Sunday, February 11, 2024

Coconut Cream Party Cake

 I believe I bought Jessica Battilana’s Repertoire: All the Recipes You Need because it was recommended by Molly Wizenberg, but it also looks like a cookbook that would be right up my alley. In the end, though, I only bookmarked two recipes from it. The first was this greenest green salad, which was fine.

The other was the coconut cream party cake, which I asked the Engineer to make for my birthday. And it was good! That being said, I think I’ll refer to this post if we ever want to make it again, and I’ll donate the cookbook.

The cake itself has a tender and delicate crumb, there’s coconut pastry cream between the layers, and it’s covered in a chocolate ganache that uses water instead of cream. We didn’t use the coconut flakes on the outside of the cake because while I could have gone either way, neither of the kids likes it, and the Engineer knew he would be happier without it.

For the coconut pastry cream
2 cups lactose-free whole milk
2 cups finely shredded sweetened flaked coconut
1 vanilla bean
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. lactose-free butter, at room temperature

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk and coconut. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the tip of a knife to scrape out the seeds; add both seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour. While whisking, drizzle about a third of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then slowly whisk the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking, until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in butter, and remove and discard the vanilla bean pod. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly, then cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap, pressing it down directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. The pastry cream can be made ahead and kept, refrigerated, for 2 days.

For the cake
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ cup lactose-free milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup lactose-free sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup lactose-free butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 °F and arrange a rack in the center of the oven. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, and grease and flour the parchment. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. In a second bowl, stir together the milk and sour cream.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until soft and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing between each addition, then add the egg yolks and mix just until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add a third of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until just combined, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add half the milk-sour cream mixture and mix. Add half the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Add the remaining milk-sour cream mixture and beat until just combined, then add the remaining dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Remove from the mixer and, with a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and give the bater one final stir.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, transfer them to the oven, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden around the edges and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently turn the layers out, peel the parchment off, and let cool completely. The cakes can be made up to 1 day in advance. When the layers are cool, tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. The cooled layers can also be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to a month.

For the ganache
4 oz. good-quality milk chocolate, chopped (we used semisweet)
4 oz. good-quality semisweet chocolate (64%), chopped
1/3 cup water
10 Tbsp. lactose-free butter, cubed

¼ cup large-flake coconut, lightly toasted, for garnish (optional)

While the cake cools, make the ganache. In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and water. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill, stirring occasionally, until the ganache has the texture of peanut butter, about 20 minutes (alternatively, you can let the ganache cool at room temperature until it reaches the desired consistency, about 1 hour; the refrigerator just speeds up the process). The ganache can be made ahead and refrigerated; let come to room temperature before using.

To assemble the cake, use a large serrated knife to cut each cake layer in half lengthwise to create 2 thin layers. (Note: It can be easier to cut a chilled, or even frozen, cake.) Set a cake layer on a cake stand or large plate. Spoon a third of the chilled pastry cream onto the layer of cake and, with an offset spatula, spread into a thin, even layer, stopping just short of the edges. Top with a second layer of cake, top the cake with half the remaining pastry cream, and spread it into an even layer. Repeat this layering until you’ve used all the pastry cream and all 4 cake layers, leaving the final layer of cake plain.

Spoon half the ganache frosting on top of the cake and, with an offset spatula, spread over the top and sides of the cake in a thin layer. Spon the remaining frosting on the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the cake. Press the toasted coconut, if using, onto the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake at least 15 minutes before serving; if you’re refrigerating the cake longer, allow some time for the frosting to come to room temperature before serving. With a sharp knife, cut the cake into thick wedges. Celebrate!

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