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Coconut Cake


Joe H
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We're going to dinner for my birthday next week, and I would love to get a slice of coconut cake, or something coconutty, for dessert. The Majestic's menu isn't thrilling me, and I'm not sure who else has this. A couple places have a whole coconut cake for special order (Willow), but I really don't want that much left over for noshing on during the week. NoVa definitely preferred to DC (MD is out).

Any ideas happily accepted! Thanks very much.

Genevieve, you like coconut cake?

...coconut cake.

I would make the argument that the single best dessert I have ever had in my life (in a career of excessive eating) is the coconut cake available by special order a week in advance at K-Paul's in New Orleans. I've had this four or five times since 1980 and would choose a slice of this over a great number of other experiences in life. Below is the recipe. There is nothing like this anywhere else on earth. I've also made it. The original recipe is from the Prudhomme Family cookbook which I think is now out of print. It's six pages or something obscene like that. You'll also have to crack a couple of coconuts. But we're talking a dessert; no, a taste to equal anything you've ever had.

And you like coconut. I assume you also like butter. There's OVER a pound of it (again, over a pound of butter!) in this to go along with the fresh cracked coconut.

Wow.

It's served over a "bed" of Chantilly whipped cream which is heavy whipped cream laced with Courvoisier and Grand Marnier. My honest, best suggestion is to find a baker to make this. $100 or more might be realistic for it. If you insist on one slice, have one yourself and one for other members of your family. Throw the rest away. But, if this is your last taste of anything ever, rest assured you will have had a taste worthy of that.

As for the $100 or more for this: to hell with the rest of your dinner. Have two, three slices of this and it will be a Birthday to rank with the best. (If Michael Landrum is reading this, trust me, this really is the single best slice of cake you will ever taste. $12 a slice @ Ray's and people will be happy to pay it.)

K-Paul's Fresh Cracked Coconut Cake

From the Prudhomme Family Cookbook

Coconut filling:

About 3 3/4 pounds fresh coconuts, or enough to yield 4 cups plus

2 tablespoons minced coconut meat, in all [be sure to reserve

coconut milk to make the glaze]

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 pound [2 sticks] unsalted butter

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 pound [2 sticks] plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and

cut into chunks

1 cup evaporated milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coconut-milk glaze:

1 1/2 cups reserved strained coconut milk [or a mixture of coconut

milk and water]

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:

2 [3-ounce] packages cream cheese, softened

1/4 pound [1 stick] unsalted butter, very soft

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon evaporated milk

1 [1-pound] box powdered sugar, [in all four cups]

For the filling:

Drain the milk from the coconuts by carefully making a hole in each of the three eyes of the coconuts with a clean, new, and large nail,

an icepick, or a sharp, very sturdy knife point. Strain the milk through cheesecloth or through a fine mesh strainer lined with a paper towel and measure out 1 1/2 cups; if necessary make up the balance with water. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Break coconuts into small pieces with a hammer. Peel the pieces and remove the brown inner skin attached to the white coconut meat. Rinse and drain coconut meat well, then process it in batches in a food processor until minced. You will need 4 cups minced coconut or the filling, plus 2 tablespoons to garnish the top of the cake. Set aside. [use leftover coconut as a snack or in another recipe.]

In a heavy 5 1/2 quart saucepan or large Dutch oven, heat together the cream, sugar, and butter over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a boil, stirring frequently. Add the four cups of minced coconut, stirring well. Cook until mixture reduces to 5 cups, about 15 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the cornstarch. Place pan over high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla and cook and stir about 1 minute. Remove from heat and continue stirring a few seconds more. Cool slightly, then refrigerate until well chilled. Note: filling will decrease in volume as it cools. Once it is chilled, measure yield and divide by 5 to determine amount to use between cake layers. Keep refrigerated until just before ready to use.

For the cake:

In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and eggs; beat on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute, pushing sides down with a rubber spatula. Add the butter; beat on low until mixture is creamy and light colored, about 3 minutes. Beat in the milk and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition just until smooth and pushing sides down as needed. Then beat on high speed for about 1 minute more, pushing sides down.

Spoon equal portions of the batter [a slightly mounded 1 cup] into six 8-inch round cake pans that have been greased and lightly floured. Spread batter out evenly in the pans. Bake at 350 degrees F. on the middle rack of the oven, 3 layers at a time, until centers spring back when lightly pressed, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let pans sit about 5 minutes, then loosen sides of cakes with a knife and remove layers from pans to a wire rack. Bake the 3 remaining layers. If re-using the same pans, first wash, re-grease, and lightly flour them. Meanwhile make the glaze and frosting.

After the cake layers have cooled about 15 minutes, glaze one layer by brushing glaze over the surface and on the sides with a pastry brush, a little at a time and using one sixth of the glaze [about 2 1/2 tablespoons]. Make holes in the cake with a paring knife so glaze can sink in. Immediately [before glazing another layer], spread one fifth of the filling on top of the glazed layer, extending it to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Then place another layer on top and repeat procedure of glazing and spreading on filling until all the layers are glazed and all but the top layer have filling spread on them.

Let cake cool thoroughly, then frost top and sides. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons minced coconut on top. Let sit 1 hour before slicing.

Coconut-milk glaze:

Combine the coconut milk and the sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling until glaze reduces to 1 cup, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a glass measuring cup and use glaze as directed in the recipe. Makes 1 cup.

Frosting:

Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium-size bowl of an electric mixer; beat on high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Turn speed to medium and beat in the milk and 1 cup of the sugar, pushing sides down with a rubber spatula. Beat in the remaining 3 cups sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth before adding more. If the frosting becomes too thick for the mixer, do the last bit of mixing with a spoon.

Chantilly Whipped Cream,

Makes about 2 cups

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon Courvoisier brandy

2 tablespoons dairy sour cream

Refrigerate a medium-size bowl and beaters until very cold. Combine cream vanilla, brandy and Grand Marnier in the bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Add the sugar and sour cream and beat on medium just until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Do not overbeat. Overbeating will make the cream grainy.

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Thank you for this totally decadent coconut cake recipe, Joe-I'm tempted to make this for my MIL, who says she hates coconut. The other coconut cake recipe I was considering was from the Peninsula Grill, Charleston. Maybe if you served extremely thin slices, w/ lots of fresh fruit? I like coconut, but have to have it tempered by something like citrus or ginger...

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Thank you for this totally decadent coconut cake recipe, Joe-I'm tempted to make this for my MIL, who says she hates coconut. The other coconut cake recipe I was considering was from the Peninsula Grill, Charleston.

The Peninsula's cake is richer - it has much more butter per unit of flour. Prudhomme's cake is a simple 1234 cake made like a sponge instead of a butter cake, so he's counting more on the glaze and somewhat on the filling for moistness, and his glaze has more coconut flavor in it, unlike the Peninsula's. Both cakes have cream cheese in the frosting which will cut the coconut sweetness a bit. In other aspects the cakes don't really differ a whole lot except the Peninsula's has more layers so there will be a different cake/filling ratio in each bite, which means more grated coconut. I would recommend making your own shredded coconut for the Peninsula cake as well to cut down the sweetness. If you want to make one, you can't really go wrong with either cake, but if you aren't looking for a serious coconut experience, it might be a big investment of time for a disappointing result.

Full disclosure: I've made coconut cake more times than I can remember for my family reunions, birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other various occasions by request for many years, so I have a serious coconut cake bias. Bah to the cream cheese frosting. Bring on the seven-minute pressed with freshly toasted coconut curls. *sigh*

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The Peninsula's cake is richer - it has much more butter per unit of flour. Prudhomme's cake is a simple 1234 cake made like a sponge instead of a butter cake, so he's counting more on the glaze and somewhat on the filling for moistness, and his glaze has more coconut flavor in it, unlike the Peninsula's. Both cakes have cream cheese in the frosting which will cut the coconut sweetness a bit. In other aspects the cakes don't really differ a whole lot except the Peninsula's has more layers so there will be a different cake/filling ratio in each bite, which means more grated coconut. I would recommend making your own shredded coconut for the Peninsula cake as well to cut down the sweetness. If you want to make one, you can't really go wrong with either cake, but if you aren't looking for a serious coconut experience, it might be a big investment of time for a disappointing result.

Full disclosure: I've made coconut cake more times than I can remember for my family reunions, birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other various occasions by request for many years, so I have a serious coconut cake bias. Bah to the cream cheese frosting. Bring on the seven-minute pressed with freshly toasted coconut curls. *sigh*

http://www.marthastewart.com/260375/ultimate-coconut-cake is the recipe for the Peninsula Grill's coconut cake which uses "shredded sweetened coconut"-fresh cracked coconut is not specified. You haven't had K-Paul's have you? Sorry for my reaction but it's nothing at all like you are imagining. ("sponge cake" like? Really? I've had it three times on Chartres street and I've also made it including cracking the coconuts myself.) I'm sorry but from your description I really just don't think you've actually had it. Regardless the fresh cracked coconut is the principal difference; now, if you make the Peninsula cake with this then it is another matter!

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http://www.marthastewart.com/260375/ultimate-coconut-cake is the recipe for the Peninsula Grill's coconut cake which uses "shredded sweetened coconut"-fresh cracked coconut is not specified. You haven't had K-Paul's have you? Sorry for my reaction but it's nothing at all like you are imagining. ("sponge cake" like? Really? I've had it three times on Chartres street and I've also made it including cracking the coconuts myself.) I'm sorry but from your description I really just don't think you've actually had it. Regardless the fresh cracked coconut is the principal difference; now, if you make the Peninsula cake with this then it is another matter!

I haven't had the cake. I was trying to help thistle decide which one to make by pointing out the differences between the recipes. If you read what I wrote about the cake recipes, it's about methods - not texture. A 1234 cake is an old, southern butter cake, but the method here is like a sponge cake which is mixed by making the ribbon with the eggs and sugar first instead of creaming the butter and sugar first. That's going to make for a drier crumb, and it was probably made this way to soak up the glaze. I also mentioned using fresh coconut with Peninsula's because the recipes online say to use sweetened, and I think fresh is better. The major difference between the cakes is the butter content of the cake itself and the proportion of filling to cake in the assembled product.

I think you took my comment as a personal attack on your favorite cake. As a rule, I try not to attack cakes, except with a fork.

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I haven't had the cake. I was trying to help thistle decide which one to make by pointing out the differences between the recipes. If you read what I wrote about the cake recipes, it's about methods - not texture. A 1234 cake is an old, southern butter cake, but the method here is like a sponge cake which is mixed by making the ribbon with the eggs and sugar first instead of creaming the butter and sugar first. That's going to make for a drier crumb, and it was probably made this way to soak up the glaze. I also mentioned using fresh coconut with Peninsula's because the recipes online say to use sweetened, and I think fresh is better. The major difference between the cakes is the butter content of the cake itself and the proportion of filling to cake in the assembled product.

I think you took my comment as a personal attack on your favorite cake. As a rule, I try not to attack cakes, except with a fork.

Part of the experience of the K-Paul's cake is also the puddle of Chanitlly whipped cream that it rests on. Every bite will have some of this. We've ordered a cake from the Peninsula Grill for Thanksgiving ( http://www.peninsulagrill.com/coconut-cakes.cfm $100 + 84.00 overnight Fed Ex) but I do not expect it to taste anything like K-Paul's. This will be interesting: K-Paul's similarly ships their sweet potatoe pies all over the U. S. but you can only buy the fresh cracked coconut cake at the restaurant and then, it is by special order only. It's also no longer easy to do this today-they won't guarantee it. In fact when we went to NOLA several weeks ago I was shocked that they wouldn't guarantee we could have the cake. Since the mid '80's they've done this but apparently no longer. Anyway, I think they are entirely different cakes but we'll try it understanding that it should also taste different if freshly made in one's home rather than bouncing around an airplane. And, using fresh cracked coconut it will be even more different.

I'm very chauvinistic to K-Paul's cake.

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