Apr 17, 2011
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."
Posted by Marie at 7:39 PM