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March always means two things to me: daffodils and birthdays. Both my mum and brother have birthdays this month, only eight days apart, which means lots of celebration cake baking in a very short period of time.
But I like that! A layer cake is one of the most fun recipes to create. For my brother’s birthday this past weekend, I decided to make a coconut-white chocolate cake, as he is very fond of the white chocolate-coconut truffles that I frequently sell at my stall at our local markets.
I needed an eggless cake though, because of my mother’s allergy. So I tinkered around with a recipe for a silver-white cake that I had used successfully in the past, working in coconut milk and toasted coconut.
I wanted a cake that truly tasted of coconut on its own: I wasn’t going to just coat a vanilla cake with shredded coconut and call it “coconut cake.” Well, this one does have a good, strong coconut flavour, and is so lovely and moist.
For the frosting, I made a recipe I have long been wanting to try: boiled milk buttercream. I can’t ever use meringue buttercream for family birthday cakes, obviously; but that was the icing we always used at pastry school, and I have missed its delicate, silky texture. I am delighted to find that boiled milk buttercream has an almost identical flavour and mouthfeel! I don’t think I will be using any other buttercream for birthday cakes from now on.
You may not have any birthdays this month, but somehow I don’t think that should keep you from joining in. And if you need a more substantial reason to bake a layer cake than “I want to,” Easter is just around the corner . . .
I am also linking up with Casa Costello’s Bake of the Week.
For the white chocolate filling:
1 ½ oz. dessicated coconut
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
3 ½ oz. coconut milk
For the coconut cake:
1 cup (85 g.) dessicated coconut
1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons (210 g.) white spelt flour, sifted
¾ cup (150 g.) golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup (120 ml) cold water
½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup (60 g.) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
For the boiled-milk buttercream:
½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
2 tablespoons (20 g.) all-purpose flour
4 oz. (115 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 g.) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toasted sweetened coconut, for garnishing
- Make the filling the night before. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F and spread the coconut out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast until gold and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan and stirring the coconut halfway through so that it colours evenly. Let cool.
- Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl, and pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan.
- Bring the coconut milk to a simmer over medium heat and then pour it over the white chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds before gently whisking the chocolate and coconut milk together to form a smooth ganache. Stir in the cooled toasted coconut, cover, and allow to set over night.
- To make the cake, line two 6-inch round pans with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pans. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F.
- Spread the dessicated coconut over a baking sheet and toast it in the oven, stirring frequently, until the coconut is fragrant and beginning to take on a little colour. It doesn’t need to be golden, this is just about releasing flavour.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, golden caster sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.
- In a liquid measure or pitcher, combine the water, coconut milk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and melted butter.
- Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir to combine. Mix in the toasted coconut.
- Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans and place in the oven.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. In a small saucepan, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the milk and the flour, making sure to press out any lumps with a rubber spatula.
- Place over low heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly.
- Simmer for 30 seconds; then pour the boiled milk mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the milk, in order to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool.
- Once the milk is cool, place the butter and caster sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream on medium-high speed for 5 minutes.
- Beat in the vanilla extract and the cooled milk mixture, and continue to mix on medium-high spead for another five minutes. The frosting should be very light and silky smooth.
- Now everything is ready to put together! Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake into two even layers. Place one on a serving plate and spread one-third of the white chocolate-coconut ganache over it. Repeat the layering with two more of the layers, and then finish by placing the last cake layer on top. Press down lightly to secure.
- Brush any loose crumbs away from the top and sides of the cake and ice with the boiled-milk buttercream. Coat the sides of the cake with toasted sweetened coconut, cut into slices, and serve.
Yield: 1 6-inch cake; 6 servings