Monday, February 2, 2009

Coconut Cake

Let me start by saying this is the worst picture ever. I made the cake for my mom's friend's birthday, so it disappeared from my house shortly before I really had an opportunity to look at the pictures I'd taken and realize the lighting was all wrong!

But seriously, don't let the terrible picture put you off the cake. It was incredible. It got rave reviews via text message from all my mom's friends. It's a moist, delicious cake, flavored and covered with unsweetened coconut, which perfectly balances the supersweet, light-as-air buttercream. I was surprised I liked this, because I'm not usually into layer cakes and frosting, but it was awesome.

Coconut Cake, adapted from Carole Walter's Great Cakes
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (I found it in the organic section at Wegman's)
2 1/3 cups cake flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup (1 and 1/3 sticks) butter
1 and 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, scald the milk and take it off the heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350. Butter and flour 2 9" round cake pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

Cut the butter into 1 inch piecces and put them in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beaters or paddle attachment. Soften on low speed, and cream until smooth and light in color, about 2 mins.

Add the sugar, slowly, taking about 6 to 8 minutes to blend it in well.

Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides. Blend in the vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the coconut/milk mix in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl, and mix 10 seconds longer.

Spoon the batter into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allow to cool 10 minutes, then invert pans onto racks and let cool completely.
Quick Buttercream Frosting, adapted from Carole Walter's Great Cakes
4 and 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cup milk
1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

This recipe makes a large quantity of frosting, as that's one thing you don't want to skimp on when making a cake!

The frosting starts by making a bechamel sauce. Place the flour in a small saucepan, and whisk milk in slowly. Over low heat, whisk constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens to a thick white sauce. Remove from heat and whisk to remove any lumps. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes. It needs to be warm enough to blend in but not so warm that it will melt the butter.

While that cools, cut the butter into one inch pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mier. Soften on low speed, increase speed to medium high, and cream until light and smooth.

Reduce speed to medium. Gradually add sugar. Then add the bechamel sauce over about thirty seconds. Blend in the vanilla and beat for 20 to 30 seconds, until the frosting is fluffy.

To assemble the cake, slice off the tops if they have crowned. Brush crumbs away. Using an offset spatula, place a large dollop on the top of one cake, and spread it to about 1/4" from the edge. Place second cake on top. Cover entire cake with a thin coat, and let dry for about 10 minutes. This is your crumb coat. It will seal in any crumbs so that the next layer of frosting is pristine white. Using the rest of the buttercream, dollop it on top and around the sides, smoothing to an even layer. It doesn't have to be perfect. Using your hands, press coconut flakes into the sides of the cake. Cover evenly.

This cake can be refrigerated, but bring it to room temp before serving. The cake will keep, covered, in the fridge, for up to 5 days.

*If you don't have cake flour, you can substitute one cup of all purpose flour less two tablespoons for every 1 cup of cake flour.

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