September 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Hi there. It’s September and I last posted in May, which means an entire summer has passed. I hope you wore shorts, or a bikini, at least a few times, and licked ice-cream melting from a cone while your bare feet sprung through grass. I hope you guzzled your way through peaches and strawberries, and ate outside as much as possible. I hope you read a trashy novel. I hope you feel just about ready to go back to school.
I can never separate September from new beginnings. The clean, smooth first page of a new notebook, full of promise. Even here in season-averse San Francisco, I want to get out my boots and tights and wrap up warm, and feel crisp evenings getting darker. We turn inwards; we start again.
Two years ago, we had our own enormous new beginning with the birth of Henry. He won’t turn two till the end of this month (“green chocolate cake please mama!”) but his peers have been steadily celebrating their birthdays over the summer. I made this cake for one such celebration – a coconut and lime sponge slathered in feathery meringue frosting and topped with strawberries. It’s entirely appropriate for this time of transition between summer and autumn, one foot in the longer days of the past months, but paying homage to the slight nutty earthiness of what is to come. Most of all, it’s my offering of a new beginning here. I’ve been really caught up with the crazy juggle of day job, my growing yoga teaching gig, and the whirlwind of toddler life, but I realized these past weeks how much I miss this space, these words. I’m back to school.
Coconut and Lime Birthday Cake
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet
For once I don’t have the ounce/cup measurements in the recipe below. I’m sorry. I highly recommend a small digital scale that shows grams and ounces as a kitchen staple item.
150ml tinned coconut milk
50g desiccated coconut/unsweetened coconut flakes
½ vanilla pod, scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
50ml white rum, plus extra to drizzle on the cake (*see note below)
250g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs
275g plain flour
2½ level tsp baking powder
6 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
*If you’re worried about the alcohol for any reason you could just substitute regular milk or extra coconut milk, and replace the drizzle with lime simple syrup.
Butter the sides and line the bases of three 20cm/8in round Victoria sponge tins with discs of non-stick baking parchment. Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
Heat the coconut milk till boiling, then remove from the heat and stir in the coconut flakes, vanilla pod (or extract) and rum (or additional milk). Leave to soak for 30 minutes so the dry coconut softens.
Place the sugar and butter in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until evenly combined. Sift the flour with the baking powder two or three times, then fold alternately with the coconut mixture (remove the vanilla pod here if you used one) into the butter mixture until smooth.
Divide between the tins, smooth the tops and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins, then remove carefully. Sprinkle on each layer 2 tsp lime juice and 1 tbsp rum.
Layer and top with buttercream (see recipe below).
Meringue Buttercream Icing
3-4 egg whites depending on egg size (about 125g by weight – it’s probably 3 large eggs and 4 medium so worth weighing to check)
225g caster/granulated sugar
325g unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
Place the egg whites and sugar in a saucepan and stir over a moderate heat until the mixture is hot and the sugar dissolved. The sugar and heat kill off any bacteria and effectively sterilize the mixture. Then scrape it into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk for about 5 minutes until very thick, holding its shape, and cooled.
Beat the butter into the meringue, about 50g at a time. Stop whisking as soon as all of the butter is evenly mixed through. If it starts to look coarse and rough (mine did), then warm it very slightly in the microwave and beat again until creamy. Finally beat in the vanilla extract and smooth/pipe over the cake.
Strawberry decoration optional (0r other seasonal fruit).