Coconut Meringue Layer Cake
I’ve been struggling with my baking motivation recently. I thought that joining the #TwitterBakeAlong may give it the jolt it needed. A baking challenge is set every week and you tweet a picture of your bake.
This week the Bake Along challenge was a layer cake. I hadn’t made a sponge cake in ages. This could be just what my baking mojo needed. I went straight to the Hummingbird Bakery for a recipe. No one can make a big in-your-face layer cake like they can. I decided to try a coconut meringue cake from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Baking with a fresh coconut would be a challenge and, hopefully, the end result would taste like sunshine. I could eat it whilst watching Death in Paradise and drinking Malibu. Perhaps I’d forget that I was actually in Leamington Spa in the middle of a cold snap.
I have made a coconut cake before using a recipe from James Martin’s Sweet. It was so lovely that it made my Top Five Adventurous Bakes. I didn’t use fresh coconut in the James Martin cake though. I wasn’t up for the challenge. This time, I decided to give it a go.
Here’s my finished cake.
Looks OK doesn’t it? Let’s find out how it tasted.
Finding a Coconut
It took a long time to find a whole fresh coconut in Leamington Spa. Tesco had fresh coconut chunks, but these wouldn’t do because I needed the coconut water as well. I also drew a blank in Marks. I’d just about decided to give up when I remembered the green grocers. They did have some, but they were very well hidden. Just how long they’d been skulking up there on the top shelf I wouldn’t like to guess.
Preparing the Coconut
The Hummingbird recipe says that the first step in preparing a coconut is to pierce the eyes and strain the water out. I disagree. The first step in preparing my coconut was finding the eyes. They were very well hidden under a thick mat of coconut hair. I doubt that that’s the correct term but it will have to do. Once I’d pulled the hair off the I found the three eyes at the top of the coconut.
I wasn’t sure what to use to pierce them. The recipe didn’t say. I turned to YouTube where Brad’s Greenhouse and Gardening suggested a screwdriver. I used a skewer. It wasn’t difficult to pierce the eyes and drain the water out of the coconut. There just wasn’t that much water to drain. I ended up with 50ml. I needed to make the liquid up to 250ml to make a syrup. The recipe said to make up the liquid with water, but to my thinking, if I added 200ml water, I may as well not have bothered with the coconut at all. I opened a can of coconut milk and used the watery part to make up the 250ml for the syrup.
Once the coconut was drained, the recipe said that I should put it into the oven for fifteen minutes before cracking it open. This I did. I turned to YouTube again for the cracking method since the Hummingbird Bakery was silent. To get a coconut open, you need to whack it around the circumference until it cracks. The Youtubers gave their coconuts a couple of gentle taps before they fell open in their hands in two perfect halves.
I whacked my coconut with our knife sharpening steel until it broke, and I mean the steel not the coconut. I carried on with a hammer. The coconut did eventually crack, but not into two halves. Cracks appeared in random places and I ended up pulling the shell away in small pieces. Not so good for scooping out the flesh. Oh, and there’s also a second brown “skin” on the coconut underneath the shell, so once I’d got the shell off I then had to cut the white flesh off the brown skin.
There were so many pieces of coconut it took me ages to cut away all the flesh, and then I was supposed to grate it. I gave up. The pieces were too small and, since they were curved and my grater was flat, it was impossible to get more than a couple of grates out of each piece. I put the grater down and chopped the rest as finely as I could.
Here is the total product of a good hour’s work.
Preparing the coconut was a tedious and thankless task, but I’d done it. Now I could turn to the easy bit, the cake. A sponge cake. I could make a sponge cake. I could make a sponge cake before I started the blog. Easy.
I creamed butter and caster sugar in my spanking new Kenwood Chef. So far so good. The next step was to sift together plain flour and baking powder. I’m not sure what happened. I measured my flour, sifted in the baking powder and then looked at the scales again. They said that I needed 50 more grams of flour. I could have sworn I’d put the right amount in, but as we all know when we’re still trying to shift those Christmas pounds, the scales don’t lie. Fifty extra grams of flour went into the bowl.
I added the flour and some milk mixed with vanilla extract to the butter and sugar in stages. The mixture seemed to be on the dry side, but I was going to fold in some whisked egg whites so I thought it would be OK. The mixture was still pretty dry after I’d added the egg white but I put it into my cake tins anyway and put them into the oven at 170°C for half an hour.
They came out looking dry and flat. The problem. Too much flour. I must have put the right amount of flour into the cake in the first place and then been conned by the scales into adding more. The surfeit of flour meant that the flour to baking powder ratio was out of kilter and my cake didn’t rise as it should. So much for thinking that I could make a sponge cake.
Even though my cake was a disaster I was going to finish it. Even disastrous cake usually tastes OK. I whisked egg whites with caster sugar and a bit of water over a pan of simmering water until the mixture formed stiff peaks. This took about ten minutes. I’m glad I wasn’t whisking by hand. This was the frosting. Pretty simple.
To put the cake together, I poured coconut syrup over each layer and sprinkled them with the chopped coconut. I used the frosting to sandwich the layers together and cover the cake. Finally, I put the rest of the coconut onto the top of the cake. I was supposed to cover the cake with grated coconut but I didn’t have enough. This is what I ended up with.
Was it worth it?
I am never, ever going to bother with a fresh coconut again. It took ages to prepare, I got hardly any coconut water out of it, it made a hell of mess and it didn’t even taste that nice. As for the cake, it might have been good had I followed the recipe correctly . Hummingbird Bakery cakes are usually great, even if the baker isn’t so hot. As it was, it tasted OK, but the texture was all wrong because of the extra flour. The best thing I can say about this cake is that the Bounty martinis we made with the left over coconut syrup were really delicious. They certainly took the edge off the disappointment of a failed bake.