When my eyes lit on the title of this cake, I knew I would make it. I LOVE coconut and there's a delicious amount of it in this cake. I also LOVE tea and thankfully there's none of it in this cake, but it's a perfect cake to have alongside a steaming cup of tea (or coffee, or anything for that matter.) This is not a special occasion cake--there's no frosting, or whipped cream or sprinkles--I think of it as a just-because-you-can kind of a treat. It's moist, simple and full of a delicate coconut flavor that is just as right after dinner as it would be at a brunch or just because you happened to walk into the kitchen and saw it standing there.
The cake gets its flavor from two coconut sources, dried unsweetened shredded coconut (although you can use the sweetened kind if you can't find the unsweetened version-most health food or high end supermarkets carry it now though) and from unsweetened coconut milk, which is what gives this cake its unusual moistness.
Besides those two ingredients, there are only the other standards, you know, eggs, flour, butter, sugar etc. and they come together easily. The original recipe calls for optional rum but I didn't use it and we didn't miss it. And though the recipe specifically stated using a Kugelhopf or Bundt pan, for some reason I used a tube pan (it's like I'm magnetically drawn to those things) and it came out perfectly too, so feel free to use one if you prefer.
It bakes up nice and high and you can see the speckles of coconut throughout. And while the outer crust has that crunchy/chewy thing happening, the interior is light, fluffy and irresistible.
Ok, I think I've done enough of a hard sell here-let me get to the recipe so that you can make this because-you-can-cake as well!
Coconut Tea Cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: About 1 hour; Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (stirred well before measuring)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4 large eggs. room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened (can be toasted or not, I didn't)
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter a 9 or 10 inch Kugelhopf, Bundt or tube pan. Don't place pan on a baking sheet, because you want the air to circulate through the tube.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
3. Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan, add the butter and heat until the milk is hot and the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, but keep warm.
4. For a stand mixer use the whisk attachment, otherwise just use a regular handheld mixer and in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar at medium high speed until pale and thick and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla (and a teaspoon of rum if you like-I didn't). Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed now, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed and only until the flour barely disappears.
5. Still beating at low speed, add the shredded coconut, just to mix. Then slowly add the hot milk mixture. When the batter is smooth, stop mixing--You don't want to over beat this now. Remove from the mixer and with a rubber spatula, gently give the batter a few turns just to make sure none of the flour has stuck to the bottom. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and give the pan a few back-and-forth shakes to level it.
6. Bake for 60-65 minutes (but start checking at 50 minutes) until cake is golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes before unmolding and letting it cool completely on rack.
7. Wrapped in plastic wrap, the cake will keep at room temperature for at least 4 days but I doubt any leftovers will make it that far!
Note: Recipe barely adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.