Friday, September 11, 2009
My Venture into Coconuts
There are two kinds of people on earth. Those who love coconut and those freaks of nature who don't. Thank goodness I'm not judgmental. I love coconut! I really fell in love with coconut years ago during my first few trips to Malaysia. Of all the places I've been, Malaysia ranks as one of my favorite places to go. It's absolutely beautiful, has incredibly friendly people, is inexpensive, and has some of the best cuisine you will ever eat. In fact, Malaysian cuisine is often infused with coconut in one form or another. Malaysia is the world's largest producer of palm oil and you can see oil palm "plantations" throughout the country.
Malaysia also grows, of course, coconut palms – which produce the coconut that we use in recipes. On one trip, I was on a bus that stopped at a coconut farm. Although the farm had machines to do most of the harvesting of the coconuts, they had a young guy who was capable of climbing the trees with the agility of a monkey. Without gloves or shoes, he would shimmy up the palm tree in a matter of seconds, cut off a coconut, and then slide back down. All of this climbing without shoes had unforeseen consequences. He REALLY needed a pedicure!
As a tourist attraction, they had a small coconut palm that was growing out of the ground at a strange angle instead of straight up and down. Visitors were told that, if they could reach the top of the tree and knock off a coconut, they could have it for free. I was young and stupid and was talked into trying it. They indicated that it should be an easy climb since the tree was not vertical and I would be allowed to wear gloves and shoes. "Easy," of course, is relative. My big, 'ol body trying to climb up that little palm tree was like a grizzly bear trying to climb up a garden hose. After several failed attempts to get more than a meter off the ground, I was finally able to get more than halfway up the tree. I used my thighs to tightly squeeze the tree while using my arms to pull myself up little-by-little. As I climbed, I looked down at a sea of anxious colleagues – not sure if they were more concerned about me or the poor palm tree. At one point as I neared the top, the tree had bent over so far towards the ground that I was almost upside-down and finding it difficult to hang on . I had a vice-grip on the palm with my thighs and that was not doing my, uh, personal belongings any favors – if you know what I mean. Somehow, I managed to knock off a coconut and get off the tree. When I got off, somebody kindly pointed out that I could have bought a coconut for 5 cents at the stand nearby.
The inspiration for this recipe came from two sources: 1) My grandmother's Sunshine Cake and 2) a Tres Leches Cake. I used elements from each and ultimately decided to call it a Tres Cocos Cake – or Three Coconuts Cake. Technically, I use coconut in four ways but let's not split hairs. In any case, it's the ultimate coconut experience. And trust me, baking this cake will be far easier than climbing a palm tree to knock off a coconut. Enjoy – and Happy Climbing!
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Tres Cocos Cake (Three Coconuts Cake)
1 white or yellow cake mix, prepared per the package instructions (with eggs, oil, and water)
1 cup coconut milk
1 15 oz can Cream of Coconut (such as Coco Lopez sold in the aisle with Pina Colada drink mixes)
8 oz can crushed pineapple (undrained), refrigerated
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 3.5 oz box of coconut cream instant pudding mix
1 8 oz container of whipped topping
1 1/4 cups shredded, sweetened coconut – toasted
Prepare and bake the cake per the package instructions. Let cake cool in the pan for 45 minutes.
Whisk the coconut milk and cream of coconut together. Pour 1/2 cup of the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. You will need this reserved mixture later for the topping.
After the cake has cooled 45 minutes, poke holes all over the cake (I use a chopstick). Slowly pour the remaining coconut milk mixture all over the cake. Allow the cake to rest for 10 minutes then cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (but preferably overnight).
After the cake has fully chilled for several hours, toast the coconut per the package instructions. Spread the toasted coconut onto a large plate or sheet pan and allow it to cool completely.
In a bowl, whisk the chilled crushed pineapple, lemon juice, instant pudding, and the 1/2 cup of reserved coconut milk mixture. Place the bowl in the fridge for about 5 minutes to allow the mixture to firm up some then fold in the whipped topping until no white streaks remain. Spread the topping over the cake and sprinkle on the toasted coconut in an even layer. You may not wish to use all of the toasted coconut depending on how thick you want the top coconut layer to be. Refrigerate at least 1 additional hour (and preferably longer) to allow the topping time to firm up. Keep refrigerated.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 6:24 AM