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Coconut Cake and Ice Cream

March 4, 2012

It’s been an eventful week and a half!  Our warm February blossomed into full-blown spring and, just as the blue skies and blooming flowers started calling to me, I was hit with a violent bout of stomach flu.  And of course, as soon as I was on the mend, it started pouring rain.  So I’ve been stuck inside with something of a baker’s block for many days.

But now all that is behind us.  The spring weather is back (although now it has confused itself with summer and reached ninety-five degrees!) and I am ready to enjoy it to the fullest extent with a slice of coconut cake and a batch of homemade ice cream!



My love of coconut goes back to my vegan years (not all that far behind me, as it were), when I considered coconut ice cream to be a staple food group.  But my search for the matching loaf cake left me rather underwhelmed.  All the recipes I could dig up required handfuls of shredded coconut in the batter.  But with no other coconut to be found, I didn’t think it would do the trick.  So I turned to other ingredients – coconut oil in particular – to pack the right amount of coco-punch.

I had to do a bit of trial and error, but oh man did it pay off.  The final cake is fluffy and pale, with a warm, creamy, coconut flavor that just doesn’t give up.  The coconut flakes in the batter give it a texture that is really to die for.  This would be the perfect cake to pair with fresh fruit or – in my case – delicious homemade strawberry ice cream!

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Coconut Loaf Cake

yield: one loaf

Ingredients
2 ¾ cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
¾ tsp salt
½ cup coconut oil
1¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups full-fat coconut milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Lightly grease a standard 9” X 5” loaf pan and set aside
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, salt, and flaked coconut.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar until well-incorporated (about 3-4 minutes).   The mixture will not get fluffy like butter, but needs to be whipped well to incorporate enough air.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add vanilla extract.  Alternatingly add dry ingredients and coconut milk, starting and ending with dry ingredients, and mixing until just incorporated.
  3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 70-80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out and place upright on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
  4. If desired, you can make a coconut glaze by mixing ½ cup powdered sugar with 2-3 Tablespoons coconut milk and pour over the cake while it is still warm.

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On buying and using coconut oil:  Though coconut oil has been used for centuries, it has recently gained a bit of celebrity.  This is largely due to the finding that, although coconut oil is comprised mostly of saturated fats (80-90%, by most estimates) it contains other compounds that promote good health in its unrefined form.  The health claims range pretty far and wide and, as these claims tend to go, have various levels of actual scientific support.  But suffice it to say that coconut oil, used sparingly, can be part of a healthy diet.  Just look for a label reading “Unrefined” or “virgin coconut oil.”  Avoid the refined or processed version as this is made with hydrogenated fats and has no coconut flavor.

Substituting coconut oil for butter in recipes is fairly easy, but requires a few simple strategies.  First, adjust for liquid content.  Coconut oil is a solid fat that contains very little water.  Butter, on the other hand, contains rather high levels of water – usually around 20%.  A good rule of thumb is to use about ¾ cup of coconut oil for every cup of butter, and to increase the liquid in the recipe by about ⅓ cup.  Coconut oil is also rather waxy and can make cakes or breads pretty dense.  Here, I corrected this by using cake flour in place of unbleached all-purpose flour, but you could also experiment with baking powder to achieve a lighter crumb.

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