Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Ultimate Coconut Cake

One of my favorite places to vacation here in the southeast is Charleston, SC. It is a quick ride from my home and it is the one place in SC that I really feel my spirit soar. I have always loved being near water and the ocean and Charleston offers this escape to me. As I drive over the bridges into Isle of Palms (my favorite local beach), I can feel all the tension leave me and I am truly happy!  During the day, I enjoy sitting on the beach at IOP for hours, shelling, and just enjoying the sun.  At night there is alway somewhere to listen to live music or sit outside and enjoy a cocktail under the stars. The Charleston area is also known for its southern heritage and historic downtown. I love walking Charleston; usually camera in hand and a spring in my step.  I get lost in the wrought iron gated gardens, the majestic oaks trees, the old buildings and the history. I have walked the streets of downtown Charleston so many times I can almost visit them in my sleep. I have to say that it is my Happy Place!

My favorite beach. You can't see but I am smiling!
Aside from all the natural beauty that Charleston has to offer, it is also a foodie's paradise. You can dine on fresh seafood, handmade pasta and of course good 'ole southern cuisine.  There is literally a food establishment every few feet in some of the downtown areas and the experiences range from casual dining all the way up to fine dining. I have frequented a lot of the restaurants in the downtown area as well as in Mount Pleasant and Isle of Palms and I definitely have my favorites depending on the occasion. Unfortunately, I tend to be a  creature of habit at times and when I get to visit my favorite city, I like the nostalgic feeling of visiting my favorite restaurants, Magnolias for shrimp and grits, Poe's Tavern for a great beach side burger, The Rooftop at Vendue Range for a late night cocktail, and Hominy Grill for just about anything on the menu  (don't forget the goat cheese and hot pepper jelly.) And this is just to name a few.  But after visiting all my favorites, the long weekend is usually over and once again I have forgotten to visit new places. The restaurant that I have always wanted to visit and have heard so much about is the Peninsula Grill. It is a great little restaurant tucked away beside The Market in Peninsular Charleston and  it is famous for it's Ultimate Coconut Cake. I have watched Food Network specials on this cake and every time I go to Charleston I am set on going to get a piece; but never quite make it. So when I saw this recipe online on Martha Stewart's web page,  I thought why not make this "cake masterpiece" myself and share the experience with all my friends.
So here began a rather large task...

The Ultimate Coconut Cake

The Ultimate Coconut Cake turned out to be just that! It was huge. I did not weigh the final project but it was almost too heavy to pick up. It was approximately 8 inches in height and each slice was a meal. But when I served it on Easter Day it did not last long!
The recipe or recipes, as you can see there are 5 different ones, are all included here. Each one is fairly simple but the complete project will take you some time. It took me about 4 hours on a Saturday but I enjoyed every minute. 
This delicious, multi-layered coconut cake is courtesy of Robert Carter from the Peninsula Grill, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Yield Makes one 6-layer cake
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes
  • 2 Coconut Cake
  • Robert Carter's Simple Syrup
  • Coconut Filling
  • Coconut Cake Frosting
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread coconut flakes in an even layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden, 5 to 7 minutes; set aside to cool.
  2. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level; discard trimmings. Cut each cake into 3 even layers. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan.
  3. Place one layer on the cake plate. Brush with about one-fifth of the simple syrup. Spread over 2 cups of filling. Place a second layer on top. Repeat process with the next four layers and top with last remaining layer.
  4. Spread top and sides of cake with frosting, keeping in mind you may not need to use all of it. Press toasted coconut into sides of cake; remove parchment paper strips. Chill cake at least 5 hours and up to 5 days. Slice immediately; bring to room temperature before serving.


Coconut Cake 

  • Nonstick cooking spray with flour
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, preferably European-style
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

     Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray two 10-inch round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside.
    1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until creamy, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl using a spatula.
    2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together cream, vanilla, and coconut extract. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture, alternating with cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.
    3. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing cakes from pans.
    Yield Makes two 10-inch round cakes
    ****A hint here I chose to make 3 cakes and cut them in 2 each

    Coconut Filling

    • 5 cups heavy cream
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 9 cups shredded sweetened coconut

    1. Place cream, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved
    2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together cornstarch, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon water. Add to cream mixture, bring to a boil, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute.
    3. Place coconut in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coconut is finely chopped. Remove cream mixture from heat and stir in coconut until well combined. Transfer to a large baking dish; let cool.
    4. Cover filling with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Just before using, place mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes
    Yield Makes enough for 1 cake

    Coconut cake after it was cut by guests at Easter. It did not last long!


    Coconut Cake Icing

    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 8 ounces cream cheese
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 5 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
    1. Place butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until creamy.
    2. With mixer on low speed, slowly add vanilla extract, seeds from vanilla bean, and confectioners' sugar. Continue beating until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes

    Robert Carter's Simple Syrup

    • 3/4 cup water

    • 3/4 cup sugar
    1. Place water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

    The Easter dessert table featuring The Ultimate Coconut Cake, Hollywood Squares and Cherry Bonbons.

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