It was my birthday this week and I gave myself the same present I give myself every year. I baked a cake. This year it was a coconut chocolate cake, something I’ve been thinking about making for a while. Something else I have been thinking about is how to incorporate more coconut oil into my cooking. I have found that its subtle flavor adds a pleasant note to anything Asian, like stir-fries and curries. It also makes a good substitution for butter or vegetable oil in baking. Despite long held prejudice by many in the food industry, coconut oil has recently been found to be a superior oil to use in baking and cooking.
Our history with coconut goes back a long way, when we first started visiting Mexico. We once came close to becoming petty criminals when we purchased two coconuts with the tops lopped off, straws inserted, somewhere on a hot plaza in Mexico. As we wandered off, contentedly sucking on the cool, refreshing liquid, we were sternly called back by the vendor and informed that we had only purchased the coconut water, not its meat. We meekly stood in front of her and finished the water while she eyed us suspiciously, then handed the coconuts back to her. She, no doubt, had plans for her coconut meat, either to use in cocadas — coconut macaroons — or to sell it dried and shredded. We had had plans for the meat, too, but she effectively laid them to rest.
Back to my coconut chocolate cake. As it was my birthday and I didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, I used a quick chocolate cake recipe found on a can of Hershey’s cocoa some years back. But the recipe was only for inspiration. Sifted whole wheat flour was used instead of white flour, the sugar was halved, coconut oil stood in for vegetable oil, and dry, unsweetened coconut was added. The cake turned out moist, tender and redolent of coconut. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to coconut.
Coconut Chocolate Cake
- 1 cup (7 oz./200 g.) organic sugar
- 1 3/4 cups (7.2 oz./218 g.) sifted whole wheat flour (save the bran for muffins)
- 1 cup (2.5 oz./70 g.) dried, unsweetened organic coconut
- 3/4 cup (2.6 oz./73 g.) powdered cocoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 free-range eggs
- 1 cup (.24 ml.) organic milk
- 1/2 cup (.12 ml.) melted organic coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup (.24 ml.) boiling water
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 deg. C.). Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or one 13×9-inch pan.
- Stir together sugar, flour, coconut, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl of standing mixer.
- Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for two minutes. (If beating by hand, beat vigorously for four minutes.)
- Stir in boiling water. Batter will be very thin.
- Pour into prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes for round pans or 35-40 minutes for 13×9-inch pan until thin knife inserted in center comes out clean. *
- Cool on racks for 10 minutes; remove from round pans. Rectangle cake can be left in pan.
- When completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.
- *I under-bake chocolate cake by about five minutes for a very moist center and more intense chocolate flavor. If you under-bake, the knife blade will not be completely clean when the cake is tested for doneness.
- Some organic ingredients are easy to find in Mexico. Others, like whole wheat flour, are non-existent. Use what is available and what you can afford if you are concerned, like me, about chemicals in our foods.
- Coconut oil contains no cholesterol, but does have saturated fat. What nutritionists are learning is that not all saturated fat is the same. Some are better than others, and some are actually healthy, such as the lauric acid (saturated fat) in coconut oil. If you buy coconut oil, do not buy any with the letters RBD on the label. This stands for Refined, Bleached and Deodorized. This is nasty stuff, containing chemical residues that were used in processing. RBD oil has no coconut taste or aroma.
- Coconut Muffins (cookinginmexico)
- Coconut Bread (cookinginmexico)
- Coconut Fish Fillets with Tropical Fruit Salsa (cookinginmexico)
- Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World (New York Times)