mixture into reserved yolks to temper.*** Slowly pour warmed yolks into saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook, while continuing to stir, over medium heat until mixture just begins to bubble, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut and vanilla.

Transfer the filling to a medium mixing bowl. Lightly butter a piece of plastic wrap, and place it directly on top of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer the filling to the refrigerator until firm and chilled, at least one hour.**** The filling may be made a day ahead.

Seven-Minute Frosting
makes 3 cups

2-3 large egg whites
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar with 5 tablespoons of cold water in top of a double boiler. Fill bottom of double boiler with 2"-3"of water; top pan should not touch water. With water boiling vigorously, beat egg mixture using a hand mixer on medium-low for 4 minutes, then on high for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla; continue to beat on high until icing holds its peaks, 3-5 minutes more; do not overmix or icing can get grainy.*****

* The recipe calls for 6" pans, but I used 8" pans because that's what I have. I generally just add little more of each ingredient in the cake recipe. Or I just follow the recipe and have thinner layers, but I reduce the baking time.
**I also butter my parchment paper, then flour it.
*** Tempering the egg yolks is a must. You must constantly stir when pour in the hot liquid or you will have scrambled eggs.
****I have made this recipe a dozen or more times and you really need to refrigerate this filling overnight. If you don't have that kind of time, then at least 3 hours. It helps the cake set up better when you are building it.
*****If the weather is humid, beat the icing for an additional minute in each step to help stiffen it.
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