Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beyond Decadent Coconut Cupcakes

I recently went on a hunt for a coconut cake recipe- Feeesh (aka my co-gardener across the city) had a birthday coming up and coconut cake is his favorite birthday cake. When I looked for "ultimate coconut cake" what came up over and over again was this recipe from the Peninsula Grill in Charleston.

Now, upon initial inspection, I was both horrified and intrigued by the recipe. Why horrified? It is 6 layers, with 2 kinds of frosting, and the entire recipe calls for two and a half POUNDS of butter. Why intrigued? This cake has been all over- it is on Martha Stewart's page, it was the subject of a Bobby Flay throwdown, it is listed on tourist websites, and apparently is the type of legendary dessert that people have mailed to them when they move away and that everyone wants at their wedding. Intrigue won over horror... and man oh man, was that the right way to go.

Since I was serving this at a BBQ outside, I decided to modify the recipe and make a slightly scaled down version, and turn it into cupcakes. I'm going to post my modified proportions based on what I actually used (which varied between 1/2, 2/3, and all of the original recipe for the various components- the cupcakes were way off on proportions compared to the layer cake). Behold:
Make the night before and chill. This is a half recipe, which might even be too much- I made 2/3 and ended up with so much extra I had to make an entire loaf pan of extra cake to use it up, and still froze a bunch).
-2.5c heavy cream
-1.5c sugar
-1/2lb butter (2 cubes)*
-.25c cornstarch
-.5 tsp vanilla
.5 tbsp water
-4.5c shredded sweetened coconut

Put butter, sugar, and cream in a pan and slowly heat until all is melted. Mix cornstarch, vanilla, and water and add to liquid. Boil the mixture about a minute, so it can thicken. Remove from heat. Take all the coconut and chop it in the food processor so that it is in very small pieces (you don't want this to be stringy). Stir this into the mixture. Chill over night, then the next morning when you need it, beat until creamy (4-5 min).

*note on butter. every single website I saw said that you really really have to use Plugra or other European style butter. I was going to skip this, until I found out that the Smart and Final near me had a fairly good price on it- I think other places it can get up to $7-8 a pound! aack! but, these were decadent, so maybe it was worth it. If nothing else, given that I'm usually misting things in the minimum possible about of olive oil, it was kind of fun to work with giant slabs of butter.
(this is 2/3 of the recipe)
2/3lb butter (I don't know how many cubes of regular butter this is- it is easier to measure this amount when you're hacking pieces off of pound sized slabs)
2c sugar
4 eggs
3c flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 plus a bit tsp salt
1c heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract

Preheat oven to 325. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. In one bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) and the other the wet ingredients (cream, vanilla, coconut). Alternate adding and beating in wet and dry ingredients, starting and ending with dry. Now, this is very dense, almost like a pound cake (no surprise, look at the stuff in it). This makes about 27-28 cupcakes, bake them for 22 minutes, or until they feel firm. I made these the night before, as well.
(this is a full batch- the cupcakes needed relatively more than the cake does just due to geometry)
-.5lb butter
-8oz cream cheese
-1tsp vanilla etract
-5c powdered sugar
-1 vanilla bean, scraped out (I had this in my stash of leftover beans from the great vanilla project). It made the cream cheese frosting out of this world!

Mix butter and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. Add the sugar in about 3 batches until mixed in (dump it all in at once and you will end up looking like a snowman as the mixer throws it in the air).

-Simple syrup- boil together 1/2c water and 1/2c sugar. let cool completely
-Coconut topping- you'll need a few cups of coconut- you can toast it ahead of time or not, but I did half and half and the toasted ones were much more popular.

Putting it all together:
I decided to use a cupcake filling technique I learned when making home made hostess cupcakes. Basically take the (COMPLETELY cooled) cupcakes, and individually cut a pretty deep cone shaped hole in the top of each cupcake. Drizzle a little bit of simple syrup around the sides of each hole- just a small small bit to give some moisture. Fill the hole with the filling (which you will have just taken out of the fridge and beaten), cut off the tip of the cone, and put it on like a little hat.
This looks crazy, but in the end it works really well, its kind of strange. You will find there is a limit on the number of tips of cones you can eat, but at least it provides a way to taste the cake ;-).

Then, frost with the cream cheese frosting- this is part of why you need more frosting, you definitely want to cover any sign of the little hat.
Then, roll the tops of the cupcakes in the (toasted or untoasted) coconut. Chill them for a few hours- everything needs a little time to compress and fit together.
Serve and enjoy! These were absolutely delicious. A lot of people compared them to the types of gourmet cupcakes that are all over the place these days, and they really tasted like something decadent. I think some of that might be due to the fancy butter, but it could also be the cream, the sugar, everything else. I would really resist the urge to make these lower fat, and if you're worried, just enjoy and limit your portion sizes. These are perfect for a special occasion- they would be great at a wedding or bridal shower or baby shower (or birthday!); I can only imagine how delicious the full sized cake must be!

And... its not over... As I said, I had a ridiculously huge amount of filling left. I had just filled it with expensive butter and a whole lot of coconut, so I didn't want to waste it. I ended up making 1/3 of the original recipe as a new batch of batter, baked in a loaf pan. Per the original recipe I cut into 3 layers, added filling between. It is just adorable! It also is incredibly heavy. But, it now resides in my freezer, to be pulled out for a special occasion in the future!


feeesh said...

Once upon a time there was a cosmic burst of energy that created the heavens and the earth. A similar burst of energy flows through me when I taste those cupcakes! And I would move heaven and earth to get to one if I saw one laying there. Best cupcakes Ive ever had! And I have an entire BBQ party that agrees!

Thanks for the wonderful food Pinko!

Jenni said...

I once heard a "hostessing" tip that went something like - make a log cake and keep it in your freezer. Then if you have an unexpected need to serve it to guests, you can pull it out, slice a few slices, and go. You can then refrost the end, and put it away - to masquerade as a fresh and complete log cake for the next unexpected visitor. This looks like it could serve just that purpose!

Joseph's Grainery Recipes said...

Oh my...those do look beyond decadent!

Pam said...

I love anything with coconut... they look amazing.

Reeni said...

These are absolutely delicious! So rich and decadent!

April said...

This recipe looks "involved" but now I really want to make it... finding the butter might be some work though.


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