Is it really almost September? Really?
I guess it must be true. My kids are behaving as if they're straddling the border between two very different countries--one's called Summer, the other's called School. Nathan, my just-turned-sixteen-year old, has been getting up early to attend marching band practice this week. It's an all-day affair, and despite the need to haul himself out of bed at the crack of dawn, he still has that unquenchable teenage urge to stay up late every night. What's a mom to do? Remember when your kids were about three and a half and they finally gave up taking regular naps? In your chagrin you realized how helpless you were to change that. The nice quiet break, that reliable daily respite, was a thing of the past. I was reminded of this while pondering the staying-up-super-late issue. Sigh. You can lead a teenager to a comfy bed (well, you can try, anyway), but you cannot make him sleep.
Meanwhile, Charlie, my 19-year-old, is psyching up for his sophomore year in college. He's looking forward to being back in Michigan this time around. Last year, as you may recall, he ventured south to Columbus to experience life as an Ohio State buckeye. (Remember those buckeye cookie cups I made in honor of the event? Those babies were so good.) He had a busy year, without a doubt. Joined the OSU men's crew team, made lots of new friends, and generally loved the place, but ultimately decided that it wasn't the best fit for someone whose heart belongs to the mitten-shaped state, so over the summer he transferred to a university in Kalamazoo (yes, that Kalamazoo). It's pretty nice to know he's back in mitten land.
In any event, I think this Summer vs. School nether world has me feeling a little edgy and when I get edgy, I tend to bake. Yes. Bake. What a surprise.
About this recipe . . .
This sort-of-white cake recipe was adapted from this post at Whisk Kid; that's the adorable blog that started the rainbow-cake craze. I reduced, and slightly modified, the rainbow cake's base recipe (and obviously left out all food coloring!) to make just two 9" layers, adding in a little coconut milk in exchange for some of the regular milk. It's a very easy cake to put together, and this was a good opportunity--between the cake and the buttercream--to use up most of the egg whites I had in my freezer. I freeze whites in Ziploc sandwich bags, and I use black permanent marker to mark on the bags how many whites each one contains, along with the date I froze them. Fresh-frozen egg whites are still completely usable in baking even months after their freeze date. I love that!
The Swiss meringue buttercream frosting recipe that I used is from Sweetapolita, baking blog extraordinaire of the endlessly talented Rosie Alyea. I changed nothing in her recipe, except to add in a few drops of Lorann coconut oil for flavoring towards the end of the mixing process to about six cups of the total batch. Because the credit for this frosting is definitely Rosie's, I have just included a link directly to the post where that recipe appears within her blog; it's accompanied by many helpful photos and her invaluable advice (I highly recommend you check it out, especially if you are new to making meringue buttercream). Be aware that her recipe makes about 15 cups of frosting, enough for a couple of tall layer cakes, at least. I made the whole huge batch and, in one big bowl, it was a fluffy sight to see. I froze the extra frosting for future use.
The chocolate ganache is so simple it almost doesn't require a formal recipe--two delectable ingredients are all you'll need.
Coconut Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache Filling
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Yield: One two-layer 9" round cake
Ingredients for the cake layers:
1 stick and 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 scant teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt.)
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature (I used 2 percent.)
1/3 cup coconut milk, at room temperature (I used Thai Kitchen brand.)
To make the cake layers:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease, or use baking spray on, two 9" round cake pans (I used the latter, generously). Line the bottom of the pans with rounds of parchment. Grease the parchment and flour the bottom and sides of the pan, or spray the parchment with baking spray.
In a medium size bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
Stir together the milk and coconut milk in a small bowl. Set aside.
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until very light in color and fluffy. Pour in the egg whites gradually, mixing until they're completely combined, and stop to scrape as needed. Mix in the vanilla.
On the lowest speed, add in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk and coconut milk, starting and ending with the dry (three portions of dry, and two portions of liquid). Beat only until the batter looks completely mixed.
Divide the batter equally into the two prepared pans, and bake in a preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cakes no longer look wet and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on cooling racks for about five minutes then run a thin knife or metal spatula around the edges of the cakes, and invert the cakes out of their pans and onto racks to finish cooling. Peel off the parchment, slowly and carefully, while the cakes are still warm.
To make the chocolate ganache:
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
6 ounces heavy cream
Put the chopped chocolate into a bowl. In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream until it's hot but not boiling. Pour the cream into the bowl, over the chocolate. Let it sit undisturbed for a few minutes, then gently stir the cream completely into the chocolate. The ganache should look smooth and silky. Let it cool to room temperature, when it will be ready to use as a filling between the cooled cake layers. Don't cover it until it's at room temperature or cooler.
To make the Swiss meringue buttercream:
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe that I used, please visit this link at Sweetapolita for detailed step-by-step instructions in her excellent post, Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified. Please note that I added in several drops--to taste--of Lorann coconut oil flavoring. You could also use coconut extract/flavoring if you like, or omit the flavoring/oil altogether and just go with vanilla. Her recipe as written makes a very big batch; you will need perhaps one third of the batch to frost a standard size two-layer cake.
To assemble and frost the cake, you'll need:
2 cake layers
At least one cup of the ganache
At least five cups of the buttercream
1 and 1/2 cups of sweetened, shredded coconut
Place one cake layer upside down onto a cardboard/cake-board or onto the plate it will be served from. Spread a generous layer of room-temperature ganache on top. Add the second cake layer, placing its flattest surface facing up. Spread about a cup or so of buttercream on the top, and frost a generous layer on the sides. Because the cake will be covered with sweetened coconut, it's not really necessary to try and make the surface or sides of the cake completely smooth. To add the coconut, hold your cake, on its board/plate over a baking sheet. Gently press handfuls of coconut into the sides as you turn the cake until it's completely covered, and then sprinkle more on the top. Scoop up any coconut that falls onto the baking sheet and scatter it on as well.
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