“Who made this cake, the one with the coconut?” asked someone at the 18 Reasons DIY desserts event that I was hosting a few weeks ago. I fessed up that it was mine and she gushed that the flavors were fabulous. I had based it on my favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe, but instead of using three bottles of red food coloring, I went a more natural route and reduced blood orange juice down to a thick syrup and then used that to flavor and color the cake. She was impressed and said she thought the flavor combination was spot on, and she wasn’t the only one. I was pretty proud of my Blood Orange & Coconut Velvet Cake with Whipped Cream and Cream Cheese Frosting, one of a number of wonderful cakes that were sampled at our event.
DIY Desserts is a quarterly event that happens at 18 Reasons, an awesome nonprofit community space around the corner that I host with my friend Melanie. Four times a year we open the doors to the public to bring their own baked goods and let other people come and sample the desserts. March’s theme was cakes and I enjoyed every single slice. My co-host Melanie brought a banana infused “caketastophy” which I personally thought looked beautiful. Granted the glaze did drip a bit while she walked it over with her boyfriend (he had to change shirts because the glaze got all over it, thus the caketastrophy) but it was insanely moist and intensely banana in flavor and I thought it looked rustically gorgeous.
My friend Nimisha, of Club Dine In, brought a gluten free cake with rose and oranges, made with almond flour and rice flour. It was a wonderful balance of savory and sweet with just the perfect tender bite. There was strawberry pound cake that had me thrilled that Spring with all its bountiful fruit was around the corner. And I adored the sticky sweet olive oil cake with honey and Grand Marnier syrup. Of course, I love anything with honey, so that was a given.
The classics were not ignored with an all American yellow cake with chocolate frosting and an assortment of sprinklesl sugars and chocolate chips that regular DIYer Ann brought. Ann, by the way, is the ambassador for the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Day here in the SF Bay Area. You can learn more about her Italian themed day at their website and facebook page. And last minute addition to the cake party was Diana, of the blog Diana Bakes who brought a caramel burnt sugar bundt cake fresh from the oven. In fact, Diana had called our fearless leader Rosie, the Executive Director of 18 Reasons and told her that she was sticking the cake in the oven right as the event was starting and she would get there as soon as she could. She came bearing the fruits of her labor at the last half hour and everyone dived right in.
In the end, as always, everyone left the event with a happy smile on our face from eating cake and chatting with friends, old and new. I’m thrilled to host the DIY Dessert event every three months at 18 Reasons and I can’t wait until the next one, Saturday June 15th, from 2-4pm. The theme will be pies (to take advantage of all the awesome summer fruit) so I hope to see everyone there!
Blood Orange & Coconut Velvet Cake with Whipped Cream and Cream Cheese Frosting
By Irvin Lin
This recipe is loosely based on my favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe that I make fairly often. Lately though, I’ve been trying figure out a way to create a colorful cake with less food coloring than what my normal recipe called for. Reduced blood orange juice seemed like a perfect solution. Of course, this poses a problem for those who don’t have access to blood orange due to season or availability. If you don’t have blood oranges, feel free to use regular oranges in its place. If you want to punch up the color just a bit feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of red food coloring (I ended up adding 1/2 teaspoon of food coloring in my final cake, because I wanted to get the batter and cake just a tad more red) but, of course, that is strictly optional. Finally, be sure to use unsweetened shredded coconut, as the sweetened coconut has a tendency to burn when you toast it. You can get unsweetened shredded coconut at natural food stores, health stores, and in well-stocked regular grocery stores (often times in the bulk bin).
3/4 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice (about 3-4 medium blood oranges)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (450 g) cake flour
1/2 cup (40 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups melted coconut oil
2 1/4 cups (450 g) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
zest from 3 to 4 medium blood oranges
16 oz (two bricks) cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (175 g) confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
2 cups heavy cream, refrigerator cold
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and spray the inside of 3 nine-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper rounds.
2. Pour the blood orange juice into a large skillet and simmer the juice until it reduces to a thick sticky syrup, about five minutes on medium heat. Reduce it as far as you feel comfortable being careful that you don’t burn it. Once reduced, remove from heat and pour the buttermilk into the skillet. Stir with a whisk until the blood orange syrup is blended with the buttermilk (it should turn pink). You might have to reheat the buttermilk in the skillet a bit to get all the syrup to dissolve. Once it’s blended, scrape into a glass measuring cup and stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Place the flour, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a clean balloon whisk until uniform in color and evenly distributed. Place the oil and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 15 seconds until blended, then the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate each individually before adding the next one. Add the red food coloring if using and beat to incorporate.
4. Add one third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat to incorporate. Add half the buttermilk and beat. Repeat additions, alternating with the flour and buttermilk, ending with the flour. Stir the baking soda into the vinegar (it should foam enthusiastically) and scrape into the cake batter, with the mixer turned on. Mix on medium speed for about 10 seconds or until completely incorporated.
5. Divide into the three pans and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Try not to overbake. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, on a wire rack, before inverting on a wire rack, peeling off the parchment paper and letting cool completely to room temperature.
6. While the cake is cooling, sprinkle the shredded coconut in a clean skillet and cook over medium heat until coconut is golden brown. Once toasted, sprinkle the orange zest over the toasted coconut. The residual oil and moisture might make the zest clump up so stir over low heat to break the zest up and incorporate into the coconut. Remove from heat once the zest is blended and let cool.
7. Once the cake and the toasted coconut with orange zest is cool, make the frosting by placing the cream cheese and mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat together until smooth. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds out of the pod and into the bowl (reserving the pod for another use). Beat to blend and add the confectioner’s sugar to the bowl. Beat to blend.
8. In another bowl, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into the sweetened cream cheese vanilla mixture with a large spatula or by using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed. If the frosting seems too soft, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, refrigerate the frosting for one to two hours, and beat the frosting on high speed with the wire whisk. The frosting should stiffen up.
9. Assemble the cake by frosting the cake layers, sides and top. Then press the toasted shredded coconut & orange zest to the sides of the cake. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 three-layer cake, serves 12-14 people.