coconut tea cake with a chocolate top

I made this cake a while back for a barbecue with friends, and it was born of simple requirements: a non-fussy cake that wouldn’t mess up too many bowls (important when you’re already prepping lots of other food), and no icing monstrosity please – easy enough to finish even after having ate too much.

it’s a soft fluffy tea-cake that bakes up light and fragrant with toasted coconut and vanilla – a great finish after dinner (or for tea!) with its bittersweet chocolate top.


the key here, is to toast your desiccated coconut. that dry white stuff is incredibly unappealing in its original anaemic state – so dry as to be cough-worthy, and so tasteless as to serve no purpose (unless you’re feeding a particularly unlikable guest). but give it a bit of time in a skillet over heat, and it morphs into its sexy sister – all dark glamour and appealing smells, with a jump in attractiveness that most of us can only dream of growing up.

it bakes up very plain, but with an entirely pleasing flat top – essentially a not-too-sweet sponge cake perked up with coconut. the original recipe serves this with a sweet coconut glaze – which I completely eschewed in place of a darker chocolate ganache: another sweet component would render this rather one-dimensional, and the chocolate brought richness and contrast.

I kept it as a one-layer tea-cake with a plain-ish top this time, but its sturdy fluffiness and light flavour would lend very well to a more complicated setup – I’m thinking of a cake served cold, with layers of whipped cream and a nut-encrusted chocolate outer. delicious.

coconut tea cake (adapted from use real butter)

113g plain flour
0.5 tsp baking powder
bare pinch of salt
0.5 cup coconut milk (I used 60g coconut cream + 60g cow’s milk), room temperature
29g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
215g sugar
0.5 tsp vanilla
21g desiccated shredded coconut, toasted in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until brown and fragrant

    1. preheat your oven to 175C, and butter the sides of 2 round 6-inch pans (or one 8- or 9 inch). line the bottoms with a round of parchment.
    2. place the coconut milk and butter into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until the butter has melted; leave aside to cool. beat the eggs and sugar on medium high until light and doubled in volume, for about 3 minutes.
    3. fold the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg mixture, working gently but mixing until completely incorporated. now fold in the coconut.
    4. take a spoon of batter and mix it into the coconut milk and butter mixture – this will help you incorporate it better. now pour the butter mix and vanilla extract into the batter, and fold in.
    5. bake the cakes until the surfaces are browned and a cake tester comes out clean, about 15 minutes. cool on a rack until completely cold, and then slather on with your icing*.

*I was a little too adventurous with my icing – I tried a coconut cream ganache but it turned out on the wrong end of the bittersweet spectrum (thank goodness my guests inch towards that side too) – so I’m not sharing it today. I suggest using a simple ganache (50% chocolate + 50% heavy cream melted and left to cool slightly), or you could try the coconut icing jenny suggests in the original recipe!

12 thoughts on “coconut tea cake with a chocolate top

  1. OK, I totally want to make this cake– it looks luscious. But I don’t know what desiccated coconut is. We have sweetened and unsweetened at my market. I’ll bet it’s neither of those. I’m off to research!
    thanks for the recipe!

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