I have decided to learn to bake and decorate cakes and other goodies in 2008, so I created the Baking 101: Learning to Decorate and Bake Cakes, Breads, and Other Goodies in 2008 group.Â Easter was a good excuse to get started finally.Â
My sister and I had been looking through The Greyston Bakery Cook BookÂ when we saw the picture of their Fresh Coconut Mousse Cake - it was so beautiful with large curls of coconut all over it and layers of thick mousse.Â I knew I wanted to make it, but did not want to buy the coconuts and shred them myself (besides, I am not sure how they got it to look like curls of white chocolate anyway and my shreds would likely look like the bagged coconut anyway).Â As Easter approached, my sister, Paula, asked if I wanted to make it.Â I decided I would give it a try.Â I have baked some cakes before to rave reviews, but not in many years - and scratch made cakes are not only cheaper than a box cake (generally) but they taste so much better.
This recipe did have some new techniques for me, but I did not find it hard.Â It begins with separating five eggs, putting the yolks into my wonderful loverly KitcherAid mixer, then beating them on medium speed and mixing in granulated sugar until it was a creamy yellow (see picture left).Â In a separate bowl I combined cooled melted butter, coconut milk (the original recipe called for milk but I thought the coconut milk would be better), vanilla and coconut extract.Â I then drizzled this mixture and once it was all combined I slowly added the self rising flour (substitution for regular flour and baking powder).Â
At this point, I wished I had two bowls for my KitchenAid mixer, because I had to put this part of the batter inÂ a separate bowl so I could clean the mixing bowl and beater to whip the egg whites.Â It was not a huge deal, but I now see how useful a second mixing bowl can be.Â I then took the five egg whites in the clean and dry mixing bowl and beat them to the soft peak stage (I was hoping I did this right since I have never made meringue before - though my mom has many times).Â I then blended in more granulated sugar and beat until it was at the stiff peak stage (once again, hoping I did it right - I suppose I did since it turned out fine).Â It was then time to fold the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to deflate it.
The recipe called for 3 8x2 inch pans, but I only had 2, but I did have 2 9x3 pans (which I prefer) so I just divided the batter amongst the 2 9x3 pans, which I had greased and floured.Â It also called for parchment rounds, which I did not have, but it turned out just fine.Â I reduced the cooking time to 25 minutes to compensate for the larger pans.
I thenÂ turned to make the coconut mousse.Â Now, as I stated before, I was not in for shredding coconut myself, no matter how pretty their picture looks.Â I am sure it tastes better too, but I knew the Baker's coconut would do.Â I used the entire 5 1/2 cup bag for the cake, compared to the 2 cups of fresh coconut the recipe calls for.Â To make the mousse, I began by cleaning my mixing bowl and beaters again, then whipped the heavy cream on medium high until it had soft peaks.Â At this point I slowly added in the confectioners sugar and theÂ vanilla andÂ coconut extracts.Â I also decided to add in about 1/3 cup of coconut milk.Â I continued to whip the cream for another minute until the cream was soft and fluffy.Â I then carefully folded in 1/2 the bag of coconut.Â I learned the hard way that you need to sprinkle it in, otherwise it clumps and makes it difficult to disperse amongst the cream.Â I then put the bowl of mousse in the fridge to chill for an hour.Â
Once the cakes were done (exactly 25 minutes) I allowed them to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.Â I then ran a knife around the edges and the first cake came out smoothe and easy onto the cooling rack.Â The second cake requiredÂ a bit more coaxing, but still came out well overall.Â I allowed them to cool on the racks until the hour was up for the mousse.Â Since the original recipe called for 3 cakes, I decided to slice each cake in half.Â This would give me four layers instead of three, but I figured it would be better.Â I had the idea to brush the layers with the coconut milk.Â This is a trick I had learned with buttermilk on other cakes, and it makes them moist and yummy.Â It did this on the tops and bottoms of each layer and it finished off the can of coconut milk.Â The coconut mousse was layered in between each cake layer then spread across the top and sides.Â I had a lot left for the top and sides and realized I could have been more liberal on the layers, but oh-well.Â The last part was to sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top and sides - and it was done!Â
Now, I made the cake yesterday, and honestly, the hardest part was not diving into it right away.Â I used tooth picks and plastic wrap to cover it and put it in the fridge overnight.Â When it was brought out after Easter lunch, there were oohs and ahhhs abound.Â Below is the first slice - big enough for two to share (and it was shared).Â It was really good.Â I had fun making it and really do like the The Greyston Bakery Cook Book.Â The recipes are just enough of a challenge to be fun and impressive, but not so hard that you need a culinary arts degree to make them.Â My only complaint, which I have with most cook books, is there are not enough pictures!Â There is a center section with select pictures, but not all recipes have them.Â It was still worth it, though, but you publishers out there - know I would rather pay more and have a picture of every recipe in the book!
Too bad Gather doesn't offer virtual tastings . . . please do not lick your screen!Â And stop drooling on your keyboard!Â Come on by some time and I'll make you some to try!
Check out all of Monica Zenberg's great recipes in her series: Southern Love in Your Tummy