Monday, March 17, 2008

Next stop: Indonesia (or Southeast Asia) for coco-pandan birthday cake.

One of my birthday presents to myself each year is the joy of making my own cake. Unfortunately, I was so bogged down with other obligations this year that I couldn't start my cake until the very last minute.

But I think I still worked it out:

This coco-pandan cake was actually still a blank canvas as party guests were arriving, and I finished decorating it with the help of my pastry chef cousin Irene while people were eating birthday brunch.

I was going to do some fancy piped shiz on it, but I was too lazy. Luckily, Nature gave me some lovely decorating tools: I took leftover kiwis originally intended for healthy snacking, sliced them ever-so-thinly (as I only had 3 left), strategically stuck them on my cake and patted myself on the back.

Of course, Irene showed me up by piping adorable chocolate embellishments all over it. As her former "bakery assistant" (I use the term loosely), I loved watching her work.

In fact, she gave me this recipe for coco-pandan cake. The cake is a simple chiffon with pandan flavoring, with fresh (actually, canned, but y'know, NOT dried/flaked) young coconut between the layers.

Coconut-Pandan Cake, courtesy pastry chef cousin Irene
8 oz cake flour
9 oz superfine sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1/2 cup water
Pure vanilla extract, to taste
20 egg yolks
10 egg whites
1 tablespoon pandan extract (recommended: Kupu-kupu brand)
Green food coloring, if needed

Sift together the flour, 8 oz of the sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine oil, water, egg yolks and vanilla in a mixer fixed with the whip attachment. Mix on low speed until everything is incorporated. Add the flour mixture and whip on high speed until doubled in volume. Add the pandan extract. Add green food coloring for extra color, if needed.

While the flour mixture is mixing, add the remaining 1 oz sugar to the egg whites. Whip the whites until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the flour mixture in 3 additions.

Divide the batter among two 10-inch round cake pans lined with parchment paper on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees until tops are firm and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-ish minutes (unfortunately, I didn't time it).

"Fresh" Coconut Filling:
3 cans young coconut meat (recommended: Aroy-D brand)
Mochiko (sweet Japanese rice flour) to thicken
Sugar, as needed

Drain the coconut meat, reserving some of the juice. Chop the coconut meat into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Add the Mochiko to the coconut, a tablespoon at a time, until the filling is a creamy, but not pasty consistency. Thin it out with the juice as needed, and add sugar if you want to sweeten it even more.

Right here I actually heated equal parts of Mochiko and coconut juice in a saucepan over low heat in order to dissolve the flour and make it less gritty before I added it to the coconut, but it's not entirely necessary.

Simple Icing:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the whip cream and sugar in a large bowl on high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat in the vanilla toward the end.

I had originally planned to make coco-pandan cupcakes, but I couldn't figure out a way to translate the fresh coconut element to cupcake-form in time for my birthday. I'm still thinking about it.

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