Nostalgia can have a very powerful pull. Sometimes in the summer, if the light is just right and the air is barely hovering below stillness, I can feel myself being a child, waiting for that hour between darkness and light when I could stretch my bedtime out a little bit further everyday. A whiff of certain smells—Meyer lemons and eucalyptus trees—reminds me of my grandfather’s house. Ak-Mak crackers, sad to say, conjure up memories of the three-plus months I spent being mind-bendingly nauseated and curled up, fittingly, in the fetal position while newly pregnant. To this day, I can’t even look at one of those crackers without feeling mildly uncomfortable.
Marble cake, on the other hand, brings to mind a sea of childhood memories. I am not sure if marble cakes were huge in the ‘80s, or if I just happened to associate with people with very much enjoyed the yin and yang of a cake marbled with two separate flavors, but when I was a child there was a lot of marble cake floating around. A couple of weeks ago, when I shared some of this cake with a friend of mine, her first reaction upon seeing it was one of sheer surprise. She hadn’t seen anyone make a marble cake in years. Neither had I, and perhaps that is what drove me to make one in the first place.
It is worth pointing out, however, that this cake, with its gentle coconut undertones and light, chocolaty ribbon is a different animal than the marble cakes of my past. Whereas my memories of marble cakes lie firmly in the layered-with-frosting realm, this is a more casual cake, fit for afternoon snacking or for taking along on a sunny picnic. While you could certainly adorn this cake with some sort of light glaze or frosting, I believe it is perfect as is, and certainly not lacking in appeal with its unencumbered crumb. In fact, I am feeling nostalgic for it already, since I have yogurt in the refrigerator, coconut milk in the cupboard, and, of course, an unrelenting love of cake and the joy it never fails to bring.
Last Year: Pear and Mascarpone Pizza, a fantastic twist on a pear tart
Chocolate Coconut Marble Cake Recipe
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (low-fat is fine)
For Chocolate Marbling:
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (again, low-fat is fine)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the 2/3 cup of sugar, and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, then add the egg, followed by the egg whites. Beat until just combined, then beat in the vanilla.
Whisk together the yogurt and 2/3 cup of coconut milk. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the yogurt mixture in 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat gently until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
In a medium bowl, combine cocoa powder, ¼ cup of sugar, and ¼ cup of coconut milk. Whisk together until smooth. Pour 1 ½ cups of the plain coconut batter into the chocolate coconut batter, and stir to combine.
Pour ¾ of the plain coconut batter into the prepared bundt pan. Spoon the chocolate coconut batter on top of it, leaving it unsmoothed. Pour the remaining plain coconut batter on top. Using a knife of an offset spatula, marble the two batters together without completely blending them.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.