Fashion in gastronomy is as obvious as in clothing. At one point, all the trendy establishments were hard pressed to make hamburgers, then seeds and vegetable meat were everywhere on the menu, followed by many fermented things. I was recently surprised by the New York restaurant craze for coconut pies. It looks quite traditional – like from a grandmother’s kitchen: lush, with cream, sometimes with white chocolate and berries. Then I noticed the abundance of coconut desserts on American Instagram and TikTok. Why suddenly? After researching the problem, I found out that this coconut fashion has a serious political cause, and it is directly related to the Black Lives Matter movement. It turns out that after the murder of George Perry Floyd in May 2020, the New York bakery Montclair Bread Company, closed for lockdown, began to donate money to the movement in support of black people from the online sales of their cakes, later started to publish recipes on the site and announced a competition for the best homemade cakes: it was necessary to make a dessert based on the published recipe, preferably with your own twists, shoot the finished dish and send a photo. This initiative was accepted with a bang: people, overcome by stress and fear of the coronavirus, took up baking at home with pleasure – articles about procrastination appeared in the press (from two words: “procrastinate” – putting things off until later and “baking “- baking). Well, yes, baking is indeed a great way to distract from disturbing thoughts. The coconut cake recipe has become the most popular – and for good reason. In the traditionally black American South, this snow-white dessert has been baked for more than a hundred years for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. After all, the first coconut cakes in America were prepared in the 17th century by African slaves – they knew how to break a coconut and what to do with the pulp, which was very difficult to scrape off. The tortillas were followed by coconut chocolate and cookies, and then pies and cakes. Star Chef Harold Moore’s four-layer coconut cake has been famous in New York City since late last year. It is sold out immediately, although it costs $ 100 – and all the money goes to a charitable foundation that grants the wishes of seriously ill children, and Moore buys products at his own expense. “I’m just happy,” says the chef, “that we’re trying to do good things.” The snow-white dish of African Americans has become a symbol of support for those in trouble in the United States.
That is why we have no fashion, for example, for some Ukrainian dish? And what exactly do each of us do for those who feel bad? Do we even have such a need? More than once I have heard a great explanation for why many Americans are willing to take in seriously ill children: they say they are crazy about fat. In short, this whole story touched me. I decided to bake my own coconut cake for my grandson’s birthday – after all, baking really distracts from heavy thoughts. I scoured books and the internet: there are dozens of recipes. I wanted the cake to be fluffy and not dressed. I tried one, another, a third recipe – at one point coconut was in all the cracks of my kitchen.
Here’s my latest version – it’s much less complicated than most American recipes. And not too sweet – I cut the sugar in half. The basis is a sponge cake on sour cream, it is the wettest and does not need additional impregnation. It has a very simple cream cheese cream with condensed milk that does not require cooking in a water bath. For a more interesting texture, you can enhance the crunchiness of the coconut flakes with toasted and white chocolate-glazed almond flakes. And one more thing: Americans bake this type of cakes from special confectionery flour, which we rarely have. But to make it is simple: you need to take a glass (without slide) of ordinary baking flour, set aside 2 tablespoons of it and add the same amount of cornstarch, and then sift everything through a sieve. Then the gluten content in the dough will decrease a little – and the cake will become more airy. Before you start baking, it is important to weigh all the ingredients and bring them to room temperature.
So, set the oven to heat up to 175 ° C. Lubricate the removable mold with butter and start making the biscuit. Separate eggs into yolks and whites. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with salt until stiff. Gradually add half of the sugar, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks, and then transfer to a bowl. Now, in the bowl of a mixer (paddle attachment), beat the yolks until white with the remaining sugar, then add sugar, half of the flour and vanilla extract – mix. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed, add half of the egg whites – mix for a short time. Remove the mixer bowl and sift the remaining flour and baking powder through a sieve. Mix gently with a spatula. Pour in the coconut flakes – mix very quickly with a silicone spatula and carefully fold the remaining egg whites from bottom to top – you should get a thick but fluid and frothy dough. Pour it into a mold and bake, without opening the oven, for about 45-50 minutes (readiness to check with a toothpick). Meanwhile prepare the cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer (paddle attachment), beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until creamy and smooth (about 2 minutes). Add condensed milk, vanilla extract and coconut flakes – beat until everything is well combined (if the cream is thick, dilute a little with coconut or regular milk). For a crispy topping (if you decide to do it), dry the almond leaves a little and mix them with melted white chocolate (it is better to melt in the microwave in 3 pulses of 15-20 seconds each), then spread this mass on a sheet of baking paper and put in the refrigerator for half an hour before freezing. The finished biscuit must also be cooled (at least an hour) – so it will be easier to cut it into 3 cakes (it is more convenient to do this with a wavy bread knife). Before assembling the cake, you need to break the frozen chocolate-covered almonds into small pieces. Then we take the dish, lay the first cake, cover with a quarter of the cream and sprinkle with half of the almond-chocolate crumbs. We close the second cake – again cream and sprinkles. We crown with the third cake – we cover the top and all sides with the remaining cream. Fill the top and sides tightly and evenly with almond paste.
This cake is minimalist and elegant in appearance (try not to decorate with cream roses or some other nonsense). But at the same time it has a kind of nostalgic taste from childhood, when you first tried Raffaello chocolate and Bounty chocolate. From this combination is born a sense of fast-flowing time and the fragility of life that you want to protect. Probably, just such a dessert can bring joy to those who find it difficult.
For a shape with a diameter of 20-22 cm
1 granulated sugar (200 g)
2 coconut flakes (100 g for biscuit + 50 g for cream + 150 g for decoration)
3 baking powder (2 teaspoons)
4 salt (3/4 teaspoon)
5 fine sugar (150 g)
6 eggs (5 medium eggs)
7 Sour cream 20% (150 g)
8 Vanilla extract (1 teaspoon for biscuits + 1 teaspoon for cream)
9 Cream cheese (mascarpone type) (350 g)
10 sweetened condensed milk (200 g)
11 butter (200 g)
12 coconut milk (3-6 tablespoons, optional)
13 Almond flakes (100 g, optional)
14 White chocolate (80 g, optional)
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