April 29, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Cake

Sometimes baking is a messy business.  And when it comes to drowning cake squares in a pool of hot chocolate and then showering them with flaky coconut, it’s messy times two.  But it’s so worth it!  Growing up, this beautiful Chocolate Coconut Cake used to be a charming, long-awaited rarity in my grandma’s baking repertoire; a concoction bursting with unrestrained, wonderful and well-remembered flavors.  So, when I managed to trick her into making this cake when I was home in March, I fully relished the exciting and entertaining day of baking with my grandma.      

This is a simple white cake that you jazz up with rum and fully cover in a thin sheath of rich chocolate ganache and delicate coconut, and thus bring it to a whole new level of deliciousness and elegance.  The Chocolate Coconut Cake is moist and dense yet not overly sweet, nicely infused with a subtle amount of rum, while the slightly hardened ganache conveys a sophisticated exterior peppered with fine coconut flakes.  In the past, my grandma used to douse this cake in a basic cocoa and milk sauce, but I feel that the chocolate ganache gives it more texture and a lovely understated elegance.  

This is not your special occasion kind of cake; it’s more of a Saturday or mid-week type of indulgence but one hundred percent delicious nonetheless; not to mention an instant crowd pleaser.  Cut up in squares and displayed on a beautiful platter, this cake will make a bold statement.  In fact, I shouldn’t even call this an actual cake since it’s made in a plain rectangular baking pan and doesn’t involve any fancy layering and decorations of any sort; perhaps Chocolate Coconut Squares would be a better name, but to be honest I’ll always think of this as a cake, a laid back type of dessert packed with tons of festive flavors.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Coconut Cake
By Simply Romanesco inspired my Grandma Vicki

Makes: 24 squares

Ingredients for the Cake:

·         500 grams (3 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         300 grams (2 ½ cups) Confectioners’ sugar
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         100 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
·         1/3 cup honey
·         1 cup whole milk
·         1 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients for the Rum Syrup:

·         ½ cup sugar
·         ½ cup water
·         ¼ cup rum

Ingredients for the Chocolate Ganache:

·         400 grams (14 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
·         350 ml (1 ½ cups) heavy cream
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
·         1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions for the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Coat the bottom and sides of a 14 by 10-inch baking pan with butter and flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. 

Heat the honey in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 30 seconds. 

In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with the eggs, sugar and warm honey until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  In batches, add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 minutes.  Let the cake cool completely.

Instructions for the Rum Syrup:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and whisk until the sugar dissolves.  Off heat, add the rum, whisk well and set aside to cool completely.  Once the cake has cooled, pierce the surface with a fork.  Using a spoon, drizzle the syrup all over the top of the cake.  You will use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the syrup.  You want the cake to be moist but not overly damp.  Just discard the remaining of the syrup.  Allow the cake to sit and absorb the syrup, about 1 hour.  Cut the cake into squares.  

Instructions for the Chocolate Ganache:

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips.  Using a fork or a spoon, gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Place the two types of coconut in two separate small bowls.  I like to cover half of the squares in unsweetened coconut flakes and half of them in sweetened coconut for an extra level of sweetness.  But you can definitely opt for either version; it all depends whether you like this dessert on the sweeter side or not.   

Take each cake square and dip it in the chocolate ganache.  Once you’re done with dipping the cake squares into the ganache, cover them in coconut flakes.  Set the cake squares on a platter and serve. 

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)