When I was 7 years old, my mother stayed up late one night, in our house on Kent Street in Riverside, California and baked the most-perfect coconut cake I have ever seen or tasted in my life. Granted — it was my very first coconut cake experience and the only one baked by my mother in the entirety of my childhood. But I still remember it fondly to this day.
The Cake of the Involuntary “Mmmmmm”
Our little rental house, came equipped with an old 1950’s style stove in cotton candy pink with a built-in stove-top griddle covered by a matching pink removable plate in the center. This stove and the expansive back yard were the highlights of my time spent on Kent Street — well, that and the coconut cake.
I can’t remember why I was allowed to stay up so late that night, maybe my father was working late on that warm summer night. I don’t remember him being around — or my much-younger sisters for that matter, who must have been sleeping by then. It was just me and my mom — up late, baking the most beautiful thing to eat, I had ever seen.
When she finished frosting it and covering the towering 3 layer cake (I’d never seen a cake with 3 layers before!) in sweet, shredded coconut, she called me in to get the first look. I was sufficiently awed and just stared at it at first, taking it in. The full white beauty of the cake, the sugary shimmer of downy coconut that made it look like the fluff on a baby duckling and its dizzying height.
I moved in closer, to see the coconut better and to smell it. My mother cautioned me not to touch it. I nodded and closed my eyes to smell it. The sweet, milky smell of coconut was like home, like being wrapped in a fluffy warm blanket, fresh from the dryer. I could only imagine what it would taste like.
I thought I might have to wait until the next day, when everyone was awake and around to have a slice, but then my mom pulled a dish from the cupboard and asked if I’d like a slice. I said “yes,” never taking my eyes off this ethereal confection for a moment. I watched her slice, carefully through the cake, as if she were making an incision in a cloud and as she slid the piece of cake from its place, I realized that it was completely white — even on the inside. I couldn’t wait to get my first taste of this unblemished heaven.
My mother poured me a small glass of milk and sat down across from me, not taking a piece for herself, and waited for my first taste. I slid my fork through the fluffy-light cake with ease, taking in the scent of the coconut again before placing the first bite on my tongue.
The cake was no longer warm but it was not completely cool yet — the memory of its oven warmth lingered just enough to make the frosting slightly loose and extremely creamy, the strands of sugared coconut adding texture and slight chew to an otherwise air-light experience. I closed my eyes and the sound escaped my lips, “Mmmmmmm,” I felt my smile and as I opened my eyes, I saw hers.
I know I must have told her how good it was, how amazing, delicious, wonderous it was but of all the things I remember about that night, exactly what I said about the cake, I am unsure. I only know that after I finished it, I felt satiated like no other cake experience and I happily floated off to bed at my mother’s urging.
But my mother never made that cake again.
I don’t know why — maybe it was too much trouble (she was in the kitchen for quite some time.) Maybe it was simply because my father never cared much for coconut. Maybe I never said anything other than that utterance of “Mmmmmm,” and a simple smile. Maybe this was not enough pay-off for the work involved to make it again. I don’t know but what I do know is that I have never forgotten that cake or that evening spent up late with my mom.
And I have always been too afraid to try to replicate its beauty.
I have bought and tasted many a slice of coconut cake since then and though they’ve all been different versions of good — none have ever measured up to that first cake — The Cake of the Involuntary “Mmmmmm.”
The Coconut Cake Challenge
So here we are, 33 years later, and that cake is still on my mind — or rather tucked back into the corner recesses of my palate memory, when Artisana Organic Nut Butters contacted Virtual Potluck about reviewing their products. We each got to choose several flavors of nut butters. Among my choices were Cacao Bliss, Organic Macadamia Nut Butter and their Organic Coconut Butter — not coconut oil (though they carry that, too!) but creamy coconut butter. The first thought that sprang to my mind — coconut cake with coconut butter frosting.
I don’t know what recipe my mother used that night. I have her old cookbooks and notes and as far as I can tell that coconut cake does not live among them. So when I set out to make the cake this time, I wanted to recapture the rapture of that experience, if not the actual cake. I decided I would make the best version of coconut cake my mind could conceive and we’d see if she’d do. But first, we’d make it my favorite way — as cupcakes!
She’s Gone Coco-Nuts!
What I came up with is a light, but moist and fluffy coconut cake and a weightlessly creamy coconut frosting, topped with natural, unsugared coconut. And because I wanted the coconut to really shine, (not like some coconut cakes that taste like glorified vanilla with coconut sprinkled on top) I decided to layer the coconut flavor throughout the cake and the frosting — 5 different ways.
These moist but airy little charmers contain coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut extract, coconut butter and coconut flakes for a Coco-Nutty Kapow! that will leave you speechless.
It may not be the recipe my mother baked all those years ago but I can tell you this — when I served it to my son and hubby, the only sounds I heard, besides chewing and the licking of fingers, were the involuntary “Mmmmms” filling the room.
Ultimate Quintuple Coconut Cupcakes
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp coconut oil (softened but still in its solid state)
- 2 tbsp softened, unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup whole coconut milk
- 2 large egg whites + 1 large whole egg
- 1 tsp organic real coconut extract
Pre-heat oven to 350° F and lightly grease your cupcake tins with coconut oil or use paper liners (I prefer no liners.)
Coconut Butter-Cream Frosting
- 1/3 cup Artisana Organic Coconut Butter
- 4 Tbsp (or half a stick) softened butter
- up to 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 to 3 tbsp whole coconut milk
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 8 oz of Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill’s Flaked Unsweetened Coconut)
Enter to Win Artisana Nut Butters for Yourself!
Congratulations to Aimee Bittinger, winner of Artisana’s Almond Butter! Enjoy!
One lucky winner from each participating blog (you can enter on all 12 VP blogs!) will receive a variety of tasting squeeze packs AND an 8oz jar of their choice, picked from among the following flavors:
- Raw Coconut Butter
- Raw Cashew Butter
- Raw Almond Butter
- Raw Pecan
- Raw Walnut
- Raw Macadamia
- Raw Cacao Bliss
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Disclaimer: Artisana’s nut butters were provided free of charge in order to facilitate these recipes. No monetary compensation was received. US mailing addresses only. One (1) winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends May 5th, 2012 at 11:59 Pacific time and prize will be shipped by Artisana directly to winners . The winner will be announced on Sunday, May 6th via email and will have 48 hours to respond with shipping information before a new winner will be chosen.