Diary of a Coconut Cake
Friday, 9:27 a.m.: A cake is in the oven as I type. It's my second attempt in less than 12 hours, and I'm crossing my fingers. A long night it has been in the KOD bakery, and I've got some humble pie crumbs on my face.
After dinner and a glass of red wine, I think I'm clever. The plan: A chocolate layer cake without the layers. The reason: a What's Cooking reader request for a uni-layer coconut cake. The reader wants to know if he can avoid the fussiness of two layers, which, as a clumsy cake baker, I can appreciate.
For ideas and inspiration, I pour through a bunch of trusted cookbooks, and I reject any recipes that seem too fussy. Mr. Coconut Cake never specified a preference for yellow or chocolate cake, so I choose for him and go with chocolate (I love the black-and-white contrast).
Over the past few years, I have had great success with a recipe for a chocolate layer cake from "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Scott Peacock and the late Edna Lewis. Fudgy almost like a brownie yet maintaining a sturdy crumb, this cake is about the best I've ever tasted in the home-baked layered universe. Better still, it can be made without an electric mixer.
Surely, a batter of such superiority could withstand variations, I think in my head. And so I pull out my Bundt pan, greas, flour and fill her with a cake river.
While the cake rises, I entertain myself with "Sex and the City" reruns, trying to stay awake. Nearly an hour later (about 20 minutes longer than two layers in nine-inch pans), I pull the cake out of the oven, allowing it to cool for at least five minutes (as the recipe suggests) before inverting.
That's when things in cake heaven go bad. The very fudginess that I love about this cake is now a barrier to inversion. The cake is stuck -- like chocolate mud -- and when it finally does loosen, it emerges in big ugly, un-cakelike chunks.
I look at my mess and put the pan back on top, praying that perhaps in the morning, my cake would be in one beautiful piece.
Friday, 8:00 a.m.: The magic elves never show up and the cake is still butt ugly. I debate over photographing my disaster, but decide instead to give my uni-layer project a second chance. I put on my parka and walk up the road to the neighborhood Giant for more unsweetened chocolate and get to work shortly thereafter, this time using a springform pan that requires no inversion. I also line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, which would help in moving the cake for complete cooling.
Friday, 10:45 a.m.: Cake is out of the oven and responds well to the loosening of the springform ring. Using the parchment overhang, I gingerly move the cake off the pan to a cooler surface.
So far, so good. It is now time to make icing.
Friday, 11:42 a.m.: I am about to make a fluffy white icing, with egg whites and sugar, which I'll spread on top of the cooled cake and then top with a layer of coconut, just like Mr. Coconut Cake requested.
Stay tuned later this afternoon for the verdict, plus recipe details and a photo.
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