Apr 17, 2011

Southern (Manhattan) Coconut Cake with Silk Meringue Buttercream

Jim is usually pretty good-natured about following me around the kitchen with his camera, and cleaning up the kitchen too. Today he said, "I love Rose's cakes, but they use too many hard-to-find ingredients and use way too many pans!" His relative grumbliness may have been because the ingredients and pans were for a coconut cake, and coconut is on his list of foods he does not like to eat. Along with cilantro and avocado. But he had to admit that this cake turned out to be a beauty.

I have gradually figured out the obvious: the cakes themselves are never difficult. It's just the level of folderol that goes along with the cakes that makes them hard--that, and tracking down the necessary ingredients or pans. In this case, once I had the egg whites separated and weighed, and the coconut milk whisked together, the cake almost made itself.

The only thing that was hard to find for the cake itself was the coconut extract--it must be natural, not fake! I couldn't find any natural coconut extract, so I settled on the expensive fake stuff, which smelled much better than the cheaper fake stuff.

The cakes came out of the oven before 11:00, and I thought maybe I'd be done with the whole thing by noon. Of course, that was optimistic. Maybe delusional.

On to the first component of the frosting: the coconut-flavored creme anglaise. Not difficult--just a matter of cooking egg yolks with hot coconut milk (something that would never occur to me to do on my own).

The creme anglaise needs to cool. Should I put it in the refrigerator and start in on component #2, the Italian meringue? Or should I have another cup of coffee and work on the crossword? Those choices are why I never finish the cakes before noon. Also, I just made an Italian meringue last week, and they always make me hold my breath.

The last bit of sugar syrup hardened before I could pour it into the meringue, so I microwaved it to get it to pouring consistency. I discovered that if you heat it for more than a few seconds, it crystallizes into a lump that is definitely not pouring consistency. Luckily, as I've discovered many times before, Rose's recipes, precise as they are, allow for errors.

Is there really a pound of butter in the buttercream? Along with the half-pound in the cake? When did I start keeping spare pounds of butter in the freezer for such exigencies?

The coconut creme anglaise is much runnier than I thought it would be, and the whole mixture starts to curdle. But now I know that buttercream often goes through a curdling stage, so I ignore it, and, sure enough, it smooths out. I could not find frozen coconut. I used a finely grated unsweetened coconut, but it tasted very bland, so I supplemented it with ordinary Angel Flake coconut.

With all the added coconut, the smooth and creamy buttercream became difficult to manage. I banned Jim from taking more photographs of my struggles with icing. It took me a long time to finish, but I finally decided it was good enough. I topped the cake (and tried to side it) with some coconut chips that Woody gave me months ago.

This seems like a cake to have for a baby shower, or a big summer party. It's pretty, and festive, and very good. I wish I'd been able to find the frozen coconut, and the natural coconut extract, but I think the pound and a half of butter may have disguised any sub-par ingredients. The Southern (Manhattan) cake went over well in Southern (Minneapolis).


Jim: "I like the cake, but I still don't like the coconut texture. The really finely grated stuff is okay, but I don't like the big chips. I know you had issues with the frosting, but it turned out looking great."

Karen: "I like the cake's texture. It's somehow meatier than some of the other cakes--not so delicate. It's not heavy, but not too light either. It's one of my favorites, and I've tasted a lot of them. Also, I want to go on record as saying this is a gorgeous cake."


Maria said...

You have gotten to be so great at icing cakes!

How was this frosting? Was it too rich with all that butter?

Vicki said...

"Maybe delusional."
"Or should I have another cup of coffee and work on the crossword?"
"Southern (Minneapolis)"

This is a hysterically funny write up! I bought the coconut milk and am dancing around, trying to get the nerve to make this thing.

Jenn said...

Marie, your cake looks beautiful!!! I think you did an awesome job with frosting the cake. The big coconut flakes makes it look so fluffy.

I also often does not finish the cake before noon (even though I started at 8 or 9!). But for me it's because I try to take on too many things (such as making lunch).

Marie said...

I think the "you can never be too rich" part of the old saying also applies to frosting. The "or too thin" part doesn't work so well.

Do make it! I'm wondering where everyone is this week.

Yes, those big coconut chips are very pretty, aren't they? Thanks, Woody.

Jenn said...

I'm also wondering where everyone is. I kept checking the blog to see if anyone posted. Is the SMBC scaring them?

Monica said...

I made my cake (on saturday and finish it by noon on Sunday), but then we went to the beach and there went the time I needed to photograph it... Tom is dying.. DYING because i'm at work right now (he is at home) and I posted a big STICKY on top of the cake YOU DO NOT TOUCH CAKE - OR DIE! until I come home tonight and have a chance to photography it.

I have recieved a total of 5 phone calls today asking about cutting into the cake.

It looks sooo pretty! And I made cupcakes (I did not use two of the 9x2 pans, but 1 9x3 pan, so I had left over cake batter) and we ate them at the beach yesterday and they were DELISH...not as good as my own coconut version.. but they were good.

And Marie, yours looks just like the book picture.

Jenn said...

Marie, I just recruited a new member for HCB. She'll contact you soon! :)

evil cake lady said...

yeah where is everybody? i just ate a slice so now i can write about it--look for a post tonight.

marie, you are so right. the cakes aren't that hard, it is all the hoohah that complicates things. my creme anglaise looked like yours, and the buttercream turned out great, so i guess it's supposed to be that runny? your cake looks lovely; i would have never guessed you had frosting troubles.

faithy, the baker said...

LOL! Monica's comment to Tom is so funny..made me laugh!

Marie, your cake looks fab!! I wish someone can make it for me and i just taste a slice..since knowing nobody likes coconut cakes here at home, i don't want to go through the hassle and then throw it away. But i would love to try just a tiny slice...

Monica said...

@ Faithy.. I can send you a virtual piece, would that do? Or you can make a small cake and cut the recipe by 1/3 (a lal Jenn) and there, you can make your own little cake and eat it too!

And we tried it last night and the cake is already HALF GONE! It's good, very, very good.

Nicola said...

Oh wow! That cake looks amazing. I think I will be joining Faithy in that virtual slice.

I stuffed up my weeks and thought it was free choice. Placenta brain is in full force.

That said, I don't know if I could have faced the enormity of sourcing fifteen different types of coconut... Given I haven't even iced the Miette Chocolate cake that has been sitting on my bench since Sunday and it is now Tuesday. Actually contemplating eating it sans icing.

evil cake lady said...

Nicola, I bet the Tomboy would be delicious without frosting...maybe some ice cream instead?

lola said...

Marie, Your cake looks wonderful. I had issues with the coconut extract also, couldn't find it - although there are coconuts dropping from the trees here - no extract. This recipe will be on my "to do" list. As someone said, just too much hoohah for me this week. Good job for those who baked with HCB. lola

Marie said...

I want to find out if the keep-off sign actually worked.

She's on the list of HCBers now.

I just realized how much I count on Raymond to start the ball rolling. Maybe he doesn't like coconut?

There's a lot of cake left after one tiny slice is cut out!

Marie said...

I like "stuffed up"--it's a phrase you don't hear over here. I can't believe that your Tomboy has been sitting uneaten for even a few hours! You must try it now--icing or no icing.

Coconuts dropping from trees? Sounds perilous to walk. I'd love to be able to walk outside and pick up a coconut in my front yard! (Mainly because that means it would be warm).

Nicola said...

You will all be pleased to know that the Tomboy was sensational even without icing. Served with ice cream was a winner. Even better without ice cream I am seriously in love with the Tomboy! Have to agree it is the best chocolate cake in the book (that I can recall).