Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Triple Layer Chocolate Coconut Cake

I baked this cake last week for a family birthday party. It is a combination of a two layer coconut cake and a two layer chocolate cake which can be made separately or combined into a three layer cake (with a single layer left over).

The tradition of the birthday cake may date to ancient Greek times when round or moon-shaped cakes were offered to Artemis, the Goddess of the moon and hunting. Apparently these cakes were also decorated with candles to make the cake glow like the moon. It is unclear whether these cakes influenced the Roman tradition of simple, round, yeast-leavened, honey-sweetened cakes served on important birthdays.

Another theory about the birthday cake has its origins in Germany. In medieval times, sweetened bread dough was baked to commemorate Jesus’ birthday. The custom was reborn in the 18th century as Kinderfest, a German children’s birthday celebration. Placing candles on the cake was believed to draw on the 16th century German tradition of placing candles on Christmas trees. Candles are believed to symbolize the passing of time. In North America, the number of candles placed on the cake is equivalent to the age of the person, though in Germany at that time a few extra candles were placed on the cake for good luck in upcoming years.

By the 15th century the production and consumption of sugar had escalated (through slave sugarcane production in the New World), and European cakes became ornate, multi-layered confections. Such cakes were only available to the wealthy. As a result of the industrial revolution, tools and materials necessary for home baking became more readily available. The Germans also baked a multi-layered sweet cake called Geburtstagorten which may have been a precursor to the modern birthday cake. Today’s North American birthday cake is usually a frosted, multi-layered affair. The layers are separating by cream, fruit, jam, or frosting.

Cakes are often decorated with the phrase “Happy Birthday” which was popularized as a result of the song “Happy Birthday to You”. While the origin of the lyrics is disputed, the melody was popularized (though not necessarily created) by the Hill sisters, kindergarten teachers from Louisville, Kentucky. The song has the distinction of being the most well-recognized song in the English language.

This cake is a crowd pleaser and is ideal for birthday, anniversaries or other special occasions. It does take a fair amount of effort but if you do the work over several days, it is quite manageable.

Serves 16-20 people

Two Layer Coconut Cake
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Two Layer Chocolate Cake
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups milk

Coconut Filling (for a Three Layer Cake)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup shredded or flaked coconut

Chocolate Coconut Frosting (for a Three Layer Cake)
12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
5 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup coconut milk, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup or more unsweetened flaked coconut

Two Layer Cake – same directions for both cakes
1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans (note that you measure the radius of a cake pan at the top, not the bottom, of the pan). Place a circular piece of parchment in each pan, and re-butter and flour the pan. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a small bowl, mix flour and other dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat for 5 minutes to incorporate air into the mixture.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. While constantly beating, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the coconut milk. Repeat and finish with the remaining flour mixture.
6. Add extracts and continue to beat until just mixed.
7. Spoon batter into cake pans, and level with a knife. Rap cake pans on counter top several times to remove excess air bubbles.
8. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
9. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Slide a butter knife around the edge of the cake to detach it from the side of the pan. Invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely. The cakes can be made several days in advance. Store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag to keep moist.

Coconut Filling (for a Three Layer Cake)
1. In a small bowl mix together all of the ingredients. Can be made several days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Frosting (for a Three Layer Cake)
1. Mix powdered sugar and cocoa and set aside.
2. With an electric mixer beat butter until light and fluffy.
3. While constantly beating, slowly add sugar/cocoa mixture alternatively with milk until incorporated.
4. Blend in vanilla and beat to a spreading consistency. Add more milk if necessary.
5. Can be made several days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. To use, bring up to room temperature (requires about 30-60 minutes). You may need to add additional milk or water to get it to a spreading consistency after refrigeration.

Assembling a Three Layer Cake
1. Bake two coconut and two chocolate cakes. You will have an extra layer that can be frozen for up to one month. I would not recommend making a four layer cake as it will be extremely difficult to assemble, slice and serve.
2. On a cake plate or other large flat plate, place the bottom layer top-down (so that you have the bottom of the cake facing up). Frost to within 1/2 inch of the edge using 1/6 to 1/8 of the chocolate frosting. With a spoon spread 1/2 of the coconut filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the frosting. Do not skip the coconut filling as it provides necessary moisture for the final cake. When frosting, it is best to place all the frosting in the center of the area to be frosted and push the frosting to the edge rather than pull frosting to the edge. Pulling can sometimes gather up cake crumbs from the service.

3. Place the next cake layer top-side up. Frost to within 1/2 inch of the edge using 1/6 to 1/8 of the chocolate frosting. With a spoon spread 1/2 of the coconut filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the frosting.

4. Place the final cake layer top-side up. Press down gently to adhere the layers to each other and to test the stability of the cake.

5. Using a butter knife, cover the top and sides of the cake with 1/3 of the remaining frosting. This is called the crumb layer of frosting and it traps cake crumbs so that they do not end up on the outside of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 1 hour to seal the crumb layer.
6. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, and cover generously with the remaining frosting. Use the frosting to even out the sides of the cake. Top with flaked coconut and gently press coconut into frosting to adhere. Cool cake again to set the frosting.

7. To serve the cake, use a long serrated knife to slice and a deep pie slice to remove the cake. If you slice too thinly, the three layers may fall apart. The cake can be covered tightly with saran wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.


Ansley said...
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~~louise~~ said...

Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed my visit. I stumbled upon your blog while in search of "gum arabic" and was delighted to find your recipe for "Tree Sap Fudge." I hope you don't mind if I "borrow" your link for a post I am hoping to do for National Candy Cane Day which happens to be today (gee I hope I get it done)

I may just have to "borrow" this link also. The cake looks so good and I posted briefly about the history of birthday cakes last year. Here's the link just in case you want to make sure your links will be attached to a similar blog. OH, I'm on Long Island "as we speak."

Thanks so much for sharing...

Anonymous said...

I haven't ever read the recipe but it sounds divine!!!

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