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Lemon Coconut Cake

30 Jan

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I opened a kitchen cabinet last week and was met with the most aromatic blast of coconut imaginable. It was like I had stuffed my entire face into a bag of freshly shaved coconut. Being me, the first place my mind went upon being bombarded with the scent of coconut was not to Hawaii, but to cake. What can I say? I like what I like (which is not to say that I do not like Hawaii—because I do, very much—but more to say that, when it comes to what I can make happen ASAP to satisfy my needs, making a cake lands far, far ahead in the realm of plausibility than making a spontaneous trip to Hawaii).

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Because, as we know, I like making cakes, I tend to have a lot of documentation of many, many cakes. After a while, however, though the cakes I make are mostly new affairs that I test out in the name of promised deliciousness, I have noticed that many of the cakes I make tend to look fairly indistinguishable from one another. Observe:

This ginger cardamom cake:

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looks a lot like this rum cake:

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which looks pretty much identical to our current lemon coconut cake:

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Oh, don’t get me wrong. The cakes may look the same, but their tastes are anything but the same. That ginger cardamom cake is a blast of spiciness and subtle cardamom, while the rum cake is boozy enough to make you feel a little flushed after eating it. But how boring is it to show you all pictures of what appear to be the same golden cake, time after time again? It’s super boring, I admit. The good thing is, this cake may look like just a plain old bundt cake, but, like the cakes that came before it, there is nothing plain about it.

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With coconut milk taking the place of regular milk, an added hit of shredded coconut, and a double burst of both lemon zest and fresh lemon juice, this cake is totally worth sharing with you. In fact, it would be a crime not to let you know about it. That initial inspiration provided by the coconut shines through like a tropical dream, and the punch of lemon, plumped up just a tad by the addition of a light lemon glaze, makes for a perfect pairing. Though not a traditional pound cake in the sense that the ratios of flour, butter, eggs and sugar do not line up equally, the crumb of this cake is very much in the realm of a pound cake, with a dense, moist crumb, and the unmistakable flavor undertone of rich butter. It may look like a plain, innocent bundt cake, but don’t be fooled. This cake had got kick, and it wants to be heard. I mean tasted. You know.

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Last Year: Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bread (this may be called a bread, but, come on, it’s a cake in a bread tin) and Grilled Lemongrass Chicken

Lemon Coconut Cake

2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup coconut milk

Lemon Glaze:

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

drop of pure vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease and flour a 10 or 12-cup bundt pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy. Grandually add in sugar and continue to beat on medium high speed until mixture is fluffy and light. Reduce mixer speed to medium, and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl in between each egg. Beat in vanilla. Beat in lemon zest, shredded coconut, and lemon juice, and mix until just combined.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl, then add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by ½ of the coconut milk. Mix until barely combined, then add in ½ of remaining flour mixture, barely mixing to combine, then rest of coconut milk. Add in remaining flour, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl one last time, and gently fold the batter two or three times, just to incorporate any unmixed bits of flour.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, then bake in center of oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the cake emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to continue cooling.

While cake is cooling, prepare glaze. In a small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients and whisk to combine thoroughly. Whisk for 2 to 3 minutes, until powdered sugar has lost some of its graininess.

While the cake is still warm, gently brush on glaze, covering as much of the surface of the cake as possible.

Orange Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

26 Dec

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Sometimes the best part of making a cake is not actually knowing what cake I am going to make. When I offer to make someone a cake, I always leave the door open in regards to what sort of cake I should be making. Sometimes people immediately know what type of cake they want. Chocolate cake with coffee frosting. Spice cake. But sometimes—and, secretly, this is the type of thing I really, really love—my question is answered with just a list of elements that one might envision in a cake. Orange. Chocolate. Whipped Cream.

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And so, it began. When my husband’s cousin (does that make her my cousin as well? I am never quite sure how that works) celebrated her 30th birthday, this is the cake she wanted: something with orange, chocolate, and whipped cream. You’d think that I would take some time to mull that request over before I dove into preparing a cake, but, truthfully, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

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Featuring my favorite butter cake as the building block, this is a celebratory stack of orange-scented cake and deeply creamy, chocolaty ganache. Though I was, sadly, not able to get a photo of the final iteration of the cake (all of my daylight was gone, and my kitchen’s lighting is not at all suitable for taking pictures at night), just try and picture this cake with a towering tophat of snowy whipped cream, and you’ll get an idea of its official presentation. The birthday lady (she is 30, after all) was thrilled to receive the cake, and I was honored to be trusted with making such a special cake for such a special birthday for such a special person. Welcome to your 30s, Ms. W. It is so much fun being semi-related to you.

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Last Year: Smoked Salmon Canapés on Potato Crisps

This cake is part of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people. You can read more about it here.

Orange Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup finely grated orange zest

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 cups cake flour

1 cup half-and-half or whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix well, again scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Sift together the salt, baking powder, and cake flour.

Add about one half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then beat on low speed until well blended. Add about one half of the milk and beat well. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until mixed well. Add the rest of the milk and continue to beat well until the mixture is completely combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center, and a cake tested inserted in the middle of the cakes emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks to continue to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

½ cup heavy whipping cream

In a double boiler or large, heat-safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water, slowly melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, until it is just melted. Remove double boiler from heat, then whisk in the heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, thick, and shiny.

When cakes have cooled completely, set one cake on a serving plate. Slowly pour half of the ganache over the cake, concentrating the ganache in the middle of the cake. The ganache will pool out towards the edges of the cake on its own, but, if you want, you can help coax it to the edges by gently spreading it with a spoon or an offset spatula until it just reaches the tipping point. Place the second layer of cake over the ganache, very gently pushing it in place, just to secure it a bit. Pour the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake, again gently spreading the ganache towards the edges.

You can serve the cake as is, or you can top the whole affair with a mountain of freshly whipped cream.

Chocolate Orange Cake Bread

24 Oct

The logistics of how it happened are almost irrelevant. Maybe there were no logistics. Maybe it was just pure luck, or happenstance, or, on the other side of the coin, the other guys’ back luck coming into play at the worst possible time. Like I said, it doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series, and now, because who knows how they managed to come back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit many, many times over, I can’t stop making black and orange foods because What If. What if the black and orange foods were the missing piece of the puzzle? Do you see what I am getting at here? I can’t stop now.

And so I continue. Today’s installment in the veritable cornucopia of evidence that I’ve compiled for the case against my sanity is a dense, intensely chocolaty little number that is flecked with orange zest and plumped up with orange juice. It’s a meet-up of those friendly flavors, chocolate and orange, and, once again, an entry into that familiar category of bread-or-cake. Not that it matters what you call it, of course. I mean, aside from delicious.

You can, of course, make this bread as depraved as you want. Depending on how rich and aggressive you like your chocolate treats, there is nothing stopping you from adding a handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate to the batter. If you are truly batty for the combination of chocolate and orange, you could also hunt down the ubiquitous holiday chocolate orange, chop it up, and throw in some bits for an even stronger kick of chocolate plus orange. However, I think this bread/cake is just perfect as it stands, with a deep chocolate flavor that is merely highlighted by the brightness of zesty orange. As for whether or not it can supply the same good fortune as black and orange foods of past? Well, we’ll find out in just a few short hours.

Last Year: Creamy Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa (seriously–I have dreams about this salsa, it’s so good)

Chocolate Orange Cake Bread Recipe

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

¾ cup Dutch process cocoa

1 tablespoon espresso powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

Glaze:

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9” by 5” loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the vegetable oil until ingredients are uniformly coated by the oil. The mixture will look quite pebbly, but that is all right.

In a large measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest. Slowly pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, whisking slowly until the mixture is just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in center of oven for 65 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then run a small knife around the perimeter of the cake to help release it from the pan. Turn pan over and gently invert cake out onto a wire rack, then turn cake upright and leave on wire rack to cool completely.

When cake has cooled, prepare glaze by combining ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until smooth. Pour or brush glaze over the top of the cooled cake.

Makes 1 9″ by 5″ loaf. Serves 8 to 10.

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