Baking is not my specialty. My skills in that area lean mostly toward chocolate chip cookies and one-bowl brownies (I can do both quite well), but anything out of the ordinary or terribly fancy is usually left to the experts. For birthdays, I normally do cake or cupcakes made from a box mix, or even better, head down to the fabulous grocery store bakery by my house and buy one of their mouthwatering cakes.
This year I asked Claire what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday and she had three requests: coconut, chocolate, and home made. Okaaaaay. I can do that. I think.
Searches through my cookbooks and the internet did not yield the recipe I was looking for. They either wanted me to break down a real coconut – definitely a project for another day – or they were a little wedding-ish. And there were no chocolate components in any of them. Really? I’m the only person who has ever thought to combine these two things in a cake? So…I took the cake from one recipe and tweaked it a bit, got the frosting from another recipe, and found a chocolate mousse recipe somewhere else to use as the filling. And then I covered the whole construction with shredded coconut. I’m thrilled to say it looked impressive and tasted terrific. Whew!
Basic Cake with a Coconut Twist
(adapted from Paula Dean’s 1-2-3-4 cake recipe)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
Grease and flour 3 – 9 inch round cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffly. Add sugar and continue to cream for 6-8 minutes (scrape down the sides every once in awhile). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and coconut extract and beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan but holding pan 3 or 4 inches above the counter, then dropping it flat onto the counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake (plus it’s fun). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5-10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely before building cake.
Fluffy 7-Minute Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water and egg whites in the top of a double boiler (or a metal bowl that you can place over a pan of boiling water). Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that the boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
Dark Chocolate Mousse
(from Bobby Flay)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
14 ounces cold heavy whipping cream
3 large egg whites
1 ounce sugar (about 1/3 cup)
Place chocolate in a large bowl set over a pan of boiling water (or use a double boiler) at a low simmer. Stir chocolate until melted. Turn off the heat and let stand. Beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside and hold at room temperature. With a mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until firm. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate using a whisk until almost incorporated. Fold in the whipped cream. Cover the mousse and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour until set.
I made the cake and mousse the night before and then built the cake in the morning. First, cover the edges of the cake plate with wax paper so you can be messy and then pull them out before serving. Lay the the first cake layer down. Cover with half the chocolate mousse. Add another layer and the rest of the chocolate mousse. Top with the last cake layer. Scoop all of the frosting onto the top of the cake and spread all over the top and sides evenly. Sprinkle and pat sweetened shredded coconut all over (I used 1-2 cups). Pull out the pieces of wax paper and serve. Beautiful!