Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coconut Cake

For his birthday, my husband asked for a coconut cakeHe even found a recipe in my America's Test Kitchen cookbook and  without even looking at it I said "sure, no problem I can do that". Here is a little tip for you all: always look at the recipe. Once I looked at it I saw that it called for cream of coconut, not only did I not know what that was, I also didn't know where to find it ,or how much 3 cups of it was going to cost me. Not that I am blaming my husband for giving me some crazy cooking challenge, I knew that he simply wanted a coconut cake. So the hunt was on for the the perfect coconut cake recipe. And where else to go then to the Barefoot Contessa, who is always serving her husband wonderful things on perfectly coordinated  and decorated lunch trays? Oh to live the life of the Barefoot Contessa... except I would hate for Scott to be gone all the time and I would get sick of  always wearing denim button-up shirts. Anyway, back to the cake, I found both  a recipe for coconut cupcakes and coconut cake and the only difference was that the cake used milk and the cupcakes used buttermilk. I wanted the flavor and moist texture from buttermilk, so I used the cupcake recipe and just baked it in cake pans for longer. If you wanted to make cupcakes, simply bake for 25-30 minutes.
This cake turned out wonderful and while the softness of the frosting made it a little tricky to frost, it balanced nicely with the dense cake.

Coconut Cake
(The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

Cake Ingredients
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra large eggs at room temperature (or six large eggs, since I never buy extra large)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract ( I used 1 teaspoon coconut extract since I had some on hand)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
7 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

Frosting Ingredients
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I used coconut)
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, shifted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two round  8 or 9 inch cake pans. I like to add a circle of wax paper  or parchment paper  on the bottom of the pans and then grease over that (wax paper is way cheaper and will work just as well for this). This will help the cake come out without getting stuck.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take about five minutes. It is important that your butter is really soft, or creaming it could take awhile. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Make sure to scrape the bowl after each egg is added. Add the vanilla and almond or coconut extract.

In a separate bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the bowl. Make sure to start and end with the dry  and mix briefly after each addition. Mix only until is is just combined, over mixing will cause a dry and dense cake. Gently fold in the coconut. Pour the batter into the cake pans. The batter should come up almost to the edge of the pan. If you are using 8 inch pans, you will have a little left over. I poured it into a mini loaf pan and cooked it along with the cakes. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then remove and cool on a cooling rack for a few hours.

For the frosting, add the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond or coconut extract to the bowl of a mixer and cream together on low speed. Once this mixture is smooth, add the sugar and mix until smooth. To avoid a large cloud of powdered sugar, make sure to add the sugar in increments. Brush off the crumbs from the cakes and frost. Garnish with toasted coconut.

To toast coconut: Place about 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut in a single layer on a sheet pan. Put it in the oven after removing the cake. Since it is small and sugar coated, coconut can go from nicely toasted to burned really quickly. It should only take about 3-5 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Once it starts to brown remove it and cool on the pan.

* Since it is a dense cake and a light frosting, make sure to watch the cake after you cut it. If it is off balance, the top layer might slide off. Like into a bowl of tortilla chips for instance...