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Saying Bon Voyage: Coconut Mango Cake

As I was saying last week, there are few of life’s circumstances that aren’t improved by cake. Even the kind of crappy things can be made less so with the judicious application of, you guessed it, cake.

Last weekend I again found myself deploying cake to make a bittersweet goodbye a little less bitter and a little more sweet. On Saturday, we bid a fond farewell to a friend moving to Chicago. I’m very sad to see them go, of course, even though it’s for an excellent new job in an exciting new city. Obviously, a cake was necessary. And, while the savories focused primarily on their new home (mini deep dish pizzas, Chicago dogs, etc.), I looked to our friend’s Filipino origins to inspire the bon voyage cake.

With that “tropical” memo in mind, I started with two layers of coconut cake–replacing the milk with coconut milk and folding in some shredded coconut–then sandwiched them around a layer of mango pastry cream. A marshmallow-y seven-minute frosting got coated in more coconut and topped with thinly sliced mango. It looked very pretty and was quite a hit with everyone, even those that got the leftovers the day after!

While the cake itself was pretty rad, with a moist, bouncy crumb and a distinct but not overpowering coconutty-ness, I was not super thrilled with the mango pastry cream. It was a lot of work for not a lot of payoff. Mango just seems like one of those flavors whose potency wanes dramatically the further you get from the raw fruit. Maybe steeping the peels in the milk would impart some of their sharp, jungly funk, but I’m going to recommend a passionfruit curd filling instead. That’s a flavor that holds up, and would be really great with the cake and fresh mango topping.

I’ve also reconfigured the recipe to make a two-layer 9″ round cake as it’s probably more likely that you’re going to want 12-16 and not 20-24 servings of cake. It’d also be a good idea to spread this project out over a couple of days. Bake the cake and make the filling on one day, then make the frosting and assemble it the next. That way you’ll have time to clean up and recover and not end up at my front door with torches and pickaxes.

Coconut Mango Cake
Adapted from: Rose Levy Beranbaum & King Arthur Flour

Make the cake:

6 large egg yolks
1 c coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 c cake flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 tbs unsalted butter, softened to cool room temperature

*If at all possible, weigh your egg yolks. You should have 4 oz or 112 grams. Egg yolks seem to have shrunk a great deal since the base recipe was published. I regularly have to add one or two to get the required weight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9″ round cake pans, line them with parchment rounds, butter again and dust with flour. Knock out the excess flour over the sink and set prepared pans aside.

Once you have the yolks in a bowl (save the whites in a clean bowl, you’ll need some for the frosting), add 1/4 of the coconut milk and the vanilla. Whisk lightly to combine.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl of the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 c coconut milk. Using low speed, mix until the ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 min. Scrape down the side of the bowl. With the mixer running, stream the egg mixture into the bowl in three additions, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides, add the coconut, and mix to combine, another 20 seconds or so.

Divide the batter evenly between pans, spreading it evenly. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Place pans on racks to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake with a thin metal spatula and invert them onto wire racks. Turn them right side up to finish cooling. Once cool to room temperature, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Make the passion fruit curd:

Recipe here. Cool completely before continuing with assembly.

Make the frosting and assemble the cake:

Seven-Minute Frosting
1 – 1 1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut
2 ripe mangoes, preferably of the Champagne/Alphonso variety

Make sure that your filling is cooled and set and that your cake is similarly chilled for easy handling. If cakes have domed excessively, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even out the tops. Set aside.

Prep a medium-sized pastry bag with a large star tip and set aside.

Make the frosting; recipe here.

Once the frosting is complete, put about two cups of frosting in the pastry bag. Twist it shut and set it aside.

Dab about a tablespoon of frosting in the center of your serving plate and invert one of the cake layers onto it. Working quickly, crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting by dolloping half a cup or so in the center of the cake and spreading it outward across the surface of the cake and down the sides to seal it to the plate. Pipe a ring of frosting just inside the perimeter of the cake to make a dam for the passion fruit curd. Spread about a cup of curd inside the ring.

Gently invert the second layer on top of the first. Dollop a good two cups of frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it outwards to cover the top of and over the sides. Use the remaining frosting to cover the sides with a good layer of frosting. Press the coconut against the sides of the cake. Then, either press more coconut onto the top of the cake or pipe a running shell border around the top. Lay on thinly sliced mango in a wheel pattern and create a rosette for the center by curling several thin slices around each other.

Serve with relative alacrity. Otherwise, let the frosting set for 1/2 and hour before covering loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerating.

Notes & Variations
If, by some bizarre act of the produce gods, you can get passionfruits but not mangoes, or if you just hate mangoes, you could totally just use a little more passionfruit curd or raw pulp to spread over the top of the cake inside the piped ring of frosting. It would look and taste lovely.

Beranbaum, Rose Levy. The Cake Bible (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc.) 1988

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