When I am feeling upset or annoyed, I bake a cake. Some people punch things, watch TV or go for a walk, but I prefer the much more gratifying art of baking. That said, it does need to be a cake. Possibly a big and bulky one too. It just wouldn’t be the same if I tried to make a tart or a loaf of bread. A sweet and indulgent cake evokes childhood and happy memories, so I’m more than happy to seek solace in them. Oh and for your information, yesterday’s annoyance was kindly provided by East Coast railway services, who miserably failed to get a train to London because the engines broke twice, on two different trains. How professional of them.
Anyway, this cake is gloriously rich and comforting. Four coconut and chocolate sponges soaked in coconut liqueur and sandwiched together with a chocolate frosting, then covered with more snowy white butter icing. What more could you ask for? The original recipe is from Lucy Parissi and comes from The Clandestine Cake Club book, but I slightly amended the recipe for the cake batter (coconut oil, really??) and opted for a different icing as the frosting she suggested did not work at all. It could have been me doing it wrong, but half a kilo of ricotta seems to be a tad exaggerate… Anyway, here we go!
Ingredients (for the cake)
- 3 medium eggs, separated
- 215g plain flour
- 75g cocoa powder
- 300g caster sugar
- 50g ground almonds
- 50g desiccated coconut
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 225ml buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 100ml vegetable oil (or any other flavourless oil)
- 225ml strong coffee, cooled
Ingredients (for the syrup)
- 5 tbsp coconut liqueur
- 50g caster sugar
Ingredients (for the filling)
- 250g full fat cream cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 175g unsalted butter,softened
- 500g icing sugar, sifted
- 50g milk powder
- 100g dark chocolate, melted
Ingredients (for the butter icing)
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar, sifted
- 3-4 tbsp milk
- 1 1/2 tsp coconut liqueur
- First of all, start by greasing and lining 4 x 20cm sandwich cake tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg whites on their own until they form a stiff meringue. Set aside.
- In another big bowl, combine the dry cake ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, bicarb, baking powder, ground almonds and coconut). Put the wet ingredients (buttermilk, egg yolks, vanilla bean paste, coffee and oil) in a jug and whisk lightly. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well to incorporate them.
- Using a rubber spatula, mix about a quarter of the meringue in the batter to loosen it up, then add the rest of the meringue and combine making sure not to knock any air out of the mixture. Divide the mixture evenly between the 4 tins (I weighed the empty bowl where I mixed it all and then worked out how much of the mixture to pour in each tin), level it out and bake for 25 minutes. Check the sponges with a skewer to see if they are cooked, then remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
- To make the soaking syrup, bring the coconut liqueur and the sugar to the boil in a small saucepan, then simmer until reduced. Once cooled, brush over the cakes.
- To make the filling, beat the softened butter and the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fully combined, then add the vanilla bean paste. Slowly add the icing sugar and milk powder and increase the speed of the freestanding mixer (or electric whisks) to obtain a smooth and creamy pale mixture. Mix in the melted chocolate and combine to obtain a rich chocolate frosting.
- Similarly, make the butter icing by creaming the butter first, then adding the coconut liqueur and the icing sugar. Slowly adding the milk, increase the speed of the beaters until light and fluffy, then set aside.
- To assemble the cake, place one of the sponges onto a cake platter or serving dish, then top with about half of the chocolate frosting. Top with a second sponge and spread that one with about a quarter of the butter icing. Place the third sponge on top, cover with the rest of the chocolate frosting and finally arrange the last sponge on top of the stacked cake.
- Using a spatula, apply about half of the butter icing onto the cake, spreading it evenly to create a crumb coat. Put in the fridge to set and harden for about 30 minutes, then cover the cake with a final layer of butter icing and smooth on top.
- Sprinkle the cake with some chocolate shavings and ground coconut, if you want, or serve plain.