Thursday, January 9, 2014

Coconut Buttercream with Toasted Coconut Topping

Q: If you put chocolate chips on top of a vanilla cake, does it become a Chocolate Cake?
A: No.

Q: Then, why is a vanilla cake covered in coconut flakes a Coconut Cake?
A: Uhhhhh........

Until recently, American bakers had no way to get coconut into a cake other than the flakes. Sure, there's coconut extract, but have you ever tried baking with that stuff? Even 1/4 teaspoon of the "natural extract" makes everything taste like sunblock. I've served a cake that tasted like Hawaiian Tropic covered in pencil shavings. There were leftovers. 

Today, every supermarket in the country stocks canned coconut milk. Time to up our coconut game! Start by making it with chocolate cake - why is white cake the law of the land?

Coconut Buttercream
1 can of coconut milk
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6-7 cups of powdered sugar

Some cans of coconut milk are topped with a coagulated lump of fatty solids that you can simply scoop out. Some are more homogeneous and need to be strained through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, which takes half an hour. You won't know what kind you have until you open it. Sorry.

Scoop or strain the solids out of the can of coconut milk. Beat the butter and coconut solids in a stand mixer for several minutes. Add the vanilla and then the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. You may need a little more or less, depending on how watery your coconut milk is. This recipe makes enough for a three-layer cake.

Toasted Coconut
1 cup sweetened, flake coconut
your full attention (this stuff burns if you get distracted)

Heat your oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the coconut in a thin layer on the foil and put the pan in the oven. Every two minutes, toss the coconut around - I find it tends to burn around the edges first. Ideally, in 8-10 minutes you'll end up with a range of shades, some almost white, and some dark brown. Let it cool for at least two minutes before decorating your cake.

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