Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cake # 2 - Coconut Cake

So yesterday was baking day.  And what a day it was!  Not only was I busy most of the day, and had to find some time to fit in the baking....the weather was wild!  Sunny, then grey, light rain, then hail, Sunshine visited again, followed by Thunderstorms and lightning, and then a soft pitter patter of rain. A mixed bag so to speak.

Thankfully, the baking of this cake was not a mixed bag.  It was pretty simple.

I gathered my place mise en place (fancy cook/french term for get the ingredients ready and in place.) I find this helpful; to know yes, I have everything, and it's all measured out for me.

Nothing fancy, just the cake ingredients.

So, because I was working with Coconut, I had the Caribbean flair going.  Bob Marley was playing in the background, the weather was the weather (thankfully I was inside) and the Coconut smelled heavenly!

I started just as the book suggested, creaming the butter and sugar together.  One catch here; I forgot to put the butter out to come to room temp :( 

Just as 3 Little Birds began to play, telling me "don't worry, every little 'ting, gonna be alright" I remembered a trick with frozen butter and baking.

With frozen butter, use a cheese grater, and grate the butter into the bowl, this warms it and brings it to room temp in minutes, not hours!

So, I creamed the butter now room temp, and began to add my eggs.  Let me take a moment here to talk about ingredients.  You want the freshest best ingredients you can lay your hands on.  I'm not talking about throwing money away, buying the most expensive thing.  Just go for the best you can afford.  Your cake and taste buds will thank you.  

As for eggs, I prefer eggs that come from a known source.  I dislike the term Organic, or Free Range, as they are legal speak for bureaucracies.  I keep Chickens, for the eggs, as they are far superior to anything I can buy in the stores around here.
Of particular note, the yolk of an egg should be Orange, not yellow.  Yellow is the sign of grain fed only chickens.  Chickens that get greens, have Orange yolks.  Better nutrition so I am told, and better tasting (yep, my blog, my opinion.)

There are my girls.  
Ooh look, eggs!

Okay, off my soapbox.  Back to the cake.  So mixed in the eggs one at a time. Then came the strange part of the recipe.  Normally I bake cakes using the "Muffin Method."  This recipe held some of the wet back (Sour Cream, and Heavy Cream) and asked that the dry (Coconut and Self-Rising flour (see the first cake baking blog for how to make Self-Rising flour)) be put into the mix slowly (or over 2 -3 installments.

So in the photo, this is the last installment of Self-Rising flour (Left) Sour Cream (top), Coconut (bottom) and Heavy Cream (Right)

I wondered why do it this way.  My thought is that by adding the ingredients into the mix and thoroughly mixing each together before adding the next, makes for a softer cake.  How so? Well, if the flour gets liquid and fat and each flour particle is coated thus, they won't clump.  This allows for a moister, lighter, softer crumb (the interior of the cake.)  A note here, I didn't use a mixer at this point, you can just see the hand mixer in the background of the photo, that was used in the Butter, Sugar creaming.  Once I started the dry mix, I folded in the ingredients using a wide spatula. Folding is a technique where you slice through the middle of the mass with the spatula, then scoop and fold the half back over.  Turn the bowl, and repeat until all the ingredients are incorporated.  This is more time consuming, but doesn't beat the flour so much that gluten strands are formed.  This in turn also leads to a softer cake.

Oops, I forgot to mention I had pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees F and set the rack to the middle position of the oven.

As I stated a few days back, I have a 9" Springform pan.  So I used that.  Where I deviated from the recipe, was I didn't use any parchment on the bottom.  I just buttered it up as the recipe suggested, and scooped the batter into the pan.  Now a word on the batter.  This batter was thick.  I scooped it out, and smoothed it with a spatula.  Into the oven it went.

Now, the recipe says to bake for 1 hour.  After the first cake was done sooner rather than later; I set my timer for 30 minutes.  Did I expect it to be done; Nope.  It's just good practice to set your timer early and check on the cakes progress.  Why? Well, every oven is different.  It could be my oven runs hot.  It could be their test kitchen ovens ran cold.  No way to know.  I do know that a dirty oven runs cold.  So it takes longer to bake.  I do not want to insinuate that the test kitchen ovens were dirty, please don't read into that.  I just say this so anyone wanting to play along with this, and try making cakes from scratch... clean your ovens!

So the timer went off at 30 minutes, and top had just started to harden up, obviously not ready.  I set another 10 minutes on the timer.

Beep...Beep...Beep the timer sang; 40 minutes in.
Starting to see browning around the edges (and yep, that's a drip pan underneath, I like to keep the oven clean, so if it spilled out or over, the drip tray catches it.

Still not ready, so put another 5 minutes on the timer.  At this stage, I wanted to toothpick test every 5 minutes or so.

50 minutes.  Toothpicks inserted come out clean.  The first test at 45 minutes had some soft spots, that still needed baking.  50 minutes, 5 test sites all clean.  Pulled the cake for resting.

Allowed the cake to rest for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan.  The moment of truth:

Bingo! We have a winner!  sides came out Golden Brown and Delicious (here after known as GBD!)

So I set the timer for 2 hours.  To allow this cake to cool.  By this time, Bob Marley had faded away, and I was into some chill-axing Jimmy Cliff. Now this is an instance where the record labels got it right.  Many Rivers To Cross is a killer song, and it's the A-side.  The b-side to this was Food for Thought while not the song the A-side was, it is an intriguing title.

I have expounded some on food here.  If you have seen any of my other blogs; you will note that I take food seriously (I grow and raise much of what I eat.) This blog was my wife's challenge to me, to get back into writing.  Move out of my comfort zone, and try something new.  It's something we should all do.  And food is the easiest way to do it.  Think about what you like, then think about how you can make it yourself!  Plants want to grow, and don't need much.  If you like tomatoes, get some seed, put it in a pot with dirt, and give it sunlight and water.  It will do the rest.  Have patience, and sometime in July or August, you will have the tastiest tomato you have ever eaten.  

Now in my case, the food for thought comes from Coconut.  While my daughter doesn't like the smell, taste or texture.  I can take it or leave it.  This cake is all about the Coconut.

So in the frosting, I mixed the egg whites with the Coconut and then slowly added the confectioners (powdered) sugar into the mix.  I spread about 1/2 of the mixture onto the top of the cake, and spread it on with a spatula.  Then using my hands (yes I washed) I crumbled the remaining half the icing onto the top of the cake to give it depth.
Ah, isn't that pretty!

So Here is what we were shooting for:
Page 79 in the book Up Close on Cakes

My version:
As I stated in the pre-bake blog.  I don't use food coloring or dyes.  I don't like to add chemicals unnecessarily and as it was optional just to make pink coconut; I opted out.  I think the white coconut is more natural and still quite stunning.

So as for the taste testing.  This cake is moist and soft. It isn't crumbly, and holds it shape very well.  And as for taste, the name says it all; Coconut.  The icing isn't overly sweet, and you really get the taste of coconut throughout.  The cake by itself, also has the taste of coconut, and and the texture has a nice tooth-i-ness (or chewiness if you prefer) from the coconut in the cake.  Everyone greatly enjoyed it.  Well, my 8 year old nephew had some, more than one bite, as he experienced new tastes and textures.  His take on the cake "it could use a bit less coconut, but it's still really good)
His piece just before his report....gotta love the unvarnished truth you get from kids.

Two of the other taste testers said it was fantastic, and definitely a desert cake, and one they would've loved for Easter!  Not for this year, but I will keep it in mind for an Easter down the road.

All in all, this would rate as a keeper.  Easy to make. Wonderful coconut flavor.  Not overly sweet.  Something nice on a spring day.

Even I a bumbling rustic throw it together cook, can create something that resembles a photo from the book. No I can't stage around it.  My food is meant to be eaten nay devoured! While we toast each other (in this case with tea, but to each their own) and laugh.  That's what drives my world.

I urge each of you, step out of your comfort zone. Try something new, and you will see, much like the tomato plant, you too will grow.  Seek out new challenges, and try the b-side.  You never know, you just may like it.  That is my Food For Thought (thank you Jimmy Cliff.)

Happy Baking all.

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