Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coconut Simple Syrup
adapted from Throwdown's Toasted Coconut Cake by Bobby Flay

1-1/2 c. water
1 Tbsp. + 1 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 tsp. coconut extract

Bring water and 1 Tbsp. sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, add the 1 c. sugar and extract, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

So, apparently (at least according to the people on this particular episode of Throwdown!) coconut cake is something of a tradition in the South. *shrug* It looked delicious on the show, but I realized when I decided to make it that I had nothing to measure it against. I'm pretty sure I've never tasted a coconut cake. Of any kind. Nevertheless, I still think it's fair to say this is an incredibly delicious cake.

Toasted Coconut:
2 c. sweetened flaked coconut

Coconut Simple Syrup:
1-1/2 c. water
1 Tbls. + 1 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 tsp. coconut extract

Coconut Custard:
1-1/2 c. whole milk
1-1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
8 large egg yolks (reserve 6 whites for cake)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
6 Tbls. cornstarch
4 tsp. coconut rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract

Coconut Filling:
1-1/2 c. coconut custard (recipe above), cold
1-1/2 c. very cold heavy cream
1 tsp. coconut extract

Coconut Buttercream:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened, but cool
2-1/3 c. confectioners' sugar
3/4 c. coconut custard (recipe above), same temperature as butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
Pinch fine sea salt

1 c. whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room remperature
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
2-1/4 c. cake flour
1-3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbls. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fine sea salt
12 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold

For the toasted coconut:
Preheat oven to 325.
Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring once, 8-10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the coconut sit in the oven until very dry and crunchy, up to 15 minutes longer (check frequently, it may take as little as 5 minutes).

For the simple syrup:
Bring water and 1 Tbls. sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, add the 1 c. sugar and extract, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

For the custard:
Combine the milks and vanilla bean seeds in a medium, nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture, then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and both extracts. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

For the filling:
Whip cream and extract until soft peaks form. Fold custard into whipped mixture.

For the buttercream:
Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the coconut custard, extracts and salt and beat until combined and smooth.

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, then butter and flour over parchment and sides.

Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla bean seeds, and both extracts in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1-1/2 minutes.

With mixture on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divde the batter evenly between the cake pans and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached, 22-32 minutes. Cool in the pans on baking racks for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

To Assemble:
Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another layer on a cardboard round (or cake plate) cut side up and brush with some of the coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and using a small offset spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with syrup and place cut side down on top of the cake.

Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.

It seems complicated, right? A lot of the comments centered around how long the cake takes to make. Whatever. It took about as long as any fantastic dessert I've ever made. I made the toasted coconut, simple syrup, custard, and cake all on Saturday, then made the filling and buttercream and assembled it on Sunday. No big deal.

A couple of things:

You will probably have simple syrup leftover. It should stay good in the refrigerator for about 3-4 months. I'm sure I can come up with some tropical cocktail that you could use it in if you don't know what else to do with it. I'll work on that.

The custard recipe as I've given it to you is double the original recipe. This will give you plenty to add in to the filling and buttercream (I also doubled the filling recipe). I only had about 3/4 cup of custard leftover, so I'm convinced that doubling it is the way to go. I separated the custard into the different amounts that I would need for filling and buttercream while it was still a little warm. It seemed like that would be easier to deal with than when it was cold and rather stiff.

The coconut buttercream...I don't even know what to say. I've never really considered myself to be a big coconut fan--you know, I like it but it's not my favorite thing in the world. This buttercream quickly became one of my...probably...5 favorite things. It is beyond delicious.

Note that your frosting job doesn't have to be perfect, you're just going to sprinkle and press the toasted coconut into it anyway, don't fret.

I had plenty of toasted coconut (as you can see)--probably would have been enough to sprinkle some over the filling in each layer. I think that would have made for a nice crunch in the middle of the cake. Next time.

And, I have to say, it's such a good cake. The cake itself is really moist and dense. The coconut in every element turns out so nicely, it's not too much, it's certainly not too sweet. And the toasted coconut just cuts through everything to add a wonderful crunch and a whole different layer to the coconut flavor.

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