I don’t like making pastry. Well, I didn’t like making pastry. Now, I feel mostly neutral about it. That’s because I’ve made a concerted effort over the past few months to overcome a lifelong aversion to it via self-inflicted exposure therapy. There have been a lot of things that have helped me get to a place of casual coexistence with the finicky dough (not least of which being a flurry of consolatory messages sent back and forth across the ocean with my comrade in arms in the battle of flakiness, Stepho Snacks), but that’s for another post.
The point is, I put myself on a cake ban until I got the business down.
But last week I was not feeling so hot — something somewhere in between the blues and the angry reds, I guess. This summer’s eternal heatwave had yet to break, and it felt like that was it — we all just lived in a cloud of humidity located two miles from the surface of the sun forever.
I went to the flower market in the morning, daring the heat to get the better of me. When I got home, I just wanted to bake. Not hard bake, not the kind of baking where you concentrate and learn, but the kind that you’ve done so many times that it’s become a routine, a way to let your hands take over while your mind wanders.
I rifled through the cabinets and came out holding a can of coconut milk. My grams used to make a beautiful coconut cake every easter and sometimes even for her own birthday. It’s not the kind of cake I crave very often, but 35 degrees and climbing is not exactly the time or the place for double Dutch cocoa. I may be stuck in the sweltering city, but concrete dwellers have just as much a right to coconut and rum as any tawny beach bum.
For the base, I modified a recipe from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, a heavenly chiffon sponge that would soak up the coconut milk and rum and still remain light and airy. There was something a bit tres leches about the result. I used white rum, as its what I had on hand, but I think dark rum would be even better.
The soak is also behind the mini-cake form — you can’t soak cupcakes like you can a sheet cake. As has already been well documented on this blog, I am partial to less sweet desserts, which means I have a slight aversion to frosting. B gobbled up the mini cakes, while I mostly stuck to the unfrosted scraps, which were, in my opinion, perfect, if less visually attractive.
Now we’re having a bit of a summer revival after a treacherous respite, but the worst of it is over. My favorite baking season is approaching, but it’s not too late for a little summery cake. Gather ye coconuts while ye may, kids.
(As a sidenote, I hope the site redesign isn’t causing too much trouble. It’s going to make it vastly easier for me to organize the site, and I hope it will also make it easier for you to navigate in the long run. I also need to embed a bit of code here for Bloglovin, which will tell you to follow me on Bloglovin — you don’t really have to follow me on Bloglovin. It’s just what the code says. Of course, you can if you want to!)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2/3 c white sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 5 egg whites
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup white or dark rum
- 3 tablespoons dark or muscovado sugar
- 4 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk, chilled
- 1 teaspoon white rum
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- coconut shavings for topping
- Grease a 9"x13" cake pan and preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F).
- Sift together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix half of the sugar, the salt, the vegetable oil, the egg yolks, the water, the vanilla and the nutmeg until creamy and light in color. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined.
- In another large bowl, mix the egg whites and the sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir about a third of the egg whites into the cake batter and then fold in the rest, careful not to over-stir as it will deflate the whites and cause the cake to fall.
- Pour the mixture into the cake pan and smooth over with a spatula. Bake until the cake is golden brown and bounces back when pressed with the finger.
- For the soak, heat the coconut milk and sugar over medium heat in a sauce pan until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the rum and set aside to cool slightly. When both the soak and the cake have cooled to just warm to the touch, pierce the cake all over with a skewer or toothpick. Drizzle the soak over the top and leave on the counter to soak.
- To make the frosting, stir together the coconut milk, rum and vanilla. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to soften the butter. Slowly add the chilled coconut milk to the butter while mixing on high. When the mixture comes together, sprinkle in the salt and begin adding the powdered sugar a cup at a time until the frosting is the consistency and sweetness you prefer.
- Use a round cookie cutter or mold to cut circles out of the sheet cake. Layer the cake circles together with the frosting, frost the tops and sprinkle with the shredded coconut. These cakes are best eaten right away but can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.