Friday, March 22, 2013

Dulce de Coco Cake

The Setting: A beautiful day in the Bend. If only it were warm enough to venture outdoors....

The Soundtrack: Say Yes to the Dress. Why can't I stop watching?

Steaming up the Oven: Sausage and veggie pizza.

The Scenario: Despite appearances, this is not a cookie. But with crunchy, toasted coconut on the outside and gooey, coconut-milk caramel on the inside, this is one cake that's sure to cater to your coconut cravings.

Hoosband has always been a huge fan of coconut.

I, however, have historically steered clear of the stuff.

My opinions on the matter could have best been summed up by Tallahasse's  reaction to finding a truck full of Sno Balls on the side of the road in the modern cult classic Zombieland: "I hate coconut. Not the taste, the consistency."

My fondness of coconut rum and Thai curries was proof positive that the taste of coconut wasn't keeping me away. The texture, on the other hand, I always felt was somewhat suggestive of freshly clipped toenails--an offense I simply couldn't see past.

Recently and inexplicably, though, I seem to be coming around.

Visiting Nashville a few weekends ago, I couldn't get enough of my mother-in-law's incredible, homemade German-chocolate cake with oozing layers of coconut-filled icing.

And once back in the Bend, the first thing I wanted to do was hit the baking aisle and dig out my bundt pan so I could put my own spin on coconut cake.

It's pretty clear where the inspiration for this cake comes from.

It's Girl Scout cookie time. And as such, the Internet has been inundated with copycat recipes and heated debate over the "true name" of what some call Samoas and others call Caramel deLites (turns out they're both legit, just produced by two different bakeries).

Hoosband had been mourning our decision not to place an order with our local Girl Scout this year, so I wanted to surprise him with something suggestive of his favorite cookie. While I love a good copycat challenge (Oreos, E.L. Fudge, Oatmeal Creme Pies, Cranberry Bliss Bars, etc.), this time I thought I'd take my homage in a different direction.

I envisioned a butter cake coated in chocolate, caramel, and coconut with a tunnel of caramel running throughout.

My initial concept involved traditional dulce de leche (made from dairy milk), but I wondered if I could amp up the coconut flavor a little by making dulce de coco instead.

The experiment paid off. While classic dulce de leche has a richer caramel color and flavor, the dulce de coco has the same thick, gooey texture and sweetness, plus the deep and delicious taste of coconut.

At one point I considered going truly loco for coco and swapping out all the butter in the cake for coconut oil, but two factors held me back:

1) I wanted the richness...actually...the buttery-ness of the butter to compliment the coconut and chocolate for a deeper, more well-rounded flavor.

2) Butter is pretty cheap. Coconut oil is not. Since this whole thing was an experiment, I figured I'd rather it be a relatively inexpensive one.

If, however, you'd like to make this cake dairy-free, it would be a simple swap to make!

 Dulce de Coco Cake
The toasted coconut on top and the tunnel of dulce de coco running throughout are the stars of this cake. The dulce de coco takes a while to make but can be prepared up to a week in advance if desired.

~for the dulce de coco~
2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (look for it in the international aisle near the Thai items)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine the coconut milk and brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

When the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat to med-low and continue to cook for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent scorching, until the mixture has reduced by about half, is light tan/dark blonde in color, and is very thick but still free flowing.

Remove from heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Use a rubber spatula to push the mixture through a sieve into a bowl or storage container. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before covering and storing in the fridge for up to one week. You should have about 1 1/2 cups dulce de coco.

~for the cake~
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, left out at room temp for 20-30 min (does not need to be completely softened)
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut rum (optional)
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
dulce de coco from above

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a standard-sized bundt pan. I just place a T or so of flour in the pan after I butter it, cover the top with plastic wrap, and shake it until the entire pan is lightly coated. 

Any excess flour can be shaken out into the sink.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and rum (if using) and beat on med-high speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Don't worry if the mixture looks broken or curdled--it will look like yummy batter once the dry ingredients are added.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixer and beat on low speed 30 seconds just to incorporate. Scrape down the bowl if needed, increase speed to medium, and beat an additional 30 seconds.

Transfer the dough to the prepared bundt pan, using a spatula to help spread it around evenly.

Drop 8-10 T of the dulce de coco, evenly spaced, on top of the batter.

Drag a knife or spatula through the dulce de coco to connect/distribute the spoonfuls and push them down slightly in to the batter.

Reserve the remaining dulce de coco for the glaze.

Bake the cake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the cake is set.

Allow to cool in the pan for at least one hour before running a knife along the edges (if needed) and inverting over a cooling rack. If the cake is at all warm at this point, allow to cool completely on the cooling rack.

~for topping~
2 squares Baker's semisweet chocolate*, divided
2 squares Ghirardelli unsweetened chocolate, divided*
1 tsp coconut oil, divided
1 cup sweetened coconut
2 1/2 T butter
2 tsp cornstarch

Place one square of Baker's chocolate, one square of Ghirardelli chocolate, and 1/2 tsp of coconut oil in a microwave-safe cup or bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until completely smooth.

Use a pastry brush to paint the entire bottom (flat side) of the bundt cake, extending the chocolate about 1 inch down the sides of the cake. This should take every bit of the melted chocolate.

Allow to harden completely at room temperature. Don't wash out the chocolate bowl.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the coconut out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Take the baking sheet out and use a spatula to toss/redistribute the coconut so that the golden bits around the edges are in the center and the whiter parts are on the edges. Return to the 350-degree oven for 5 more minutes. Let cool.

Once the chocolate has hardened and the coconut has cooled, prepare the glaze:

Place the dulce de coco and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwavw for 30 seconds. Transfer to a blender or food processor along with the cornstarch. Blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture back to the dulce de coco container if desired.

Carefully turn the cake over so that the chocolate-coated side is on the bottom.

Use a clean pastry brush to coat the top and sides of the cake with the dulce de coco mixture.

Use your hands to gently apply the toasted coconut all over the glazed cake.

Place the remaining squares of chocolate and the remaining 1/2 tsp coconut oil in the same chocolate bowl used before. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir until completely smooth. Use a fork or spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate all over the top of the cake.

Allow chocolate to set at room temperature before cutting. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to three days.

*You don't necessarily have to use these brands of chocolate. This is just the combination that I know works well for this application and with these instructions.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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