Tag Archives: coconut

From German chocolate cake to truffle

cake truffles6

A couple of weeks ago, I made a gf Germany chocolate layer cake for a good friend.

I had a few bits of the cake left over, including bits trimmed off to make the layer cake prettier. I don’t know enough about baking and desserts to invent a Christina Tosi-like Germany chocolate birthday crumbs (German chocolate cake birthday crumbs. Now there’s an idea. It might be good in a chocolate-chip-german-chocolate-cake-crumbs cookie…) But I did come across a recipe for truffles made of chocolate cake and other things that make your dentist happy and are possibly not good for you.

Problem solved.

If having too much chocolate cake can ever be a problem.

cake truffles1cake truffles2

The chocolate cake was crumbled up into a large mixing bowl, mixed with extra butter, cocoa powder, chocolate ganache, and the coconut-custard mix that was used for the layer cake filling. The mixture was thick, dark, dark brown, buttery-cocoa-y smelling. This mixture is rolled into balls, which are covered in a thick, dark chocolate ganache and topped with multi-coloured silvery cachous and dried rose petals.

Not every truffle was a perfect round or perfectly decorated, but together, they made a pretty plate and exuded the most enticing chocolate-y smell.

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Layered birthday cake (gf)

David Lebovitz.

A name that acts like a comfort blanket in the kitchen. When I use one of David’s recipes, I relax and let my hands get into the rhythm of measuring, sifting, creaming, folding. Because I know it’s going to work, so well, and so easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I love reading and discovering new food blogs. I would be that much more productive and better informed about non-food news* if WordPress, Blogger and Google didn’t point me to all those food blogs and websites.

* Though I had to smile at twitter messages this week asking “Who was Margaret Thatcher?”. Or, maybe I’m just showing my age, and the company I keep?

But. When I am baking for a friend and it’s her birthday, and it’s a gluten free cake (and I have no idea about the chemistry behind gf baking), and I’m taking this cake into work, and there is no time to make a second cake when the first one goes wrong, the recipe just. has. to. work.


That’s when I saw a recipe for a layered German chocolate cake on Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, which was adapted from David Lebovitz. Shauna Ahern + David Lebovitz = phew.

This is not the first time I’ve baked a gluten free cake, though my last proper gf cake was at Christmas, where the batter was more or less something to hold the brandy-drunken fruit together. This time, the cake will stand or fall by the taste and texture of the chocolate cake batter. What’s more, we all have our own idea of the perfect chocolate cake, our palates are honed since childhood to pick up the nuances of a chocolate cake that differ from our ideal.

So, attempting a gf chocolate cake? That was scary. But I muttered David and Shauna’s names like a mantra and boldly went where no saucy gander has gone before.

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Multi-tasking macaroons


Do you remember when ‘multi-tasking’ became all the rage at work? The word appeared one day, and the human race has never looked back. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to do one thing well, we had to be able to do several things at once. You know, like someone playing on their blackberry or iphone while not paying attention in a meeting.



Last week, I used the word ‘multi-tasking’ for macaroons. Let me explain.

At 9pm, I began baking for a morning tea. There will be a couple of people who are gluten-free, and a couple who were observing Passover. Of course, I made macaroons (the American coconut macaroons, with two “o”, rather than the French almond macarons, with one “o”). Something that is gluten free and Passover-compliant*, is a cinch to make, and still gets wows from everyone? Now that’s what I call multi-tasking.


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Tropical Christmas: Bahamian rum cake

Wanted: a cake that makes people dream of a tropical island holiday.

Found: Bahamian rum cake.


When I first had the idea of making a rum cake, I found a few recipes that use yellow cake mix and/or pudding mix. I guess this ensures consistency and a moist finish, but it also felt like cheating. Why make something at home if the guests will still be eating stuff with unknown chemicals?

So, I went back to my trusty book, Ready for Dessert. The book provided a recipe for rum cake that sounded like tropical heaven – spiced, syrup drenched and coconut glazed tropical heaven.

I was making a cake for morning tea at work. At first, I didn’t want to bring an alcohol cake, but as a friend sensibly pointed out, ‘it’s 5pm somewhere in the world.’


The cake batter was an overload of richness: eggs, egg yolks, coconut milk, vanilla, nutmeg, butter and sugar, which resulted in a dense and moist crumb. The syrup was full of dark rum and coconut, its smell reminded us of a Malibu cocktail. After it soaked into the cake, every slice of the cake smelled like a cocktail, too.

And the glaze! Butter, double cream, sugar and a little more rum was cooked into a caramel that was lava-like, irresistibly rich, and very pretty when draped with shredded coconut. Coconut’s pure white colour contrasted with the light golden caramel. Lastly, I used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar to add an extra bit of caramelised richness.

The glaze and the kugelhof pan* produced a cake that was as showy as I had hoped. And the taste – well, people are still talking about it.

* yes, kugelhof pan. Mr Gander only agreed to buy a new pan when I tempted him with sweet, poppyseed-filled yeast cake.

A colleague was so impressed, she now plans to serve this cake at Christmas dinner (warmed up, with extra coconut rum syrup and glaze, so it’s like a tropical riff on a pudding). It turns out my anti-Christmas cake can be part of the season festivities after all.

Here is the recipe, with my changes in brackets.

Bahamian rum cake

(adapted from Ready for Dessert, David Lebovitz)



3 cups (420g) all purpose / plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt (I used one heaped tsp of coarse sea salt flakes)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I also added a touch of cinnamon and allspice)
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated / castor sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¾ cup (180ml) coconut milk

Coconut rum syrup

¾ cup (180 ml) coconut milk
6 tbsp (75g) granulated/castor sugar (I added an extra 1 tbsp coconut sugar)
½ cup (125ml) dark rum


4 tbsp (60g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 tbsp heavy cream (double cream)
6 tbsp dark brown sugar (I used coconut sugar instead)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp dark rum
½ cup (40g) shredded coconut, toasted


1. Pre-heat oven to 175°C. Coat a 10-cup (2.5 litre) Bundt pan or tube pan liberally with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Dust it liberally with flour, and tap out any excess. (it is really important to be liberal with both butter and flour, otherwise cakes tend to stick to bundt pans, think streaks of butter and a snow storm of flour)

2. To make the cake, into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

3. In a stand mixer, beat together butter, granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-5 min).

4. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture, either when the mixer is running or in small dollops. Beat the egg mixture into the butter mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until eggs are completely incorporated. It is normal for this mixture to look curdled. It’ll be ok after you add flour.

5. Take bowl off the stand mixer. Use a wooden spoon/spatula, gently stir in one-third of the flour mixture, then about half of the coconut milk. Mix in another one-third of the flour mixture, half of the coconut milk, and finish with the last third of the flour mixture.  Stir gently just until combined.

6. Scrape batter into the cake pan. Bake until the cake is just set in the centre (I use the skewer test – there should be no crumbs on the skewer after sticking it into the centre of the cake). This will take about 55-60 minutes.

7. While the cake is baking, make the coconut-rum syrup. In a medium saucepan, warm the coconut milk and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the rum so you don’t lose any of the alcohol.

8. When the cake comes out of the oven, leave it in the pan, and poke it with a bamboo skewer about 60 times. Spoon two-thirds of the syrup over the cake. Let it soak in gradually, and let the cake cool completely. (I left the cake soaking overnight.)

9. Invert cake onto the plate you are going to serve the cake on. Brush or spoon the remaining syrup over the cake (I found a brush was better, as the syrup was brushed onto the cake, rather than just dribbling off the sides).

10. To make the glaze, in a small saucepan over medium to high heat, bring the butter, cream, brown sugar and salt to a boil (I only added salt at the last minute). Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for about 1.5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in toasted coconut (and salt).  (I only added two-thirds of the coconut to the glaze. I sprinkled on the other half in the next step so they kept their white colour.)

11. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, encouraging it to run down the sides of the cake. If glaze is too thick, warm it again slightly. (I sprinkled on the remaining one-third of the shredded coconuts on top of the glaze.)

Storage: the recipe says the cake can be stored at room temperature for up to four days. Mine was eaten on the day. DSCN0485

Coconut sugar sambal

Last year, I worked in Melbourne on a few occasions. A colleague, whose family is from Sri Lanka, used to take me to her favourite Sri Lankan curry place near the office. It was a hole-in-the-wall joint with a very small daily selection of curries. After heaping the plate with curries, rice and papadums, the owner would ask, ‘sambal?’, and I would say, ‘yes please!!’. 

The sambal was chunky with shredded fresh coconut and vibrant red with lots of chillies. It was very spicy, tempered with a touch of something that was just beyond words. I always mopped up the last of the curry and sambal with rice.

Yesterday, musing on that sambal, I bought a cylinder of coconut sugar (don’t ask). Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palm flower buds. It is also known as ‘coconut palm sugar’, but is different from ‘palm sugar’ made from the sap of various types of palm trees.

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