My dear dad celebrated his 71st Birthday recently, and apart from Amazon vouchers his only request was to have a coconut cake made for him, which I duly did. My Gran would always have this honour and I have to admit nothing compares to her masterpiece. She was an excellent cake maker, although I remember her being incredibly self critical about practically every item she made; ‘it’s a little dry; it’s not quite right this time; the oven is playing up’ etc. From coffee and walnut cake to chocolate fairy cakes with melted chocolate and a smartie on top, to gooey meringues to her light coconut cake, they all tasted heavenly to us.
Gran never appeared to use recipes and unfortunately the secrets of her baking died with her. So it was quite a tall order for me to find a recipe that would do her coconut cake justice. She would add glacé cherries and angelica to her coconut cake, however dad obviously wasn’t particularly keen on them and asked for them to be omitted. I found plenty of recipes for coconut cake with lime (which is divine!) or lemon or even banana, but I wanted to start with just a basic coconut recipe. I was recommended the following recipe which is taken from the lovely Nigella’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’. As my dad isn’t keen on icing I didn’t use any on top but sprinkled the cake with icing sugar instead. I also think this cut down on the sweetness.
For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
50g desiccated coconut, soaked in 150ml boiling water
For the coconut buttercream within:
25g dessicated coconut
75g soft unsalted butter
150g icing sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon Malibu
For the icing on top:
2-4 tablespoons Malibu
125g instant royal icing (which may be labelled ‘royal icing sugar’)
Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter and line two 21cm sandwich tins.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat into the mixture. Beat in the vanilla.
Add the flour, cornflour and baking powder, and fold until it’s all combined. Stir the soaked coconut in its boiling water and then tip the lot into the batter. Alternatively, blitz everything bar the coconut in the processor until you have a smooth batter, then whizz in the coconut at the end.
Pour into the waiting sandwich tins, and cook for between 25-30 minutes. A skewer should come out more or less clean. Leave to cool in the tins for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.
While the cakes are cooking, toast the 25g coconut for the buttercream in a dry pan, shaking it now and then, until it is nicely golden. Tip it onto a plate to stop it toasting further, and allow it to get completely cold before you make the buttercream.
To make the buttercream, cream together the butter and icing sugar. When you have a smooth paste, beat in the Malibu and then the cold toasted coconut. Spread onto the bottom cake, then place the other cake on top, pushing down gently.
For the topping icing if using – beat together two tablespoons of the Malibu with the instant royal icing. Pour the icing onto the centre of the cake, and allow it to spread out. Let the icing set before serving the cake.
I must admit, the cake smelt delicious as it came out the oven and was very light and slightly moist. As for my toughest coconut cake critic? A big thumbs up!