I could barely turn the pedals. I was lagging so far behind and my exhaustion was making me sad and angry at the same time. Edward was barely pedalling with one leg, 50 meters up the road trying his best to wait for me. He must be so annoyed, I thought to myself. For the life of me, I just couldn’t close the gap. I should’ve been on the couch, laying down, not even sitting. I couldn’t turn back now, though, there was magical cake waiting for me at the half way point.
Edward had talked for months about this coconut cake. It became somewhat mystical in mind after so many coffee ride stories featuring the “most amazing” dessert. When the day arrived where Edward invited me to ride with him to experience the cake myself, I couldn’t say no, despite my lack of energy.
After a long physically demanding and emotional thirty minutes on the bike, we arrived in the old town of Girona. Weaving through the tiny cobbled streets filled with pedestrians, we sat down at the cafe and ordered the cake. I awaited decadent blissful heaven, hoping it was so delicious it would evaporate the tension from the ride that lingered between Edward and I. Two small slices arrived on a rustic cutting board. Small had to mean it was insatiable. I opened my eyes wide in excitement, locking them with Edward as I took my first bite.
I scrunched my nose. I didn’t like it.
Maybe I hadn’t given it a fair chance, especially since I wasn’t in the best of moods. I prepared my tastebuds with a rinse of water and went in for a second taste. Automatically, I scrunched my nose. I shook my head at Edward. “I’m really sorry but I can’t eat that.” He was surprised and shocked. I felt bad, especially with the disastrous journey beforehand. Both of us were deflated.
For the sake of our love, I suggested we ride home separately. He agreed. We lovingly kissed, rode the cobbled alley out of the town together, and went our separate ways. Instantly, I shifted into my easiest gear. It was going to be a long, painful, drag of a ride home. Luckily, my mind was completely preoccupied with that cake. I knew I could make a better one…and teach Edward what coconut cake should (in my opinion) taste like, i.e. coconut.
The first cake went in the garbage. The second one was too heavy. The third and fourth were close. Finally, I presented the fifth one to Edward with the proclamation: “Now that is what a coconut cake should taste like”. Moist and delicious with the sweet nutty flavour of coconut—without the torturous, relationship-testing thirty minute bike ride to get to it.
Vegan Coconut Cake
If you have never worked with a fresh coconut, I invite you to give it a try! I had never done it before and it was easier than I thought it would be! If you don’t have coconut extract, can’t find it, or just don’t want to buy it, you can use vanilla only. If you only use vanilla, make sure you darkly toast the strips of coconut to pack in the flavour between layers.
2 cups coconut milk (the drinking plant milk, not the tinned one)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1⅓ cup sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup coconut oil melted (or sunflower/canola oil)
1 tsp coconut extract (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 fresh coconut
1 tin coconut milk, chilled
First, make the cake. Preheat oven to 175C. Mix the milk and lemon juice and stir. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir to combine. If you don’t have coconut extract, use a total of 1 tsp of vanilla. Don’t worry, plenty of other coconut sources for yummy coconutty flavour!
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add into the wet mixture gradually until completely combined with no lumps.
Fold in shredded coconut.
Pour mixture into greased or lined tins and bake for 20-35 minutes (depending on your tins) or until knife comes out clean. You can use three 8-inch pans or one 10-inch springform tin…or whatever you have in your pantry! The shallower the pan, the faster the bake; cover with foil if the top browns too quickly. Check pan conversions here.
While the cake is in the oven, it’s coconut time…
Husk coconut, if necessary, and then using a hammer, cleaver, or, in my case, a shifting spanner, whack the outside “seams” until the coconut breaks open. Drink or retain the liquid (if you can!) and remove flesh from the shell by cutting out the flesh or using a teaspoon down the edges. Better yet, give this video a watch.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips with 1/3 of the coconut. Place on a lined baking tray and toast at 150 until golden (~10-20min). Flip pieces over and continue to toast until totally browned. The darker the coconut, the more toasty the flavour. I recommend toasting the strips to a dark brown for flavour. It does burn quickly so watch it closely, especially at the end.
Use a grater to shred the rest of the coconut. Toast at 150 until lightly golden, stirring if necessary (~5-10min)
Allow the coconut to cool completely.
After allowing the cakes to completely cool, cut the cake if necessary into 2 or three pieces to layer.
Prepare the coconut frosting but spooning 1 tablespoon of coconut fat from a chilled tin of coconut milk into a blitzer or mixer with 1 cup of icing sugar. Add more coconut fat or icing sugar as needed until spreadable but not runny.
Put the first layer of cake down and lightly ice the top. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 of the dark coconut strips on top. Repeat with second layer.
Now that the cake is assembled, use the rest of the icing to coat the entire cake. Sprinkle the toasted shredded coconut all over. There is no clean method to coconut the sides! Doing it over a cutting board so you can collect what falls helps ensure you don’t waste coconut and makes it easy to clean up.