Wednesday, April 20, 2011

baked! the infamous coconut cake.

i posted this recipe once before on my short-lived baking blog, prior to deciding to integrate my baking posts here, so apologies if you've seen it before. if you haven't, enjoy!

eight sticks of butter. a carton and a half of cream. ten eggs. four packages of cream cheese. four bags of coconut. half a container of sour cream. untold amounts of flour, sugar, and vanilla. these, friends, came together this weekend to create six layers of cake, filled with coconut cream, frosted with a perfect sweet-but-not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting, and topped with freshly toasted coconut.

this is not a cake for wimps.

i've become kind of famous among my circle of friends for this confection, which is based off the peninsula grill's famous 12-pound coconut cake. i made it for the first time for an office christmas party three years ago; the following year, i was asked to make it again for the same party. then i made it for a friend's easter dinner two years in a row, for my friend k.'s 30th birthday this spring, and recently, i smuggled a big slice of it home for another friend, who promptly requested that i make two (!) for a southern-themed family reunion she was throwing. this past weekend, i made another one for that same friend, who requested it for an event to benefit a local theater. (cool, right?)

that's the thing about this cake: it feels southern. and despite the fact that i've made it in the fall more times than i can count, when i taste it i am immediately taken to a place where it's served with sweet tea and a southern accent on a whitewashed front porch lined with pink flowers. it's comfort dessert at its best.

i find that when it comes to coconut, and specifically eating coconut, people either love it or hate it. my crowd of friends is generally coconut loving, but even if yours isn't, you should still make this cake. it might even be a converting force. and do yourself a favor and don't use low-fat sour cream or switch out the heavy cream for something lighter; go full-fat all the way. trust me, it's worth it.

the infamous coconut cake
adapted slightly from bon appetit, october 2001

2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
1 tsp good vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup sour cream

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (i use king arthur)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp good vanilla extract

2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (i use philadelphia)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp good vanilla extract

for filling:
stir cornstarch, 2 tbsp water, and vanilla in small bowl to dissolve cornstarch. bring heavy cream, sugar, and butter to a boil in heavy medium saucepan. add cornstarch mixture and bring to boil. remove from heat and stir in coconut. cool completely, then mix in sour cream. cover and refrigerate overnight.

for cake:
preheat oven to 325 degrees. butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl to blend. using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in another large bowl to blend. add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. beat in cream and vanilla. carefully stir flour mixture into butter mixture. divide batter equally among pans. bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. cool completely.

for frosting:
using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in large bowl to blend. then beat in powdered sugar and vanilla extract.

to assemble:
place 1 cake layer on cake plate. top with half of filling. place second cake layer atop filling. top with remaining filling. place third cake layer atop filling. spread cream cheese frosting over top and sides of cake. Pat toasted coconut over top of cake, pressing gently to adhere. ( this cake can be prepared up to one day ahead; simply cover and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature 3 hours before serving.)

p.s. a little side note of pride: this cake was recently auctioned off at a charity event for $550!

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