People are always in for a treat when they visit our house. One can put the word 'treat' into perspective as he pleases, but the truth is, I see our neighborhood as an opportunity of sorts. A place that reminds me not to let the appetites of the world consume me too much too quickly, if at all. It isn't a place where neighbors casually greet each other as in the days of old. It isn't even the ideal venue to walk out as one pleases just to make a trip to the store. A place far, much too far from the way Valentina describes the untouched region of Gradara where she and Betty will be hosting a workshop (I hope you go for me, if you can!).
This place is unpolished and it's real, and it keeps me grounded when my heart wanders a bit too far. Let me put it this way...There are sirens visiting our neighborhood every other hour and, more times than I can recollect, we have had a helicopter commanding us to 'get back in the house'. Interesting experience as it may be, my mother in law could definitely do without those nearly-heart-attack moments every time she visits. Even so, I've learned to love this place because it offers me the opportunity to reach out to others outside of my comfort zone.
Another aspect that I love though, is the fact that I'm never far from the ocean or the stunning hiking trails of Palos Verdes. When Selah is at part-time preschool I try to unwind from the demands of the day, making sure that I seize every opportunity to surround myself with nature, inspiration, and beautiful things before Tabitha makes her grand entrance.
These are the moments when I realize I've unlocked the fountain of inspiration. Inspiration to seek a deeper intimacy with God on a rugged trail and even the inspiration to create something noteworthy while I'm in the kitchen. That alone, but paired with the skills of creatives such as Betty, Valentina, and awe-inspiring expertise of gastronomic geniuses like Thomas Keller, my mind is seldom bored.
This cake was a spontaneous recipe, to be honest. As I was checking my daily emails I came across Thomas Keller's coconut cake recipe featured by Saveur, and I instantly knew the batter would taste out of this world. It exceeded my expectations! Although I didn't follow the recipe to the dot I made sure to keep a roughly similar ratio of flour and fats. Thomas Keller uses mayo in the batter which I've never heard of until now, but since I had coconut cream on hand I incorporated it with butter instead. The result was an unbelievably springy and moist cake enhanced by the fragrance of lemon zest. I always enjoy a good contrast of flavors and textures, so to make this cake unique I decided to follow in Michelle's footsteps and covered it in a graham cracker frosting. Contrast is always a good thing, after all. I hope you give this cake a try for your next party or gathering and the good news is, it's from scratch, mostly. Minus the graham cracker crumbs, of course.
Lemon Coconut Cream Cake and Graham Frosting
Time: 1 hour, including baking and cooling time
Equipment: beater or stand mixer, large mixing bowls, rubber spatula, measuring cups+spoons, parchment paper, 3 9-inch cake pans
Ingredients for cake
2 cups all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temp
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar+1 tbsp
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
5 tbsp coconut cream (found at Trader Joe's)
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of two large lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice
butter for greasing sides
Ingredients for frosting
10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
3 tbsp coconut cream
2 cups confectioner sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
pinch of salt
fruit filling to pipe on the edges
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a stand mixer bowl and a paddle attachment (or a beater with a large bowl), beat the egg yolks only with the 1 1/4 cups of sugar until fluffy, remembering to set the egg whites aside. Scrape sides as needed with a rubber spatula. Add melted butter, coconut cream, vanilla, milk, zest, and lemon juice, beating on high speed until well incorporated. Take the speed to the lowest setting and carefully add the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just enough until the large clumps are gone. Set aside.
Quickly wash the stand mixer bowl and attach a whisk attachment. Make sure there isn't any fat residue as this can sabotage the peak-making process. Beat the egg whites on high speed with the 1 tbsp of sugar until solid peaks form. Fold the foam with a rubber spatula into the batter just enough, without over mixing. Place a cut-out parchment at the bottom of each pan and butter the sides. I prefer to use parchment because this creates a more desirable color and texture at the bottom. Evenly distribute the batter into the three pans and bake for approximately 23-25 minutes. Let it cool.
For the frosting, beat the butter, coconut cream, confectioner sugar, whipping cream, graham crumbs, and salt until it's light and fluffy.
Place one cake layer on a flat surface with the domed side downward. Spread the frosting just short of about 1/2 inch from the edge. Pipe on some fruit filling of your choice (I like tart berry flavor) around the 1/2 inch edge. Place another cake layer and repeat the process. Add the third layer and frost the sides and top as desired. Store in an air tight container and refrigerate.