Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coco-Loco Coconut Cake

Catagory: Dessert
Difficulty Rating: Medium-Hard

I tried out this recipe recently in my quest for the perfect coconut cake. I had some women at  "La Posada" senior residence do a taste test for me and they flipped their wigs! They especially liked the frosting. "You taste the coconut in it before the sugar" they said. "That's because it has Coco-Lopez in it", I replied. Coco-Lopez is a coconut drink mix that you will find in your store's liqour section. There's a whole lot of coconut milk/oil in it-- sweetened and reduced down to a thick,creamy liquid. Which makes for bursting coconut flavor! This recipe is for those of us who sometimes crave a lighter cake instead of a traditional pound-cake style coconut cake.  It's extremely coconutty tasting, very sweet and highly addictive. Great with a cuppa coffee! Just ask the ladies at "La Posada", who went coo-coo for Coco-Lopez Cake. This recipe is adapted from "The Best American Classics" by Cook's Illustrated. Yield: 1 9-inch cake (8 servings, tops)

Cake Layers:
1 large egg plus 5 large egg whites
3/4 C cream of coconut (such as Coco-Lopez--in the liquor section of your store)
1/4 C water
1 t vanilla extract
1 t coconut extract
2 1/4 C cake flour (sifted)
3/4 C sugar (the original recipe has 1 C sugar--too sweet for me!)
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
12 T (or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter--soft but still cool and cut into 12 pieces

4 large egg whites (at room temperature)
1 C sugar
pinch salt
1 lb unsalted butter--each stick cut into 6 pieces--soft but still cool
1/4 C cream of coconut 
1 t coconut extract
1 t vanilla extract
2 C packed sweetened shredded coconut (such as Baker's Angel Flake)

Note: If your cream of coconut has solidified, heat it up in the microwave for about half a minute.


Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 9" cake pans and set aside. Beat the egg whites and whole egg in a large measuring cup with a fork to combine. Add the cream of coconut,water,vanilla and coconut extract. Beat with a fork until thoroughly combined.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, (or with a hand-mixer) combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and the salt .  Mix on lowest speed about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed. Add butter, 1 piece at a time. Then beat until the mixture is lumpy --2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

With stand or hand mixer still running, add 1 cup of liquid mixture. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy...about 45 seconds. With the mixer still running, add the remaining 1 C liquid in a steady stream. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Then continue beating for 15 seconds.

Divide batter between cake pans and level with spatula. Bake about 30 minutes until golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Coconut Buttercream:

Combine the 4 egg whites, 1C sugar and pinch salt in a 2qt. heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan containing 1 1/2 inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly about 2 minutes until this mixture is opaque and pleasantly warm to the touch: 120 degrees on a candy thermometer. Mix whites on high speed with the whisk attachment until barely warm (80 degrees) and the whites are glossy and sticky--about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Don't worry if after all the butter's incorporated it just looks like...lumpy butter. It's supposed to look like that.  Beat in 1/4 cream of coconut and  1 t coconut and 1 t vanilla extract, stopping to scrape the bowl once...about 1 minute. The frosting should look like frosting by now.

To Assemble:

With a long serrated knife...cut both cakes in half so that each cake forms two layers. Or use a piece of fishing line to cut across the cakes horizontally. (I never can find fishing line when I need it, can you? Must be in the Christmas Decorations box...) Then gently press coconut on sides of cake. Pick up cake (I use two large spatulas for this) --leaving all excess coconut behind on paper--and place cake on cake plate. Voila!!! Slice and serve!