Up until recently, I’d never been much of a coconut fan, but a brief glance in my cabinets might convince you otherwise. In a bit of overzealous, absent-minded Passover grocery shopping, I ended up with several pounds of shredded and flaked coconut. I do things like this more often that I’d care to admit. I bet you do too. (Please, tell me you do.) Baking up a half-dozen batches of macaroons over the holiday barely made a dent in my coconut stash. After Passover, I toasted up some for granola and sprinkled a bit more on lentils, and this cake is where I suspect the rest of that coconut will end up.
It’s a simple loaf cake strewn with shredded coconut and laced with coconut milk. I found it in Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours and the time that passed between my reading the head note and pulling out my mixer couldn’t have been more than three minutes. Four, tops. Dorie describes it as a “dry cake” – the kind that her Austrian friend grew up with, the kind without frosting or fuss, without too much going on, the kind you can eat any time of day (or night). Now this is my kind of cake.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you might have noticed that I don’t really decorate cakes. This stems less from laziness per se (though that definitely factors into the equation) and more from a strongly-held belief that a cake should be good enough to stand on its own with no frosting, glaze, or sprinkle in sight. In fact, if I have to choose between a cupcake and a muffin, I’ll almost always go with a muffin. I think this stems from the fact that the special occasion cake we ate growing up was my mom’s chocolate chip pound cake – with a dense crumb and pockets of chocolate, this bundt cake just as good straight from the freezer as out of the oven. And my mom usually made a double batch, so more often than not, there was a chunk of frozen cake wrapped and re-wrapped in plastic, sometimes hidden in the ice cube maker.
But back to the coconut. I made just a few tweaks to Dorie’s original recipe, adding lime zest as Dorie suggests and substituting vegetable oil for melted butter to make a non-dairy version. Since a can of coconut milk is typically just under two cups, each time I’ve make this cake, I’ve doubled the recipe, making up the remainder of the second cup with water.
As Dorie says, the cake is a little dry and has a thin sugary top crust that shatters under the gentle pressure of a knife. Like biscotti, a slice pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea. Like all good pound cakes, it lasts several days on the counter, tastes even better a few days in, and freezes easily. It’s coconut-y without being too coconut-y, if you know what I mean. And what I mean is that a few self-proclaimed coconut-haters liked the cake. By which I mean that I didn’t tell them there was coconut it in and they happily ate several slices each. If you want, you can bake the cake in two rounds, frost it, and cover it with toasted coconut for the birthday of a special coconut loving friend. But Meira, the birthday girl, and I agreed that the cake is best on its own.
Coconut Tea Cake
Makes 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans (the original recipe calls for a 9- to 10-inch bundt pan)
– 2 C flour
– 1 t baking powder
– pinch salt
– 2 limes for zest and juice
– 2 C sugar
– 4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
– 1 t vanilla extract
– 3/4 C shredded unsweetened dried coconut
– 1 C canned unsweetened coconut milk (stir before measuring)
– 1/4 C vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans
Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans.
Sift. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Zest. In the bowl of a stand mixer, zest the limes over the sugar. With your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it’s aromatic.
Whisk. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, oil, and lime juice (2-3 tablespoons).
Beat. With the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar/lime zest at medium-high speed until pale, thick, and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl and needed and stopping just when the flour disappears.
Mix. Keeping the mixer on low, add the dried coconut, mixing only until it’s blended, then steadily pour in the hot milk. When the mixture is smooth, stop mixing and give the batter a couple of turns with a rubber spatula, just to make certain that any ingredients that might have fallen to the bottom of the bowl are incorporated.
Bake. Pour the batter into the pans and give them a few back-and-forth shakes to even the batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife or cake tester inserted deep in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cook for 10 minutes before unyielding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.