Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ina Garten's Coconut Cake - A special dessert for a Southern Gentleman

Last weekend, our married couple/friends invited Craig and I  to see a musical production at our local college. I decided to invite this lovely couple (Larry & Lynn) to our home for a pre-theater dinner. "Larry" is from Atlanta, Georgia and he appreciates my cooking   I like Larry!  His wife, Lynn, is also a sweetheart who admits that she doesn't really care for cooking, herself. She's always thankful to be invited to our kitchen for a home cooked meal.  I've been looking for an excuse to make a Coconut Cake.  If I'm not mistaken, Coconut Cake is a Southern delight, so I thought Larry would appreciate this dessert. I also happen to be a huge fan of coconut, and cake-- so I had the perfect excuse to make this.  I found this recipe in  my personal copy of :

Anytime I see almond extract in a recipe, I am ready to give it a try.  I was relieved to see that I had all of the ingredients to make this.

Don't faint! You use 3 sticks of unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, vanilla extract and almond extract, plus 3 eggs.  I use King Arthur unbleached flour. Yes, it costs more, but I love KAF products. (The entire recipe will be at the bottom of this post. If you subscribe via Feedburner, then you will need to JUMP to my blog to print the entire recipe.)  It's important to bring the butter and eggs to room temperature. It really improves the texture of the cake. Right, cake baker experts?

Line 2 9-inch pans with parchment paper. I like to use "Cake Release" from Wilton, or you can use the tradtional butter and flour.
 Sift the dry ingredients

Cream the butter and sugar until it's really fluffy. With cake baking, I've learned that this is also an important step-- hence room temperature butter.

Add the eggs, one at a time, then alternate adding the milk* and dry ingredients-- ending with the dry.
NOTE:* Some reviewers said to substitute coconut milk for the whole milk. I usually stick with a recipe, as is, the first time-- then make notes and adapt it next time.

Ina's recipe calls for both vanilla and almond extract. Again, some reviewers said they substituted with cococut extract. You decide... but, for me, almond extract it is!

I liked the taste of the cake batter. So, now, we fold in 4 ounces of sweetened shredded coconut.

The batter is a little on the thicker side. King Arthur Flour's Blog (which I love) recommends weighing batter, to divide evenly. It's a good tip, so I have less chances of baking lopsided layers.

Here are two baking gadgets I use all the time-- an off-set spatula to smooth out layers, and "baking bands" which I soak in water and wrap around the cake pans. They really seem to help cakes bake more evenly, and they tend to rise higher and more level.

The recipe says to bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes. Mine were ready in just under 45 minutes, so adjust according to your oven.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 30 minutes on a rack; remove the cakes onto the rack and allow them to cool completely, before frosting.

Ina uses a traditional cream cheese frosting with this cake. She adds both almond and vanilla extract. It is very creamy, and Craig licked the beater clean. He liked it a lot.  Did I mention that the frosting has two packages of cream cheese and two sticks of butter. Weight Watchers will not be calling me as  a spokesperson!

Frosting the cake is messy work, because you need to pat additional shredded coconut onto the sides. Hence, a traditional buttercream probably wouldn't work for this. More on that later...

When our dinner guests arrived, it was cute to see Larry's eyes fixating on the cake. He was thrilled!

From a true Southerner, his honest review of the cake was "very moist, not too sweet and just like home".  It made me happy to see him delight in each bite of this dessert.

When we returned home, I froze four slices of this cake to give to Larry, when he returns from a week long business trip. I am happy to say that I ate two slices of this, in two days. My husband? He confesses to eating six slices of it over three days. He's put the guilt trip on me, but I won't take that one. I did not force him to eat it! 

My opinion of this cake? I agree, it was very moist.  I liked the frosting, but I think (next time) I'd rather make a butter cream frosting with less powdered sugar-- it needs to be soft enough to make the coconut stick.  I think I'm in the minority of folks who likes cream cheese frosting (as opposed to loves)-- to me, it's good but I'm definitely a butter cream kind of gal.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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Stacey Snacks said...

Looks like the perfect remedy for a "sweet tooth!".

George Gaston said...

Debby, this cake sounds absolutely incredible!

Mary said...

This looks marvelous. Ina's recipe in your hands are a thing of beauty.

Trish said...

Debby....I think this is stunning. I know someone too...who would love this beyond...well beyond belief! Grin....I am definitely going to be making it. Thanks for your is so helpful and one of my friends bought those 'cake bands' and says they do help indeed. So here the novice is going to start getting into it!

Mimi said...

Beautiful cake. Perfect for my coconut lovers. I'm with you on the buttercream.

Kim said...

The cake looks fantastic! I would have to say that coconut cake and red velvet cake would be tied for top place down here in the south. Some people combine them and put the coconut frosting on the red velvet cake ;D Sounds like your guests were very happy!!

KAF Customer Service said...

Debby, Beautiful cake! Glad we could help you achieve your goal. Frank @ KAF, baker/blogger.

TKW said...

Debby, this cake is a stunner!! You should enter it in the Bon Appetit dessert blogging contest!!

Kate said...

Oh yum! I am a fan of coconut and have been wanting to make this cake. Alas, I have no least at the moment I do not. I am working on it, though!

Monica H said...

When you told me you made a coconute cake, this is the one I immediately thought of- I've heard it's very good. And according to Larry it tastes like home. How sweet is he?

I am a Lover of cream cheese frosting. I don't want to push anyrecipes upon you but the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting on my blog is luscious. It's think like a buttercream and soft and fluffy and I think it would be awesome on this cake- mmaybe add a little almond extract instead of vanilla???

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Coconut Cake is my "dream cake." Looks fantastic! Ina initially did a recipe for coconut cupcakes that was so good, I think she may have adapted it into this cake.

Donna-FFW said...

Ive made her coconut cupcakes and have enjoyed them. I have to try the cake version.

Anonymous said...


Waverly said...

Wonderful post; wonderful photographs. I especially like the lead photo - the piece of cake in front of the cookbook version. Yours looks exactly like Ina's! It had to have been good.
Happy Thanksgiving!

heartnsoulcooking said...

This cake sounds and looks WONDERFUL!!! I love coconut and a GREAT!!! coconut cakes reminds me of my grandma. She made a AWESOME!!! coconut cake.
THANKS!!! for the tips.

Chow and Chatter said...

this looks amazing love your blog, you can really cook Rebecca

Cheryl said...

That is one gorgeous cake! Sounds tasty to boot. p.s. You inspired me to buy the paddle attachment with the scraper thing, heaven!

Muneeba said...

Ohhhh, I just posted an Ina Garten recipe on my blog too! But I gotta say, I saw that episode where she actually made this coconut cake, and it was all I could do to stop myself from running into my TV! Your coconut cake looks perfectly most and tender and ... divine.

Ingrid said...

Yum! Wait! Let me say that again YUM! It looks wonderful Debby! I'd love to be digging into a slice of that beauty. you really think those baking strips work? I have some but never use them. Guess I need to give them a try.

bella said...

Yup, Coconut Cake is a Southern love! This step by step was perfect for this Midwesterner to learn how to make one! Thanks! Roz