Monday, September 12, 2016

Did You Ever Have a Coconut Orange Cake?

I recently read Did You Ever Have a Family? by Bill Clegg, a novel that was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award in 2015. The story revolves around a tragic event, a family dying the night before a wedding is to occur. But some of the characters, who narrate their own chapters, talk about the cake that was requested for the wedding. It seemed unusual, so of course I had to make it. Another reading friend was reading the book at the same time, and also tried a version which I hope to at least link to below.

"My mom made Lolly Reid's wedding cake. She got the recipe from a Brazilian restaurant in the city where she went one night after going in with her friends to see a show. It was a coconut cake made with fresh oranges. She prepared for days. It didn't have any pillars or platforms or fancy decorations; just a big sheet cake with a scattering of those tiny, silver edible balls...."
All I knew, since Clegg has not made the recipe he had in mind available anywhere, was that it had coconut and orange, should be a sheet (as opposed to a layer cake or bundt), and that I could add some of the tiny edible balls. I found two recipes I was considering. Both were in tube or bundt pans, but I knew that would roughly fill a 9x13 pan. One recipe that had the central ingredients and also identified as Brazilian was the Brazilian Flair Orange Cake with Coconut, but it seemed to be orange with coconut as a garnish, and I read the focus as being on coconut. I put that one aside for the Brazilian Cold Coconut Orange Cake, since it seemed to have the right flavor focus. It is assembled somewhat like a tres leche cake, where you pour a mixture of milks over the warm cake after poking holes in it. This is where the recipe went wrong for me, though, because it became too moist. I didn't end up taking it for coworkers to eat or anything! I suspect their "can" is a different size than my (14 oz) "can," but didn't think about it when mixing everything together. The cake as it was, with a simple glaze, would have been a delight. I also think the pictures accompanying that recipe don't look like they followed the end of the recipe, just made the cake part.

My reading friend Trudie liked the book less than I did but made a better cake. She started with Nigella Lawson's Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake, replacing the cocoa gram to gram with coconut. The color was so vivid, and the cake looked more like a cake and less like a pudding.  So beautiful, thanks Trudie!

More notes from Trudie:

1. Boiling up the oranges is critical as I have made this before and took a short cut with the boiling time and the oranges are too bitter, (however I have seen mention of microwaving them, to save time). The rest of the cake takes about 10mins to assemble - so it is just this stage needs planning.

2. Ground Almonds = Almond Meal, I am pretty sure you would have this, mine looks like this

3. For my coconut version of this cake I omitted the 50g of cocoa and put in 50g of shredded coconut instead

1 comment:

Trudie said...

What a fantastic post Jenny, I had actually forgotten that more detailed description from the book and the part about the little silver balls. Thanks for posting my attempt - I highly recommend it for fans of orangy cakes.
I am still intrigued by these Brazilian style cakes and may have to give them a go but - I am not sure about the condensed milk topping !