A really, really good coconut cake

My typical m.o. when writing the upcoming month’s weekend dessert menus at the PR is to come up with a cake, tart, or pie first, and then pick a complimentary ice cream or sorbet flavor. This week I did the opposite. The tail end of winter usually brings out great tropical fruits to help with dreaming of warmer weather, and as I predicted a month ago, by the end of February the pile of mangoes made its appearance at the grocery store. Mangoes are amazing, and I’m going to cheat a little bit and just stir in chamoy, chili, and tamarind to make mangonada sorbet for next week’s Mexican specials. But for now, just mango.

I didn’t even mean to start waxing poetic about mangoes. I’m doing the thing that drives me crazy with typical food blogs, blathering on and on about something else entirely when y’all just came here for a damn cake recipe.

Coconut is a natural pairing for mango. My mama’s advice was to just use box mix and seven-minute frosting, which is a perfectly good way to make coconut cake. I’m just a fan of making my life more difficult. The results were so worth it.

Coconut Chiffon Cake

  • 7 eggs, separated
  • 300g white sugar
  • 235g cake flour (or, just be like me and do 35g cornstarch and 200g all-purpose flour because you can’t be bothered)
  • 12g baking powder
  • 5g salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 T coconut extract

I followed your standard chiffon cake procedure: beat the yolks and sugar to ribbon; whisk in the vegetable oil, coconut extract, and coconut milk; sift the dry ingredients together and fold in; whip egg whites to stiff peak and gently fold into the batter. I greased and floured three 9-inch cake pans, split the batter between them, and baked the layers at 325°F for about 30 minutes.

It’s really personal preference on how to fill and frost this cake, but I’m a fan of whipped cream. It’s light and won’t weigh down the airy texture of the cake itself. I whipped two cups of cream with sugar to taste and folded in the rest of the coconut milk from the open can, about a half cup of creme fraiche (but sour cream will do you), and a little more coconut extract. If you’re serving grownups, a splash of coconut rum is a delightful addition. “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker,” as they say.

I took about a third of the frosting and folded a half cup of shredded sweetened coconut into it to use as the filling between the layers. All the rest went on the outside and the whole shebang got covered in toasted shredded coconut.

Enjoy, and dream of warmer days ahead. Preferably filled with this cake.

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