I had a request for a coconut cake recipe, and that’s what sparked my interest in testing a few coconut cakes for this column.
Coconuts grow in tropical climates on palm trees, but not all palm trees grow coconuts. Then the question: Is it a fruit, nut or seed?
According to The Library of Congress website http://www.loc.gov/wiseguide: “Actually, it can be all three. Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous, one-seeded drupe (which is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed). The word coconut itself can be misleading because “nut” is part of the word. A loose definition of nut is a one-seeded fruit, so one could argue on behalf of the coconut.”
Anyway, some argue it’s really a seed and not a fruit or nut. Whatever you call it, I’m referring to the deliciously sweet pulp inside that brown, woody hard shell.
I was surprised to learn that carefully protected palms can produce 75 to 200 coconuts annually. In selecting a ripe coconut, pick one that’s heavy for its size and when you shake it, the liquid inside should sound full. Until you cut it open, it’s hard to determine the ripeness.
Coconuts have three round scars, or eyes, at one end. Generally, the larger eye can easily be pierced so the coconut water can flow out. Strain and reserve it to use in the recipe or drink it.
I think cracking the coconut, prying the meat from the shell, then removing the brown peel from it with a vegetable peeler is challenging. Hopefully, your fingers remain unharmed throughout the process. Grate the coconut in a processor or on a hand grater.
I tested cakes using fresh, frozen and packaged coconut. The main thing I noticed was that the fresh, even when cooked in sugar syrup, is still chewier than the other two. I grated it in the food processor and then chopped it so the shreds were finer. The frozen and the packaged varieties are presweetened and are very thin or flaky, depending on which you purchase.
Is there that much difference in the taste after it’s combined with all the other ingredients in the recipe? I’m not sure.
One coconut yields about 3½ cups grated coconut and about ¾ cup coconut water. Fresh coconut does not remain fresh for too long after removing it from the shell. Refrigerate or freeze immediately if you’re not going to be using the coconut right away.
The fresh coconut cake was a standard yellow cake with a fresh coconut filling.
The Wait Cake begins with a mix and has a sour cream and coconut filling. The icing is a mix of coconut and whipped topping.
This cake should be refrigerated two days before serving, but mine seldom waits that long before someone cuts a slice from it. That cake was the favorite among my taste-testers.
I included a one-layer Easy German Sweet Chocolate Cake With Coconut and Pecan topping for the chocolate lovers.
That one’s made from a pudding-included cake mix with melted German sweet chocolate added to the mix. The coconut and pecan topping is spread over the baked cake, then broiled.
Corinne Cook is a columnist for The Advocate. Reach her at email@example.com.
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