Nothing beats a classic fresh coconut cake. My version comes down to me from my Southern Granny - a fresh coconut cake with seven minute frosting!
A fresh coconut cake was something of a special occasion bake when I was growing up. It involved having to find and open a coconut. This was a dangerous task, which included wielding a hammer and a nail, whilst holding onto an awkwardly sized orb. The goal was to first drain the milk out of the coconut and then to crack it open. More often than not, words were said and wounds were incurred. But, in the end we were usually able to eat cake, which made it worth it!
This particular recipe involves a basic vanilla cake topped with a southern '7-minute' boiled frosting and loads of fresh grated coconut. I'll be honest, the original recipe that I wrote down when I left home had some issues. I'm not sure if the measurements were wrong, or my ingredients were wrong, but something was very definitely wrong! No matter what I did, the frosting turned into a runny mess and never held. I've abridged the technique slightly in the recipe here, which should be more certain to produce the consistency of frosting intended.
Preparing the Cake
The cake itself is extremely straightforward. First, preheat your oven and prepare your tin. I usually use a 9" (22cm) springform tin for most of my cakes, greased with butter and then floured. Next, you'll want to prepare your soured milk. You could use buttermilk if you have it to hand, but I always default to souring milk at home when I bake (such as in my pound cakes). To sour milk, add a tablespoon of distilled vinegar to a cup measure. Top this up to the cup mark with whole milk. Give this a quick stir and leave to sit while you continue preparing your batter.
In a large bowl, beat together your sugar and butter. If you've let the butter soften sufficiently, you can do this by hand, but I prefer using a stand mixer. I also avoid saying 'room temperature' here, since my room's temperature is a totally different climate dependent on season. In winter, butter stays a brick on my kitchen counter, only softened in the oven or boiler cupboard.
Once your butter and sugar are light and fluffy, divide out your eggs. You will need to preserve two whites for your frosting. Add the whole eggs one at a time, beating after each. Then add the two lone yolks, doing the same - ensuring that all is well incorporated.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt. You will then want to incorporate this into the sugar mixture, in alternating additions with your soured milk. Once this is well combined, add in your vanilla extract. I'm a bit of a vanilla addict - I used Nielsen-Massey's Tahitian vanilla in this bake - but any good quality vanilla would do!
Pour your batter into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour. Once a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before tipping out to cool on a wire rack.
Quick Note on Fresh Coconut
I wasn't able to find a whole fresh coconut at my grocery store (and also didn't massively fancy trying to whack it open). So, instead, I opted for grating lots of pre-cut coconut chunks. It was a bit of a painful process - lots of tiny pieces to try to grate. In the end, though, it had the desired effect.
You don't, however, have to use fresh coconut to make this recipe (despite the name). The coconut will be going all over the icing, to make this very thoroughly a coconut cake. This can be achieved with sweetened flaked coconut or to a slightly lesser extent with dessicated coconut. I find dessicated a bit less flavourful generally, but it is also the easiest to find in British stores. It certainly works in a pinch!
If you are using fresh grated coconut, you should soak this in milk for 15 minutes or so, to help enhance it.
My Seven Minute Frosting for a Coconut Cake
My Granny's Fresh Coconut Cake comes with a traditional '7-minute frosting'. The only issue is, I've had absolute nightmares trying to follow the recipe and usually end up with an oozy mess. I hate using double boilers (or in my case make-shift double boilers of ill-fitted bowls balanced on pots) and I also don't have easy access to corn syrup in Britain.
So, this time, I've tried updating the techniques, benefitting from having a stand mixer at the ready. If you don't have access to a stand mixer, you could do this with a hand held electric whisk and/or revert to the more traditional methods of whisking all ingredients together directly over the double boiler. I didn't time this precisely, so cannot confirm if this takes literally 7 minutes, but I can vouch for it not being far off.
First, place your egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add your sugar, water and liquid glucose to a saucepan. Stir these together and heat over a medium-high heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue boiling, but also begin whisking the egg whites. You will want these to reach fairly sturdy peaks. This whole process is easier to time and manage if you are using a stand mixer, since you can leave the egg whites whisking while checking the saucepan. Your sugar syrup needs to reach about 118C (244°F) - best measured on an instant read thermometer.
Once it hits this temp, immediately begin pouring into the whisking egg whites (which should be at stiff peaks before you begin to pour). For the sake of the mess, it is best to pour this slowly and steadily down the side of the mixing bowl, while it continues to beat. Then, continue whisking until the bowl feels room temperature (the syrup will have heated this up a lot, so you are looking for it to cool). Add vanilla, whisking to combined. The mixture should look thick and glossy white, with a billowy marshmallow-like texture.
When ready, spread a thick coating over your cake and sprinkle on the grated fresh coconut.
Due to the soaked fresh coconut, I don't find this cake lasts very long - only a day or two in the fridge. But do you need more than a couple of days to eat a cake?
Yes - the whole cake can be frozen. As with most baked goods, it is better eaten fresh, but I have actually had success freezing the whole thing (frosting included). I wouldn't necessarily recommend freezing the boiled frosting though as it does sweat a bit during the defrosting and may run off the cake.
So, for my granny's recipe, no this isn't a mistake. Due to the fresh coconut coating the frosting, she didn't call for any in the cake itself. It isn't necessary for flavour. If you do want to add coconut in the cake, you can. I have added about half a cup straight to the recipe below without issue. If you are using a fresh coconut, you could use some of the coconut milk and coconut in place of some of the soured milk to carry through more of the coconut flavour. A touch of almond extract also pairs nicely with coconut.
Coconut Cake and 7-Minute Frosting
- 5 eggs 2 of them divided and whites reserved for frosting below
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (250g)
- 2 cups caster sugar (450g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2½ cups plain flour (320g)
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup soured milk - made using milk and vinegar (250mL)
- 1½ cup caster sugar (340g)
- 2 tablespoon liquid glucose
- 5 tablespoon water
- 2 egg whites reserved from the cake
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- fresh coconut, grated soak in milk for 15 minutes prior to sprinkling on cake
Instructions for the Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (165C for Fan Oven). Grease and flour your cake tin.
- Prepare your soured milk by adding 1 tablespoon of distilled vinegar into a 1 cup measure and filling the remainder with whole milk. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes while continuing to prepare batter.
- In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
- In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt.
- Add your dry ingredients and soured milk in alternating additions to the sugar mixture. Be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl along the way.
- Add vanilla and beat until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour - until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before flipping out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Place the reserved egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
- In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, liquid glucose and water over a medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Keep heating, but turn on your mixer and begin to whisk the egg whites to soft peaks while you bring your sugar syrup to 118C (about 244°F).
- Once your syrup has reached temperature and your egg whites are ready, slowly pour the syrup into the side of the mixer. Continue whisking on high until the bowl has cooled to room temperature and the mixture is thick and glossy. Add vanilla and continue whisking. The consistency should be a bit marshmallow-y.
- Spread this over the cake and sprinkle coconut all over (if you have been soaking this in milk, be sure to squeeze out excess milk as you add this to the cake).
Leave a Reply