Coconut cake has been a diner staple in the Southern United States for decades – but few make it well.
The history of cake dates back to ancient times. The first cakes were very different from what we eat today. They were more bread-like and sweetened with honey. Nuts and dried fruits were often added. According to the food historians, the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to show evidence of advanced baking skills.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of ‘kaka’, an Old Norse word. Medieval European bakers often made fruitcakes and gingerbread. These foods could last for many months.
According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes (round ones with icing) were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. This is due to primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar). At that time cake hoops–round molds for shaping cakes that were placed on flat baking trays–were popular. They could be made of metal, wood or paper. Some were adjustable. Cake pans were sometimes used.
Typically, the cakes used in coconut cake are either white or yellow cakes. While some recipes do not call for coconut flavor in the cake itself, there are others that replace the milk with coconut milk and/or use coconut extract. It is also common to brush the cakes with a simple syrup to make it more moist.
Often the cake layers are filled with either a white frosting or coconut pastry cream. Traditionally, the cake is frosted with a 7-minute frosting, but cream cheese icings and buttercreams are not uncommon. Like the cakes, coconut flavor is not always a must in the frosting. One constant characteristic of coconut cake is the use of shredded coconut (often toasted and/or sweetened) to cover the frosting.
Like the cakes, coconut flavor is not always a must in the frosting. One constant characteristic of this cake is the use of shredded coconut (often toasted and/or sweetened) to cover the frosting.
The incomparable Alton Brown came up with the definitive (and complicated!) recipe for coconut cake years ago – TFD would not dare to mess with such perfection!
Presented for your enjoyment, Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
Alton Brown’s Coconut Cake
- Total Time: 0 hours
- 1 coconut, see Cook’s Note
- For the cake:
- Vegetable oil, for cake pan
- 14 1/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pans, approximately 3 cups
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut cream
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 16 ounces sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 4 egg whites
- 1/3 cup coconut water
- For the 7-Minute Frosting:
- 3 large egg whites
- 12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups
- 1/3 cup coconut water
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces
- Cook’s Note: To open a coconut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the coconut onto a folded towel set down in a large bowl. Find the 3 eyes on 1 end of the coconut and using a nail or screwdriver and hammer or meat mallet, hammer holes into 2 of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a container and drain the water from the coconut. Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place the coconut onto a 1/2 sheet pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. The coconut should have cracked in several places. Using an oyster knife or other dull blade, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Using a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the brown husk from the coconut meat. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry. Break the meat into 2 to 3-inch pieces. With the grater disk attached to a food processor, grate the coconut.
- For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Oil the parchment paper and then flour the pan. Set aside.
- Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.
- Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bang the pans on the counter top several times to remove any air and to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is light golden in color and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.
- Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Once the cakes have cooled completely cut across the equator of each to form 4 layers. Place the ⅓ cup coconut water into a small spritz bottle and spray evenly onto the cut side of the 4 layers. If you do not have a spritz bottle you may brush the coconut water on with a silicone pastry brush. Allow to sit while preparing the frosting.
- Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. In the meantime, place the egg whites, sugar, coconut water, cream of tartar and salt into a medium size-mixing bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water and immediately begin beating with an electric hand mixer set to low speed. Beat for 1 minute and then increase the speed to high and continue to beat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the coconut and vanilla extracts for 1 minute. Allow the frosting to sit for 5 minutes before using.
- Place approximately ¾ cup of the frosting on the first layer of cake, sprinkle with ½ cup coconut and top with the next layer. Repeat until you reach the top layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Calories: 2084.87 kcal
- Sugar: 205.6 g
- Sodium: 882.35 mg
- Fat: 97.98 g
- Saturated Fat: 67.94 g
- Trans Fat: 1.92 g
- Carbohydrates: 295.03 g
- Fiber: 10.31 g
- Protein: 18.93 g
- Cholesterol: 121.9 mg
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