Saturday, February 7, 2009

Happy birthday Valar! Southern Coconut Cake

It was Valar's birthday on Wednesday, and of course, I couldn't resist making her a special cake - she is one of the biggest supporters of my baking.

The cake above is a triple-layer Southern Coconut Cake from Sky High - Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Hunstman and Peter Wynne. No alcohol is involved, which is good for Valar, who does not drink.

The cake looks a little like an unmade bed because, when I moved the cake, the top layer started to crack - weird, huh? You'd think that the bottom layer would give way under the weight of it all, but not in this instance. After this photo was taken, I tried to move the cake to another, taller box, but that's when things went really downhill - the top layer actually broke into four and started to slide off. I had to hastily push it back together and redecorate the top of the cake. All's well that ends well though, because overnight in the fridge, the icing set up nicely, holding it all together.

The cake is comprised of three layers of coconut-milk flavoured cake:

which are glued together with a cream cheese-buttercream frosting:

Despite my experiences, it is actually an easy enough cake to make. The hardest part is making the devilish meringue-buttercream frosting, which I now seem to have gotten into a rhythm of making without too many dramas.

The resulting cake is very sweet and coconutty, but I found it to be delicious. Again, this is definitely not a cake for the diet conscious, but the object here is celebration!

To make the cakes themselves, you will need:

5 egg whites
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used almond essence instead)
3 cups plain flour
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g softened butter, diced
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the light version, and it was fine)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line 3 x 9 inch cake tins.

Whisk the egg whites slightly, then whisk in the 1/2 cup milk and the vanilla, then set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat the ingredients on low until the lumps have been removed. Add the butter and coconut milk to the dry ingredients, beating on low speed, until just combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the egg white mixture to the other ingredients in three batches, mixing until just combined after each addition.

Place the batter into each of the three cake tins in roughly equal amounts, and bake in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes. Once baked, remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, you can make the frosting and assemble the cake. To make the frosting, you will need:

345g cream cheese (I used light cream cheese without any problems)
200g softened butter, diced
1 cup sifted icing sugar
2 teaspoons vailla extract (I didn't have any so I left it out without negative effect)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat with the mixer until smooth. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Set aside.

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stiring to disssolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn down the heat and allow the syrup to keep boiling until it reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit (soft ball stage for you candy makers out there!).

While the syrup is boiling, put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Once the syrup is ready, begin mixing the egg whites on low speed, and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites while continuing to beat them. Avoid splatters as much as possible, as the syrup which splatters will solidify on the side of the bowl - don't try to scrape it in!

Once all of the syrup has been poured in, increase your mixer speed to high and beat the egg whites until they are stiff and have cooled to body temperature. (Or if, like me, you are puzzled about how you will know it has reached body temperature as you don't want to stick your fingers in and get burned, it will be fine once it looks like a meringue.)

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in the cream cheese mixture a little at a time until it has all been mixed in, then increase your mixer to medium speed and beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy.

Now you are ready to assemble the cake.

Measure out 2 1/2 cups of flaked coconut.

Put one cake layer on a cardboard cake circle, and spread one cup of frosting over it. Cover this with 1/2 cup of coconut. Put the second cake layer on top, and repeat the frosting and coconut layers. Finally, top with the last cake layer, and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Pour the remaining shredded coconut onto a large flat plate. Holding the cake in one hand over the tray, pick up the coconut between the fingers of your other hand and press it into the sides of the cake. Rotate the cake slightly and repeat until the sides of the cake are coated in coconut. (This can be tricky as the cake is heavy and the laeyrs are a little slippery.) You can then either sprinkle the top of the cake with coconut, or you can decorate it in your own way (as I have).

It is a very tall cake, so be sure that, if you need to transport the cake, you have a cake carrier or a box which is tall enough for the job. (I used a coffee maker box!)

Happy birthday Valar!!!


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Mmm that looks scrumptious! There's nothing quite like a Southern cake for indulgence :)

The Blonde Duck said...

That looks delicious! I think it's so sweet you make cakes for your friends!

Sara said...

What a great looking cake! I've never made coconut cake before, but I do love the Barefoot Contessa's coconut cupcakes.

Arfi Binsted said...

it seems that you really enjoy baking, Gaye. Would love to be amongst the lucky friends you've entertained there hehehe

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Lorraine - I no, evil but sooooo good at the same time.

Thanks Duckie - baking is very zen. You need to get your boy off his diet so that you guys can have cake (or cinnamon rolls!) again.

Hi Sara, thanks. I've heard so much about the Barefoot Contessa's recipes, but I have only ever made her chicken salad (which was outstanding, BTW).

Hi Arfi, if I am ever over your way (or vice versa), maybe we can bake together!

giz said...

I love the cake!!! So pretty.

There's something for you on our blog.

jesse said...

OMG, I'M a big supporter of your baking! I want a cake too! ^_^

Tammy said...

yum, that cake sounds and looks delicious. I am so sad for you that your Mother sold your trixie books! :0)

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Giz :) I am curious - I will need to check out your blog post haste!

Hi Jesse, Come to Oz my girl and I will make you a cake ;).

Thanks Tammy. I am sad about it too, even though it happened over 10 years ago :( Those were the days when you could get a Trixie Belden at the local book exchange for 33 cents.

The Caked Crusader said...

That's the sort of cake I dream about falling face-first into!

Glad to hear you're ok. Every time I see the news the images from Australia are more devastating. Keep safe.

natalia said...

Very beautiful !!

Cakelaw said...

LOL Crisader - I won't be able to get that vision out of my head. It's terrible about the fires - about 70km or so outside of Melbourne, and so many people affected in some way - unimaginably horrible. They are still burning.

Happy cook said...

Looks yumm delicious.

Maria said...

Coconut cake...super delicious!! It looks lovely!

Rosie said...

That looks delicious and I love this book too as I'm baking from it with The cake Slice Bakers.

Rosie x