coconut-pandan-overkill layer cake

*** WARNING ***
This is an epic cake-making post.
So if you're not into that kinda thing ...

J and B are something of a superstar couple these past few weeks, what with J getting into her school program of choice, and B getting a new and wonderful job in his field, protecting the wild spaces of this fine province. So last night we celebrated in a way that only we, completely in touch with our inner octogenarians, could -- with desserts, long-weekend cottage-planning, and The Man Who Planted Trees.

While J loves chocolate, and so had requested something in the truffle family, B loves coconut. He loves it like Sir-Mix-A-Lot loves a chunky backside, or The Great One loves purple. The extent of his love for coconut was revealed to me a few months back when I made a batch of coconut cupcakes to go along with a Thai feast. I had introduced them to pandan at that point as well, and being a geek for all obscure things edible-plant related (this is the man who, on a spring wander through the woods, introduced me to the minty-fresh-wonderfulness of yellow birch shoots) the combination of coconut and pandan became for him, apparently, a new obsession.

And so this is what I came up with to celebrate B joining J and me in the world of the working stiff. It's a short tower of awesome comprised of 2 layers of coconut-pandan cake, sandwiched between which is a generous layer of hint-o'-pandan coconut-caramel. Then the whole thing is slathered with a fluffy pandan-coconut frosting. It's moist without being heavy, sweet without being cloying, and flavourful without being truly overkill. As J and B said, you can really taste all the layers, whose flavours and textures stay distinct while still all getting together and batting for the same sugary all-vegan team.

We'll do this in steps, shall we? I know it looks like a lot of work, but all the components can most definitely be made the day before and then kept wrapped in the fridge for quick assembly (you'll need to gently heat the caramel to make it spreadable in this case).

NOTE: for those who don't like (shame!) or can't find (try harder) pandan, this would also be wonderful as a coconut-maple cake. Just substitute maple extract where pandan is called for, and use pure maple syrup in the caramel instead of brown rice syrup.

coconut-pandan layer cake with hint-o'-pandan coconut caramel filling and pandan frosting

coconut pandan cake

what you need ...

3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 c. coconut milk
1/3 c. + 3 Tbsp. (scant) canola oil
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar (or regular white vinegar)
2 tsp. pandan extract
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled, of course)
1/4 c. coconut flour
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar (I like CocoaCamino's Golden Cane Sugar, which is vegan)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

what you do ...

Preheat your oven to
350°F and lightly grease a 9" springform pan with non-stick spray.

Spread coconut in as thin as possible a layer in another (dry, ungreased) baking pan and place in the middle of your oven to toast. Watch carefully! You want it toasty-brown but not burned, which can happen pretty quickly. This normally only takes a few minutes, and I generally take it out and stir it a couple times to try and make it brown evenly. Once it's all toasty, remove from oven and spread on a clean tea towel to cool.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the first set of ingredients (coconut milk through coconut extract). The oil will, of course, want to separate. Don't worry your pretty self about that. Rebellion is natural and to be commended.

In a large bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, coconut flour,
baking soda, and salt. Stir in sugar and (cooled) coconut flakes, stirring well with a fork to evenly distribute.

Dump wet ingredients into dry, and mix well with a fork until combined. Pour batter into prepared springform pan and jiggle a bit to ensure it's all evened out. (This is a thick batter, don't be worried -- it rises beautifully.)

Bake at 350° F on a middle oven rack for 48-55 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes in pan on a wire rack before removing from pan and letting cool completely on rack (be careful removing from pan - the whole dense-moist-wonderful thing comes into play here).

hint-o'-pandan coconut caramel

what you need ...

1 c. (generous) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. soy cream (or more coconut milk)
1 c. brown rice syrup (at room temperature)
1 tsp. pandan extract

what you do ...

First things first, you need to toast your coconut. Turn your broiler on at 350°F and toast coconut as per instructions in above cake recipe (there's no need, here, to let it cool).

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine coconut milk, soy creamer and brown rice syrup and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly.

Dump in toasted coconut and pandan extract, mix thoroughly, and continue cooking and stirring until the caramel thickens considerably (this will probably take about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool -- it will thicken up more as it cools.

fluffy pandan coconut frosting

what you need ...

1/2 lb. (227 g.) non-hydrogenated vegan margarine, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. coconut cream
1 Tbsp. pandan extract
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. coconut extract
2 1/4 c. icing sugar (I like Wholesome Sweeteners' organic, fair trade, vegan powdered sugar)

Using an electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer, if you're lucky enough to have one) cream together the margarine, coconut cream, and extracts.

Gradually add sugar 1/2 cup at a time while continuing to beat the frosting like it owes you money -- 2 1/4 cups of sugar is what I went with, you may want to use more or less depending on your sweet tooth and how creamy your coconut cream really is.

Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

note: this recipe makes more icing than you need to frost the cake as I made it, as there's no frosting between the layers. So you can either slide some fluffy sweetness between the layers, or just keep the frosting for another baking endeavour - it can be refrigerated or frozen for eons.

all together now ...

This is where the magic happens.

Grab your cooled cake and slice it in half with a good sharp knife to make two layers. If you're like me and can't see/draw/cut a straight line to save your life either get someone else to do it or, if you're a loner like I am, just have at it and then let your shaving-and-leveling skills sort it out.

Lay the bottom layer, cut side up, on a large plate. Spoon coconut caramel on top and spread it around with a spatula until it's evenly distributed (if you find your caramel looks too thick to spread just heat it gently to thin out a bit - you don't want it liquidy).

Lay your second cake layer, cut side down, on top of the caramel like a giant sandwich.

Frost top and sides with pandan frosting, and decorate with extra toasted coconut.

Refrigerate until ready to serve, and let sit out 20 minutes or so before serving to allow caramel to soften.

it helps, when slicing this cake, to have a glass of warm water handy for dipping and cleaning your knife -- the caramel, she's gooey.

oh, and: the sliced-cake photos were taken by J using her fabulous skills and wonderful camera, since I had forgotten mine at home. She and B are so indulgent of my geekery.

I humbly submit this original cake recipe to this month's edition of the Culinarty Original Recipes event, hosted by Lore at Culinarty.


Lore said...

My hubby's favourite flavour is coconut and I love moist without being heavy cakes ;) so this would be perfect for both of us (that doesn't happen too often !). Love, love, love the sound of that caramel! Pardon my drool :)
Thanks for sending it over to Original Recipes!

- L said...

thanks for your kind comment, Lore.

I hope you and your husband enjoy it if you do end up making it, although I don't see how anyone with a coconut-tooth couldn't like it - it's most definitely coconutty.

heartsbooksheartsfood said...

oooh, pandan cake! We have pandan leaves in our backyard and they really do go well with coconut desserts. I had pandan cake years ago and it wasn't vegan. I'll definitely try this sometime soon :)

Nik Snacks said...

This is all vegan?? SWEET! I just learned today that not all sugar is vegan. Isn't that crazy? omg. Whyyyy???

Came over here from Lore's round-up. Nice place ya got here ;)