Evolution of a Coconut Cake

by Sarah on May 31, 2011 · 14 comments

Those little Strawberry Shortbread Bites I made yesterday were not alone on the dessert tray yesterday.
They were, in fact, joined by some coco-nutty friends.You see, it all started about two weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this at my local Sprouts. Being the type of cat-like shopper who’s curiosity often ‘kills’ her, I couldn’t resist purchasing a few spoonfuls* of the stuff.
*Spoon being a relative term. It’s a scoop. Or even a shovel? Well, no, trowel would be a more accurate size descriptor.

Of course, then I had to figure out what exactly to DO with it. Since I’d made my Chai-Spiced Sponge Cake, I’ve been wanting to try other variations. [As per usual, one incarnation of a recipe is NEVER enough for me.] I figured that a coconut sponge cake would be delicious (and nutritious?^)
^I didn’t actually think that. I just have a problem where I can’t say delicious without wanting to also say “and nutritious.” I blame the owner/director of my summer camp for this, as it was the standard description given to our camp meals. [Some more delicious (and nutritious) than others. Although the food quality improved vastly once I became a “vegetarian”—with huge air-quotes–for the summer.]
It was a good idea. It really was. But it started out horribly wrong.
Please note that the way it looked when it went IN…
….is exactly what it looked like coming OUT. [Albeit with a bit of browning.]Yes, that was some thick batter. But I was insistent that it would be fine.Hesitantly, I pinch off a piece of the edge.
And WOW, was the flavor amazing. As in…out of control delicious. If only it wasn’t so darn crumbly and difficult to cut.
You see, I didn’t do the research that I normally do when using a new ingredient. I completely threw caution to the wind. So while the flavor was incredible (crazy coconut richness but not overly sweet)…
…the texture was more of a dense brownie that was somehow crumbly AND very moist at the same time. Go figure.
Frankly, I kind of loved these…and crumbled on yogurt or (I’m told) in oatmeal, they were delicious. [If you want to recreate THIS version, copy my sponge cake recipe exactly, substituting coconut flour for the all-purpose, cutting out the chai spices and the orange, and using about 1 1/4 cups of water.]
Between me and some friends who I tempted with treats, they were quickly destroyed.
But I was unhappy. Because I wanted sponge cake. So of course, this weekend, I decided I must try again. And in addition to the coconut flour, I had another new friend to invite to this Memorial Day party: erythritol.Matt from Emerald Forest had sent me this erythritol sample after my success with using the companies xylitol sugar substitute (also, I am just now realizing, a recipe involving coconut–although that time in Coconut Cream Pie cookies).Low on the glycemic index, erythritol is a no-calorie sweetener made from plant sugar that has been fermented, crystallized, and dried. (It’s one of the components of Truvia, if you’ve used that in your morning coffee.) Although the front of the package says is “sweeter,” it’s actually 70% the sweetness of granulated sugar.I did not add extra to compensate for that fact, as I wasn’t looking for an overly sweet cake creation. Just a spongier one.Using my food processor, I followed the same strategy I used when making my Chai-Spiced Sponge Cake, but, after researching coconut flour and discovering that more eggs are usually added to coconut flour recipes to compensate for its lack of gluten, I upped the eggs to three. After two minutes of continuous mixing, I slowly streamed in the sugar (or in this case, sugar substitute) and let it run for another 4-5 minutes. This was followed by a dash of almond extract—just for fun—and water, which I increased from the original recipe to 3/4 of a cup, as coconut flour AND erythritol are said to dry out baked goods.
In a separate bowl, I had sifted (with a fork…I’m not that fancy) together 1/2 cup each of coconut flour and brown rice flour (along with baking powder and salt). Because I didn’t want to end up using 12 eggs, I decided to reduce the actual amount of coconut flour I was using, and I know rice flour is light and bakes well…so I went with that. [I also happened to have exactly 1/2 cup left in my pantry.]
Once that was all incorporated, I was happy to see that the batter was thick, but not overly so. [See photos from the first attempt at this recipe.]
Since I’d reduced the amount of coconut flour…, I went ahead and mixed in some unsweetened shredded coconut to boost the coconut vibe I wanted.
I poured this batter into a 9″-square pan, and baked at 350 degrees for exactly 38 minutes.And, despite the little patch where my hand accidentally touched the top a few minutes before it was finished, the whole cake had a nice, toasty crust to it.Although I was nervous when I first cut into it that I’d ended up with a dry, crumbly mess…that was not the case! It was a lovely texture, and when eaten warm tasted a bit like coconut-tinged marzipan.I had read that using fake sugar substitutes meant that the baked goods would dry out more quickly than usual, and that the “fake taste” would rear its ugly head after hiding out for a night. I did NOT find this to be the case. The flavor was not too sweet, and stayed consistent on the second day. Yes, the cake was a little crumbly, but it was not dry.
[I did wrap it in two layers of plastic and then store it in a Tup-faux-ware container, which probably helped.]
To make it a little prettier, I added some Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla extract and a sprinkling of coconut on top.
And they’re gone. So I think everyone liked them just fine. :)


Coconut Almond Sponge Cake
[Makes 9″-square pan]

3 eggs
3/4 cup erythritol or other sweetener (including granulated sugar)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Optional topping: 2% Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla extract, shredded coconut

[Preheat oven to 350 degrees.]

1. Beat eggs with an electric mixer (or food processor) for 2 minutes, until very frothy.
2. With mixer running, slowly pour in sugar or sugar substitute. Beat for 4-5 more minutes, until well whipped and thickened.
3. Add almond extract and water. Blend quickly to incorporate.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Mix just until incorporated.
6. Stir in coconut.
7. Pour batter into a 9″ square pan, coated with cooking spray.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-38 minutes, until edges are browned.

[If desired, dollop Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of coconut
on top of each piece before serving.]
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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table May 31, 2011 at 6:32 am

I've been questioning the need to try coconut flour (how many flours do I reallllly need?), but you totally just sold me.

The bulkier sugar "replacers" are also catching my attention. I've tried Stevia in the "use small amounts" powder form, but always wonder if the other forms that can replace sugar 1:1 work. Which has been your favorite?

Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free May 31, 2011 at 6:37 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE coconut flour-and sheesh! You got a good deal on it :) But I make everything with it: brownies, muffins, pancakes…

Maris (In Good Taste) May 31, 2011 at 7:34 am

You were ambitious and it all looks great!

Tricia @ Saving room for dessert May 31, 2011 at 8:32 am

I'm going to look for coconut flour now :) You are so fearless in the kitchen! They all look wonderful and love the yogurt topping. Have a great week.

iheartvegetables May 31, 2011 at 8:55 am

Ahhh I Can't find coconut flour anywhere!!! I need to check whole foods again, I'm sure they have it and I must just be missing it! There are so many things I want to try with coconut flour!

Maria May 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

I had no idea that coconut flour was that affordable. I've almost purchased it online before and I know it was well over $15 for a small bag, so that nixed that idea.

Oh Sprout's, I love you.

Allison @ PickyEatingRD May 31, 2011 at 10:12 am

I have had a hard time finding coconut flour – even at my local health food store which carries everything it has been hit or miss. Your baking looks fantastic!

Tiff @ Love, Sweat, and Beers May 31, 2011 at 10:48 am

Coconut flour is new to me. Thanks for the info. I'm attempting to envision all the ways I could use it.

divinelyvegan May 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm

You always make me soooo hungry! Looks like I need to go make some oats :)

Meri May 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I like this whole "experimentation story" post. I tend to find that even when I destroy recipes while baking (which is almost every time, since it seems to PAIN me to follow a recipe) I still enjoy it. It just probably falls apart easily, like my upside-down cake that fell apart all over the place, but got RAVE review!

Jennifer May 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm

bahahahaha! you would get a TROWEL of the stuff! It means more to experiment with! yay! <3

Jenny May 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Wow this looks amazing. I've never had a coconut cake before, shocking I know! :(

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Megan June 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Mm those look yum! I want to try my Han at baking with sweeteners like that. I have a stevia for baking bag. This is for sure inspiring me

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