Expect the unexpected is one of Julie Chen’s signature lines on Big Brother, which I still watch and love.
Those words are sometimes, perhaps often, true in life as well. I mean we’ve all lived through some pretty unexpected stuff recently, haven’t we?
In baking, the unexpected doesn’t arise a whole lot. I make something that someone, often many someones, has made before in one version or another. I hope and even anticipate that it will taste good. I mean, I don’t set out to make things that are going to end up in the trash.
Think about the desserts you eat or make or buy from your favorite bakery. Sugar or chocolate chip or ginger cookies. Vanilla or chocolate or carrot cakes and cupcakes. Cherry or blueberry or peach pies. Maybe there are some different textures or spices here and there, but in general it’s the same thing over and over again.
Maybe this Coconut Cake with Saffron Filling isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s pretty different for spring and Easter with that happy yellow filling that packs a pretty serious punch of flavor from saffron. If you aren’t familiar with this spice, it’s little threads that have a slightly floral, slightly earthy vibes that plays well with sweet or savory dishes and turns everything a sunny shade of yellow.
It pairs so well with coconut, particularly with the hints of cardamom and vanilla in the fluffy cake. If you love coconut (you really have to love coconut with all the different forms of it you’ll find in every bite), this cake with a Milk Bar inspired crumb to gild the lily is beyond perfect for your Easter celebration or any other occasion that needs a showstopping dessert.Print
A cake with coconut at every turn including fluffy cake, saffron pudding, buttery crunch, and vanilla flecked icing.
2 cups paleo flour blend (2 cups almond flour, 1 ¼ cups tapioca starch, ¾ cup coconut flour)
¼ cup tapioca starch
1 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
¾ cup coconut sugar
2/3 cup coconut oil, room temperature
4 large eggs, separated
1 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Pinch saffron threads, crushed
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved
¼ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup tapioca starch
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons coconut butter
½ cup paleo flour blend
½ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup almond flour
¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut oil, room temperature
½ cup coconut butter
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla bean powder
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons honey
Make the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/325 degrees F convection. Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment, coming up the sides, for easy removal.
In a large bowl, beat the oil, sugar, and vanilla until combined and slightly lightened in texture. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in half the flour, followed by half the coconut milk. Stir in the remaining flour along with the tapioca, baking powder, and cardamom. Stir in the milk.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter and pour into the prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until bouncy and a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan.
Make the filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and tapioca. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place the milk, saffron, and vanilla bean seeds and pod. Bring to a simmer before slowly whisking some into the egg mixture. After about half the milk mixture has been added, pour the egg mixture into the pot. Whisking constantly, cook until the mixture thickens into a pudding. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the coconut butter. Cover with plastic touching the pudding and refrigerate until chilled.
Once chilled, pass through a fine mesh strainer when ready to assemble the cake.
Make the crumble. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, sugar, coconut, and cinnamon. Mush in the oil until clumps form. Spread onto the tray and bake about 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely on the tray before breaking into pieces. Crumble may be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
When ready to assemble the cake, make the icing. In a medium, microwave safe bowl, place the butter, milk, vanilla, cardamom, and honey. Microwave on high in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted and combined. If the mixture is too thick, stir in more milk.
Assemble the cake. Cut the cake in half. Place half on the serving platter of your choice. Top with the pudding, smoothing into an even layer, leaving just a small border empty. Top with a generous portion of the crumble, and enjoy the rest as a snack 😉 Place the other half of the cake on top, before pouring over the glaze and spreading to the edges. Slice and serve or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Recipe adapted from Tyler Brown via Food and Wine