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Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cake

August 5, 2010

Brenna's Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cake of Joy

Today is house guest’s last day. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably been wondering who is this guy? and why does he love cookies so much? Alas, those are two things I just can’t answer. To reveal house guest’s identity would be problematic, considering he’s an important Italian scholar who has a reputation to uphold and I’m about to ruin it.

Let’s just say the man has food issues comparable to those of every girl in my 11th grade class combined, says that my beloved bucatini all’amatriciana is too heavy to eat in the evening, and eats apples and yogurt for dinner then, for dessert, ten hundred thousand cookies. He says repeatedly, REPEATEDLY, “I eat everything, I’m easy” and then proceeds to NOT EAT ANYTHING AND NOT BE EASY. He doesn’t eat fatty meat or meat with a bone; this includes – but is not limited to – bacon, prosciutto, steak, chicken, sausages, salami, anything not well done, minced meat (because who knows! there could be fat lurking in there!), or pretty much MEAT IN GENERAL. He also doesn’t cook at all. Couldn’t boil an egg. But yet he bought uncooked tofu? He also doesn’t drink alcohol. At all. Not a drop. Ever. And coffee? Only Nescafé!* And at the end of every meal he absolutely has to have a Nescafé immediately or he feels fat. And we already know his feelings about fat people.

Things house guest likes: yogurt, fresh bread, apples, Nescafé, chocolate, cookies, cake, coconut, Thai food and sushi trains. So there you have it. All you ever wanted to know (and much, much more) about house guest!

coconut milk, unstirred

Besides his quirks, which really just provide entertainment around here (except that one time Francesco stormed out because of the inordinate amount of yogurt in the fridge), house guest is great. He puts up with us, he takes the dog for walks, helps me with the shopping, treats us to uncooked tofu, and even patiently listens to me while I berate him for his comments about fat people. We’ve grown really fond of him and will be sad to see him go.

So in celebration of house guest’s time with us, I decided to bake a cake with some of his favorite things. This is a cake I’ve been wanting to get to ever since, a little while back, one of my favorite people in the world sent me some proper correspondence, complete with a hand-written letter, poetry and a recipe for a delicious sounding cake “of joy,” made with coconut milk, shredded coconut, orange zest and chunks of dark chocolate.

I tacked the recipe to the board in the kitchen, and promptly went around searching for whatever ingredients I didn’t have on hand. So why the delay, you ask? Well, it seems that shredded or dessicated coconut only comes in one variety down here, unsweetened. Stubbornly refusing to accept that the sweetened coconut wasn’t really vital, I held out until I could take it no more. And so, as I type, there is a gorgeous cake cooling on my counter, as per the instructions of my dear Brenna, and let me tell you, the smells are otherworldly.

….So I’ve just come from the kitchen where I attempted to overturn the decorative cake mold only to realize that the cake was desperately stuck. Damn you, decorative cake mold! No matter how much I grease you….Not to be disheartened, I began hacking at the sides with a butter knife and a spatula until, finally, the cake popped out. In two pieces.

My initial feelings of FAIL were immediately replaced by joy when I absentmindedly bit into a piece of cake that had fallen onto the counter. Next thing I knew, I was clawing at the cake mold, trying to scratch out any remaining pieces of caramelized coconut still stuck to the bottom and stuff them in my mouth. The dog probably heard my cries of joy and came running, trying to air-grab whatever errant coconut shreds flew from my fingers. Between the two of us, we cleaned that unforgivable cake mold, and it took all the interior strength I possess to take the pictures of the cake without leaning down just a little to lick it.

Seeing as the cake currently resembles a neatish looking pile, no one can tell that I’ve already eaten the equivalent of two pieces. And though I so want to go into the kitchen for a glass of water, to stretch my legs, anything!, I won’t. I won’t even go in there to make the coconut drizzle. It is too delicious, and I can’t very well eat all of house guest’s cake. He deserves it.

Don't worry, I still think you're beautiful.

click here for the printable version of:


Adapted lovingly from the Great Brenna Baggs, who probably adapted it from Epicurious. Note: learn from my mistake and do not use a decorative cake mold. Just use your favorite spring form pan or something similar and grease it. Hard.  Also, please do not be dissuaded by said mistake from making this cake. Brenna was right, it is pure joy.

UPDATE: I checked out the original recipe on Epicurious and realized that it calls for 1 3/4 cups flour (not 3/4 cups). To be honest, I couldn’t tell. The cake is disturbingly delicious and definitely rich with only 3/4 cups flour, but maybe next time I’ll use 1 cup flour. You know, to make it last longer.


3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (115 grams) butter (I always use salted), softened

2 teaspoons packed orange zest (from about 2 oranges)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup flour (or up to 1  3/4 cups, see update above)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred

6 ounces (150 grams) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (if you can find it)


2 tablespoons (or more) coconut milk

3/4 cup icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. GREASE a 9″ cake pan or whatever else you want to use (as long as it’s not a decorative mold!), and dust pan with flour (yes, I skipped this step, and yes, I learned my lesson). In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter and orange zest until creamy. Add in the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and unsweetened coconut.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the coconut milk (which you’ve stirred well) to the butter mixture in three batches. Fold in 1/2 the chocolate chunks (I put all of it in). Spread the batter evenly in the well-greased pan, and sprinkle the sweetened coconut and remaining chocolate chunks on top. Bake for an hour to 70 minutes (I did 65 minutes and it was perfect), then cool in the pan for half an hour.

To make the drizzle, whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Brenna and I added a bit of lemon juice and extra coconut milk. Drizzle it all over the cooled cake or on individual slices. Enjoy with ice cream or your fingers.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Meredith permalink
    August 5, 2010 3:02 pm

    This is going straight to the top of my must-bake list! I suck at zesting citrus fruits though — always seem to end up with a sad little pile of mush that I suspect is mostly colored wax. Any tips?

    • August 5, 2010 3:06 pm

      Nope! If I’m zesting for a cake like this, I just use a cheese grater and my zest is pretty mushy. I think it’s the taste that counts. And washing your fruit first, maybe. : )

  2. Jess permalink
    August 5, 2010 3:04 pm

    do you need any help cleaning up the crumbs by any chance….?

    • August 5, 2010 3:06 pm

      Can you wait until tomorrow night? I guess this kind of ruins the suspense, doesn’t it?

  3. Katherine Rossmoore permalink
    August 5, 2010 10:05 pm

    Wanting to print out some of your Fab recipes but, being green-conscious, I’m wondering if you can set up a “printable version” so I don’t get 3-5 pages instead of one for my recipe file? I do enjoy the stories and your writing, but of course in the end want to save the recipe itself!

    • August 6, 2010 11:24 am

      Hi Katherine! Thanks for your comment, I think the problem should be fixed! From now on, I’ll have a printable version of each recipe. If there’s a past recipe you want, just let me know and I’ll add a link for that, too!

  4. Nina permalink
    August 5, 2010 11:15 pm

    Haha are you sure you were describing “house guest” and not me!?

  5. brenna permalink
    August 6, 2010 1:06 am

    AHAHAH sorry about the flour flub…I think I did the same actually…maybe that’s why it was SO MOIST! teehee. ps. this was a hilarious post. MANY LOLS

  6. August 7, 2010 8:21 am

    Matt was ready to eat his laptop just looking at your pictures. He loves coconut in anything and everything. This is a must make. BTW, a microplane zester works really quickly and well. Just do it right over the bowl and tap it in. Who measures zest anyway – the more the better. I love citrus.


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