After several months of mishaps and mayhem baking with the Cake Slice club, I’ve learned a lot and have finally hit my stride. This month’s cake came together just as the recipe promised it would and drew rave reviews. I have to admit, if it weren’t for this club, I probably never would have picked a coconut layer cake recipe out of a cookbook, but now that I’ve made one, I’m really glad that I did. It was moist, light…just sweet enough…and very tasty.
Shredded coconut is added to scalded milk and set aside to soften and soak while the dry ingredients, a flour/baking powder/salt combo are sifted together. Then, they are alternately added in shifts to a softened butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Offers of assistance with sifting are always plentiful in our kitchen…taking turns is a must.
Once the batter is incorporated, it is divided into two 9” round pans, each lined with a circle of parchment paper and a mist of non-stick baking spray (admittedly overdone a bit to compensate for last month’s stuck-on fiasco), and baked in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
I let the layers cool a bit in the pans, and then popped them out to finish cooling, while I contemplated, second guessed, and eventually googled the “correct way to layer a layer cake”…i.e. which layer goes up and which layer goes down. What I found was that there is no correct way to do it, but rather several techniques that ranged from simple to complex.
Martha recommends trimming the dome off the top of each layer and then layering with the bottom layer right side up and the top layer upside down.
Annalise from Completely Delicious suggests increasing the baking time while baking at a lower temperature and offers a step by step tutorial on building the perfect layer cake.
Amanda Rettke, a local Minnesota baker (better known as blogger I Am Baker) who just published her new cookbook Surprise Inside Cakes, recommends leveling your cake to ensure all levels are the same height. You can even use a clean towel to cover the layers while they are still warm and push down on the domed portion to flatten it out.
Upon further research, I found many bakers depend upon “cake strips” to ensure level heights without having to trim the cake. Cake strips are fastened around the outside of the pan to insulate it so that the outer ring of the cake bakes evenly with the center of the cake resulting in an even top, rather than a dome. You can buy them online or make your own by cutting an old terry cloth towel into strips, soaking them in water, and then pinning around the pan before baking. Needless to say, these little beauties are now on my mother’s day wishlist…
The frosting is a quick buttercream version that starts off by heating flour and milk to form a custard. Who knew that flour went into buttercream??? I didn’t. Maybe it’s just my novice pastry skills, but this was a new one for me.
Anyway, you heat the milk and flour, whisking continuously, until it thickens and comes to a low boil. Then you remove it from the heat to cool for a few minutes before beating into the butter and sugar. The key is to let the custard cool just enough so as not to melt the butter when incorporating it.
The frosting recipe called for superfine sugar. Most of the frosting recipes that I’ve made in the past called for powdered sugar. I had granulated sugar and powdered sugar but didn’t have a clue what superfine sugar was or where to find it, so I used granulated sugar, and that worked out just fine. The frosting was perfectly smooth with no granular texture.
About the coconut: I chose an unsweetened, flaked variety from the natural foods section of our supermarket, and gave it a few pulses in my food processer to break it down a bit further. It provided a purer coconut flavor than the cloyingly sweet version and didn’t have all the added ingredients. After frosting the cake, I carefully pressed a layer of flaked coconut on the top and sides, just enough to secure it to the frosting.
Another successful cake and many more baking lessons learned.
This cake recipe is from Carole Walter’s Great Cakes cookbook. Click the link below to see the other Cake Slice Bakers’ version of this month’s coconut layer cake.