Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Moms are peachy give them a peachy cake like this

Let them eat flowers and stuff

We observe Mother's Day in this house pretty much the same way we observe every other day of the year: enjoy each other's company. This year, though, we  also get to toss in a couple of birthdays (not actually today, but with schedules being what they are, we consolidated).

In light of said natal anniversaries, I got cracking and worked up a cake or two. When I plan cakes for a crowd, I usually try to make one of them gluten-free, just for the heck of it (all right. It's so that, when it works, I can enjoy what everybody else does, and without the unpleasant side effects. So sue me).

At any rate, this was no exception. The only change is that, in going GF, I don't yet have the flour mix right for a fluffy, non-bricklike layer cake not involving chocolate. For some reason, I have no trouble making my chocolate cakes delicate and flavorful, but vanilla or coconut...plenty of flavor, for a doorstop. I suppose I could invest in some big brand-name GF cake flour, but then I'd have to freeze it for those months when I'm not baking birthday cakes…so, no.

Still, the regular people's cake does quite nicely. And I have meds and time, to get over the damage of my misbehaving.


It begins with a cake.

Two thick layers of loveliness.
Don't worry. It gets straightened out, eventually.

Embraced by peaches. Again, two thick layers, of neato keen.
This was the gluten free base. It sagged. I suppose I could have used it as a bird bath. The regular cake stayed tall and tender…and then some.

And then there is the fluff. All over. But not store-bought, this is meringue with cha-cha.
Sticky, gooey, fluffy, lighter than a marshmallow simple Italian Meringue with some to spare.

Plus some homemade candied violets.
I recommend getting the help of a young'un or two to pick a large supply of violets, (including a whole mess of white violets, if they grow near you) and use extrafine sugar on them.

All tied together with coconut, in syrup form and toasted flakes.

Mmmmmmm…coconutty! Heh heh!

Here comes the coconutty cake recipe, and the peachy filling recipe. And the meringue frosting recipe. You can click through on the above link for how to make the candied flowers, which can be made as much as two weeks ahead, but DO NOT REFRIGERATE. The cold will cause condensation which will turn the candy sticky rather than crisp, and you will be left with limp, colorless masses of useless carbohydrates of no particular charm.

The cake and coconut, also, may be prepared a day or two in advance, and, in both cases, not chilled. 

The peach filling can be made as much as a day ahead, and kept in the fridge.

The meringue needs to be fresh on the day of serving the cake.

Cake Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used powdered, and mixed it with skim milk)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sweetened cream of coconut (Coco Lopez or Coco Reàl will do nicely. Do NOT use light versions. That would be just silly, considering how decadent the cake already is.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

Cake Directions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF, with rack placed in the center.

Grease two DEEP 9-inch cake pans (at least 1 1/2 inch deep), line the bottoms with parchment, and coat parchment and sides of pans with butter and flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt (if you are using buttermilk powder, mix it in here). 

In a small bowl, whisk milk (buttermilk, if you're using the straight stuff) and sour cream together .

In a large stand-mixer bowl, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. With mixer still running on medium, gradually add in the sugar, and beat until creamy and fluffy (at least 5-7 minutes). Add in egg yolks one at a time, beating them in completely before adding the next. Then mix in coconut cream and vanilla.

Keeping mixer running on low, add in 1/4 of the dry ingredients, allow it to fully mix in, then add about 1/4 of the milk/sour cream mixture and be sure to allow it to fully mix in. Add another 1/4 of the dry, mix in, then the milk…repeat this process until the whole thing is completely combined.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until light and fluffy, forming firm, moist peaks. Gently fold this into the large bowl of batter. 

When it is all mixed together, divide batter between the two prepared cake pans. Place on middle rack of oven. Bake at least 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven but LEAVE THE OVEN ON.  Allow to cool on a rack, in pans, for ten minutes, then remove from pans to continue to cool. When they are completely cool (daddy-oh!), you may wish to take a long serrated knife and trim to make it flat and even. For myself, I don't mind a little hummock to build upon. If you are not frosting this right away, cover loosely with plastic or put in cake box and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a jelly-roll pan (a sided cookie sheet), evenly spread coconut flakes. Place on center rack of oven. Bake 12-15 minutes, stirring once at about midpoint, until golden brown and toasty.

Remove from oven, cool. Set aside for end stages of decorating.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup peach preserves
2 lbs. frozen peaches, thawed (or 3 lbs. fresh peaches, peeled and pitted) cut into 1/2 to 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon finely-grated lemon peel (optional)

Filling Directions:

In a small saucepan on low to medium heat, melt the peach preserves.

In large bowl, mix peaches, sugar, lemon juice and peel, add liquid peach preserves, stir to cover. Allow to stand. After a few minutes, drain away liquids. (If you are preparing ahead, allow the liquid to stay until just before you apply peaches to the layers of the cake.) If you want, you can use the liquid in a nice drink, with a little of your cream of coconut and some rum…get creative!

Meringue Frosting Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 Tablespoons corn syrup
3 Tablespoons water
5 large egg whites, room temperature

Meringue Frosting Directions:

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar, plus corn syrup and water. Using a brush dipped in water, brush down any granules of sugar which might have been clinging to the sides of the pan. Place candy thermometer in pan so that it does not touch the bottom of the pan. On medium to medium-high heat, WITHOUT STIRRING as it heats, bring to a boil and continue to heat until it comes to 238ºF, or soft ball stage (when you drop a small bit of the mixture into a glass of  cool water, it forms a ball as it sinks to the bottom. But use a thermometer. It's much more effective a gauge of whether the syrup is ready).

At the same time you are boiling  the syrup, in a VERY clean LARGE stand mixing bowl with no residue (oils and fatty substances will keep the egg whites from whipping up all fluffy. I have read that some bakers rinse out their bowls with vinegar & then dry with paper towels, before whipping their egg whites, just to be sure), begin to beat the egg whites on medium-high speed. As the egg whites begin to become more frothy, sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons sugar, while continuing to whip until they are at soft peak.. You may be finished with this process a little before the syrup is ready. That is not a problem. The other way around, however…no.  So, if the syrup is heating too quickly, lower the temp a little (very little).

When the eggs are ready and the syrup reaches temperature, set the mixer at medium to high speed and pour syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites. Don't scrape the pan – just let what wants to come out, come out. Scraping may cause crystals to form in the fluff, and you don't need that.

Keep whipping the fluff on medium to high until it cools down to lukewarm (about 7-10 minutes).


As soon as the meringue is cool enough to handle, you'll want to assemble the cake, before the frosting begins to set up.

Place your bottom layer of cake in the center of the plate (or, if you have one, a decorator's turntable covered with parchment) in the middle of a large jelly-roll pan. Spoon a layer of drained peaches onto the cake layer, covering it completely. Pile on a generous amount of meringue frosting, spread evenly. Top with next layer of cake, cover with peaches, completely cover that with meringue. Slather meringue on sides of cake as thickly as you like it, and don't worry about crumbs showing through – you'll be pressing small handfuls of toasted coconut all around those sides. Be aware, the coconutting process is, by its very nature, an untidy one, which is why I suggest not skipping the jelly-roll pan. It will catch the flakes which don't immediately stick to the frosting, rather than letting them fall on the placemat – or, worse, the carpet. Scoop those fallen flakes up from the cookie sheet and add 'em to the next spot. 

If you have candied flowers, use them on top (or, if you have lots of them, stick them also amid the coconut on the sides, too). If you have no flowers, you can coat the top of the cake with more coconut, or you can leave it looking all yummy and fluffy on its own.

Cover without refrigerating. Will keep for up to 2 days, but is best served within an hour of finishing.

Four moms happy, two of them also satisfied with this as a birthday cake.

Note: I made a double batch of peach filling and meringue, as well as extra toasted coconut because I like to use it in other things. I layered the frosting on the sides of both cakes – regular and GF – rather sparingly, because I knew this was going to be a sweet cake, and I didn't need to make that overpowering. Therefore, I had about a pint of fluff left over, which I carefully spooned into a pair of pretty half-pint jars and sent off with a birthday girl, so she can use it to make fluffernutter sandwiches (or fluffernutellas, as she hinted she might) on toast. This is always an option with spare fluff.

If, on the other hand, you're not a big fan of fluff, you can replace the frosting with simple sweetened whipped cream or whipped coconut milk. But then you need to refrigerate the cake once it's assembled, and our fridge refuses to accommodate all that. It says it has enough stuff in it already.

Any way you look at this, though, you should eat it right away. It's too good not to.