Surprise, surprise, I have made yet another dessert of Laura Calder’s. This one is her ‘coconut cake with marshmallow icing’, from her book Dinner Chez Moi. I have wanted to make it for a long time, in fact from the first moment I read the recipe. As there were no photos in Laura’s book, I can only imagine that it would be a very pretty cake, from her descriptions. Also, for someone who likes coconut and marshmallows, I very much anticipated it to be quite a treat.
225 g butter
300 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
375 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk
2 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
250 g caster sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Line the base of two 23 cm cake tins.
This part is optional, but I think it adds that little extra something special, in terms of taste, texture, and visual appeal. Plus it takes almost no extra effort or time at all. Anyway, for those inclined to do so, heat the oven to 200°C, strew 2 generous handfuls of dried coconut (my personal preference for this recipe is for the long straggly strands, not the short, fluff-like kind) on a baking tray, and toast for a few minutes. Keep watch the entire time, as the coconut can easily over-toast and burn. Set aside and turn the oven back down to 180°C.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together. Measure out the coconut milk. Then in alternating fashion, add in one third of each to the batter, mixing well in between each addition.
Divide into the cake tins, and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely before icing.
Place all icing ingredients except for the vanilla into the top of a double boiler. I also added 1 tsp of lime juice, to counter the surgary sweetness and to help the egg whites whip up. Beat (using a hand-held electric mixer, on a slow speed initially, then on a medium speed) over simmering water for 7 minutes. Patience will be rewarded with a thick and spreadable marshmallowy fluff. Finally, beat in the vanilla.
Ice the top of the bottom cake with about 1/4 of the icing, and scatter over half of the reserved coconut, if using. Ice the bottom of the top cake with about 1/4 of the icing, and place on the bottom cake. Tip all remaining icing onto the top of the cake, spread evenly over the sides and top. I gave mine a straight-edged finish on the sides but a swirly finish on the top. Scatter over the remaining coconut on top of the cake, if applicable.
* Decorating tip *
Now here’s a tip from Nigella, to ice cakes without the icing slopping messily all over the serving plate. Place 4 wide-ish strips (about 7 cm) of baking paper in a square outline on the plate, about the size of the cake. Place the cake over the strips, arranging the strips as evenly as possible so that they are both securely underneath the cake, and with a wide overhang (thus protecting the plate from the excess icing, or any icing accidents). Ice the cake, and when done, calmly and slowly pull out the strips horizontally, one at a time. The unwanted icing mess will be neatly removed with the strips, leaving the plate wonderfully pristine. Easy and simple!
Now, about the cake. I can’t say it better, so I will quote Laura’s description: ‘This may be the most exquisite white cake I’ve ever tasted. The crumb is extremely fine, soft and tight, and the coconut flavour so delicate that I frankly like it without icing at all’. She then goes on to describe the icing as ‘shiny, luscious marshmallow’… which is why I made both, so as to have the full-package experience.
To be perfectly honest, the cake is truely worth trying, but I’m not 100% happy with the icing. There’s a bit too much , especially the middle layer which makes an unattractive oozey mess when slicing. The icing reminds me of Craft’s jet-puffed mallow fluff, more so in texture than in taste. Although it might not look as glamorous, I think for my next attempt I will use just one cake pan to make a full-sized cake, to get more satisfyingly uninterrupted mouthfuls of it. I would consider leaving the icing out altogether, but the toasted coconut is too good to exclude, so I would make just a half portion of it (bit hard to make even less, as that would require less than one egg white), and use just enough to decorate the top (not the sides or middle!), and sprinkle the coconut over. We had some fresh pineapple with our cake, and some icing dolloped or smeared on the fruit was a very good combo.