The Weigh to Cook – Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut Cake

July 29th, 2010 / Comments 8

It’s birthday season in our neighborhood. Last week, we celebrated Michael’s New Decade Birthday. Michael is a foodie and one of the best cooks I know and I like to make over-the-top cakes. Michael asked for a cake with berries and cream. I decided to make a not-too-sweet, white cake that would show off bright pink raspberries.

pt cake c egbert 02  The Weigh to Cook   Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut Cake

The magic of science in the kitchen is why I like to bake. I have always been fascinated by chemical reactions–vinegar and baking soda volcanoes, milk curdled with lemon juice, sugar changed to an amber solid with enough heat. Cake recipes must be followed much more carefully than recipes for soups or salads because, when you bake a cake from scratch, you are a chemist in the kitchen. Substitutions are possible but they must be made with an understanding of the role each ingredient plays in the cake. Precise measurement and proportion are even more important to consider when baking cakes.

My kitchen is well equipped, I have a stand mixer, an oven with an accurate thermostat and timer, a dependable refrigerator, measuring cups and spoons, and, assorted pots and pans. Until last week, my kitchen was lacking a user-friendly kitchen scale. I found a measuring cup with a built-in scale at my favorite kitchen supply store and bought it. This was just the tool I needed to turn my American kitchen into an international one. Except in recipes written for the United States, measurements are given in weight rather than by volume. Not only is it a more precise way to measure, but with the right scale, it’s much easier. The scale I bought measures in ounces and grams as well as by volume. The Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut cake I made for Michael is the first recipe I have written using this scale. Here’s how I made it:

Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut Cake

I preheated the oven to 350°F/175°C, buttered two 9in/23cm round cake pans, lined the bottom of each pan with a circle of wax paper, buttered the wax paper and floured the inside of both pans and set them aside while I made the cake.

I put 2 cups/240g of flour, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of baking soda into a small bowl and stirred it with a wire whisk.

I used the stand mixer to combine 1/2 cup/225g unsalted butter with 1 1/2 cups/300 g sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. When it was light and fluffy, I turned the mixer down to medium and slowly added 4 egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition until it was completely incorporated. I measured 1 1/3 cups/360g of buttermilk into a small pitcher and added it, in three parts, alternately with the flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. For added flavor and texture, I folded 1/2 cup/70g sweetened, flaked coconut into the batter.

I divided the batter between the two prepared cake pans and after 25 minutes in a 350°F/175°C oven, the cake had pulled away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake came out dry. I cooled the cakes in the pans for ten minutes, before I tipped them out onto wire racks to cool completely.

I made a raspberry sauce to add to the cake layers before they were frosted. Here’s how I did it:

Raspberry Sauce

I heated 1/2 cup/75g raspberries in a small saucepan until the fruit separated from the seeds. I used a spoon to push the pulp through a sieve and added 2 ounces/50g creme de cassis, (black currant liqueur).

Rather than making frosting, I made a Creamy Cream to top the cake. It had no sugar and the combination of heavy cream, cream cheese and vanilla was just what this cake needed. Here’s how I did it:

Creamy Cream

I whipped 8 ounces/225g of room temperature cream cheese. When it was light and fluffy, I slowly added 3 cups/715g of heavy cream and one teaspoon of vanilla and continued beating until the mixture stood in stiff peaks.

To assemble the cake, I put one layer of the cake in the center of a cake platter and spooned half of the raspberry sauce onto it. I spread a half-inch layer of the Creamy Cream onto the cake, added a layer of raspberries and put the second layer of cake on top. I put the rest of the raspberry sauce onto the second layer and then used a pastry bag to pipe the Creamy Cream onto the top and sides of the cake.

To make the cake even more festive, I sprinkled a generous layer, of sweetened, flaked coconut on and added a border of raspberries. I chilled the cake for three hours before the party.

Transporting birthday cakes can be difficult. Charles drove slowly and we arrived at the party with the cake intact. His tiny stumble on the steps, with cake in hand, added to the drama of our arrival.

I use only one method of measurement, either weigh or volume, for all ingredients in a recipe when I’m baking. For small quantities of ingredients like salt, baking soda and vanilla I always use measuring spoons.

Download and print cake recipe with an ingredients list here.

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