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Jan 21, 2009 08:03 AM

Coconut Cake

Hello all,

I am not a southerner by any stretch, but I do so love the food they make down there. I've been thinking about trying to make a coconut cake for a while, and I just wanted to see some discussion on them. :D

The recipe focused on in this post seems like basically what I'm looking for. That said, I'm not particularly concerned about being 100% traditional, and I'd like to punch things up a bit.

I was considering various things to kick things up a notch, so to speak, and I wondered what people thought - obviously, I wouldn't want to do all these at once:

1. Make lime syrup and drizzle it over the cake layers before frosting

2. Add pecans to the center layer of frosting and as decoration on top

3. Work in more tropical fruits - pineapple and passion fruit come to mind - but how?

4. Use rum somehow - probably a syrup over the cake layers

I'm guessing any of those ideas would be tasty enough, but what would you do?

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  1. Trying to change a southern staple like that can be like dancing with a lion. Mrs. Sippi even gets upset when southerners make changes to the "Old Guard" recipes.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      No doubt--

      If I were making it for my friend from South Carolina, then yeah, I'd go 100% traditional - but since I'm not making this to impress any southerners. I'm making it because I think it sounds tasty. :D

      1. re: nickblesch

        I tend to get confused by her rigidness about things like that. That's how food evolves and even gets invented.
        I do however understand the tradition.


    2. I made the BEST coconut cake. My friend Brooks gave me the recipe( he and his cake were featured in Nov 08 issue of Southern Living). Its freaking AMAZING.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Calipoutine

        I didn't have time to run by the library and check out the Southern Living recipe, unfortunately, but it's on my list of things to do.

        Anyway, I decided to throw caution - and tradition - to the wind, and I made a Thai Coconut Cake.

        I followed the recipe for the cake given above, although I added 2 tsp of coconut extract to the cake to punch up the flavor. After the cake cooled, I gave all the layers a good douse of a ginger-lime syrup I made. I then coated the cake in a standard buttercream frosting with a tablespoon of coconut extract added to the usual ingredients. Then I coated the cake in toasted coconut. The final touch: I made a blend of equal parts ground cardamom and allspice, with half as much ground ginger and just a dash of white pepper, and I gave the top of the cake a light dusting with the spices.

        The cake turned out fabulous. The ginger-lime flavor was noticeable but not overpowering on the layers, and the spices were at the exact right amount - just barely there, just a little warm - when you ate the top layer of the cake.

        To anyone looking to follow in my footsteps: the cake I made was extremely, ridiculously rich. It's delicious, but it may be too much for some folks. On the bright side, the flavor profile can easily be adapted to a lighter cake, or you could use something other than buttercream, or both - in any event, give the idea a try. You'll be happy you did. :D

        1. re: nickblesch

          The southern living recipe is availble online.

          1. re: nickblesch

            Since your OP asked for suggestions...
            next time, don't use a buttercream!!! Especially with all the wonderful tropical flavors that you were considering and that you finally settled on. Too heavy!
            The traditional frosting for coconut cake (and most others) in the South is a boiled/7-minute/Italian Meringue type frosting. NO fat. They hold up well in the heat and humidity and are light as a feather. The other flavors can shine through instead of all that heavy greasy butter in the tropical swelter.
            Even if it's not hot, the lightness is a plus.
            Give it a try. Maybe not easy the first time but you'll conquer it quickly. The pure, dead white color is a wonderful thing to have in your repertoire as well.

            1. re: MakingSense

              There is a recipe for a coconut lime cake with boiled icing in the gourmet anniversary cookbook. When I find time I will find the page, etc and post it here.

              That recipe with its coconut and lime is amazing, and with the addition of the raspberry coulis they recommend, it becomes sublime.

              1. re: MakingSense

                I'd like to try the boiled icing, but I ended up making the cake a lot more on the fly than intended. As such, I ran with something I know: buttercream. I plan on changing the icing next time, to be sure.

                Also, I'd love to find a lighter cake recipe. The recipe linked above was pretty heavy and moist (which, all things considered, is perfectly tolerable), but I think something lighter and airier would be more in line with my taste - even if it's not 100% grade-A southern cooking.

                1. re: nickblesch

                  You are forgiven! LOL The first time out on that boiled icing is scary since we don't make them any more. What a pity! They are wonderful things! Light and airy when done right. And the lovely pure white color is so wonderful. The pure flavor lends itself to delicate flavorings. Those generations of Southern cooks were really on to something. This is still the basis of a lot of Euro pastry too so its well work learning. Once you do it a couple of times, it's easy. Go for it.
                  Is there really a problem with a rich dense cake? Coconut is so intense on its own - how can it be light? Keep the filling and frosting light and you'll be OK.
                  Flavor is the most important thing. Don't mix too many things.
                  I love a lightly-cooked pineapple filling sometimes. All things tropical. Keep it within the same latitudes and you'll do fine.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I suppose I should try the same cake with lighter icing and see how I like that - you've got a point there.

                    And I don't have a problem with rich, denser cakes per se. I made a wonderful pumpkin spice cake for Thanksgiving that was more like a 9" round pumpkin bread than anything else, and it was great.

                    I suppose that the main issue I had with the cake was that by the time I had the idea down for what I was going to do, I was thinking about something different from what I'd already baked. It's barely been above freezing here for weeks (and I know plenty of people farther north than I have had it far worse), and I think I just need some light, summery foods to perk my spirits up. And that's why some kind of citrus sorbet is on the menu for next week. :D

                    1. re: nickblesch

                      This is citrus season - at least in the US. Most people don't realize that any more since supermarkets carry the imported stuff year round but that's why you often get those dry lemons, limes, and oranges in the summer. They've been stored for a long time and dried out.
                      I grew up in New Orleans and there were local oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, satsumas, etc. and we couldn't wait until late fall when they started showing up in roadside stands, stores, and in the French Market.
                      No Holiday table was complete without Ambrosia, made with oranges, pineapple and coconut - all considered Winter fruits. The pineapples and coconuts came in through the Port of New Orleans along with bananas from the Caribbean and were plentiful all winter.
                      The Crew of Zulu even tossed coconuts to favored friends from their Parade floats on Mardi Gras Day.
                      In Spring we switched to local berries and then the stone fruits in summer.
                      Apples? Nope. They don't grow in the Deep South. The ones in the stores were terrible and we grew up wondering what all the fuss was in our reading books. Why did the Yankees like those terrible, mealy things?

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Heh, apples grow all over the place near me, and I wondered the same thing until I was introduced to apples other than Red Delicious. (How they got such an inappropriate name, I'll never know.)

                        As for citrus being in season, I wouldn't know. I'm in Indiana and since Whole Foods / TJ's / Fresh Market are all too far away for a simple run to pick up fruit, everything I get from the nearby Kroger is usually less than fresh and usually unimpressive. That said: they're getting better about having nice-quality organic stuff, so there's always hope. :D

                2. re: MakingSense

                  Agreed, agreed, agreed! Boiled/7 min/White Mountain is fabulous frosting, and just what you need for a coconut cake that is already rich.

            2. There's an incredible looking recipe for coconut cake in The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread from the NYC bakery. I haven't made it yet, since there are only two of us, unless I give the dogs some (and that would be a real shame, to waste cake on the quadrupeds.) I'm afraid you'd have to roll us out of the house after we finished such a big cake. I was sorely tempted by the photo and the look of that recipe with its custardy filling.

              3 Replies
              1. re: amyzan

                you may not want the answer to your problem, but why don't you make the cake individual, mini loaf or cupcake sized, freeze all but 2 portions and then split and fill and frost with any receipe that you can cut down to a small amount. Maybe half or quarter the frosting freeze tthe extra of that too, and use a jarred lemon or lime curd or even marmalade as the filling.

                1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                  I actually do make six inch cakes, mostly carrot cake with cream cheese frosting or apple cake with caramel frosting. These are recipes in Small Batch Baking by Debbie Maugans Nakos--each cake recipe makes one six inch layer.

                  I'll consider sorting out the Amy's Bread recipe, but it can get somewhat tricky. I've used the formulas in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible to reduce recipes, but the challenge in this house is that even frozen, cake doesn't last long. So, portioned and frozen or not, if I make the whole recipe, the whole recipe generally gets eaten in short order. Sad but true. I prefer to make a smaller portion most of the time. We have sometimes shared a large cake with the local nursing home which has only a few residents. They appreciate homemade desserts, and we appreciate having only a piece or two without the rest going to waste, or to our waists!

                  1. re: amyzan

                    glad to know someone else has issues with eating frozen cake right out of the freezer. Frozen cookie dough , too. *sigh*