Coconut. My ancient foe. Why anyone would want to eat the chalky white innards of a nut that lives, smug as you please, at the top of a very non-climbing-friendly tree just waiting to detach itself and smash your car? Stupid coconuts.
But since I just can’t say no when a fierce little Russian asks for a coconut and chocolate cake for her birthday, I opened the Baked cookbook to the page I thought I’d never use.
Honestly, I’m glad I did. Not because of the coconut filling. I didn’t even deign to try that part. But the chocolate cake was revelatory. I ate the bits I had to shave off to flatten the layers for stacking, and even though those bits were all edge (the driest part of the cake, yes?) this was the moistest cake I’ve ever made. Those shavings were delightful with peanut butter. Were I less of a drama queen, I might have even enjoyed a slice of the cake. But let’s face it, I’m not going to eat coconut voluntarily.
I adapted the Baked recipe pretty heavily, which I don’t usually do. I didn’t use pecans in the filling, for one. I used milk instead of buttermilk, instant espresso powder instead of coffee, and substituted some of the granulated sugar out in favor of brown sugar. In other words, don’t blame Lewis and Poliafito if you don’t like this cake; I did change it up. But if you like coconut (or want to use a peanut-butter cream cheese frosting instead of a coconut filling), I recommend this cake. It’s so moist it needs no frosting, light enough to happily absorb liquid (you know, in case you want to soak some coffee liqueur into it) and, one of the perks of a three-layer cake, it feeds even a ravenous group quite nicely.
Ingredients (makes a 3-layer cake, serves about 12)
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 cup milk
2 1/2 sticks (20 T) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
3 T instant espresso powder
4 oz. dark chocolate
For the filling:
2 2/3 cups shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
1 stick (8 T) butter
1 5-oz can evaporated milk
3 oz milk
3 egg yolks
1 t vanilla extract
Line three eight-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and butter the paper and sides of the pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the dark chocolate and espresso powder into a small bowl,
and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them. Wait 1 minute (yes, 60 whole seconds) then whisk the mixture together until smooth. Set the hot chocolate coffee aside. Try not to think how amazing it would be as a drink.
Beat the butter and sugar together, add eggs and beat again, add vanilla and beat one more time.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the butter-sugar-egg mix.
Pour the milk into the coffee-chocolate mix.
Pour the now eminently drinkable mixture over the rest of the batter and mix until homogeneous.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and shimmy the pans around a little to get the batter even in height.
Bake about 30 minutes, and set them aside to cool while you make the filling.
For the custard, toast half the coconut. Just spread it in a sheet pan and bake for less than five minutes at 350°F.
If you don’t know how to measure 3 ounces of milk, cheat. Pout the 5-ounce can of evaporated milk into a 1 cup measuring cup. Add milk till the measuring cup is full. Tada! Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the milk, sugar, vanilla, and yolks, and whisk together.
Once it starts boiling hard, pour the custard into a bowl sitting in an ice bath and whisk in the coconut, both the toasted and non-toasted half.
Stir the filling until it is room temperature. Then you’re ready to build your cake! Just level the tops of the cake layers with a bread knife, stack one on your serving plate (or just a sheet of parchment paper if you’re me), spread 1/3 of the coconut filling over the layer, stack on layer 2, add another 1/3 of the coconut, stack on the final layer, spread on the rest of the coconut, and you’re done. no frosting required. I sprinkled a handful of extra coconut over the top because I thought it looked nicer than just the cooked filling, but you don’t have to.
Enjoy on its own or with ice cream.