Tropical Coconut Rum Cake
This cake was inspired by my grandmother. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at her house. She was many things - loving, charitable, fashionable, boisterous, a card player, a world traveller, and an army wife. But one thing she wasn't was a stellar cook.
Grandma, please forgive me, but you did turn a whole Christmas ham into spam one year...
That being said, she always had a delicious, heavily soaked rum cake in the freezer. I still remember occasionally trying to sneak a piece from those tightly foil-wrapped, slightly burnt rings of boozy goodness. And my mom recently mentioned that she would even periodically take the cakes out of the freezer and soak them in additional layers of rum syrup! No wonder they were so appreciated come Christmas time...
So with hot summer days on the way, this cake is a tropical twist inspired by my grandmother's rum cakes. I loaded it with toasted coconut and almond meal, which gave it a nutty, dense, and very moist crumb. I also tossed in some smoked sesame seeds to add interest and a slight savory note in order to offset the sweetness of the rum syrup brushed on top. And because there's very little wheat flour in the batter, there's no need to worry about over mixing it. There's no way it can come out tough.
I'll admit, this isn't my finest icing job. The white icing was just a touch too runny, so it ran down the sides too quickly. I was looking for that thick, Mary-Berry's-cherry-cake look, but c'est la vie. And I also got a little creative with some bamboo charcoal to make the black icing. I can't decide if I like it or not, but it certainly stands out... Regardless, it's delicious, and you trully can't even taste the charcoal. It's my favorite all-natural way to dye anything black or make a marbled fondant (like this).
So while this cake isn't an exact replica of my grandmother's, it reminds me of her. It's flavorful, moist, and richly perfumed with dark rum, just like hers. Thank you for the delicious inspiration, grandma.
Tropical Coconut Rum Cake
Yields one Kugelhopf (10 cup) bundt cake - OR - an 8x4 inch loaf (about 10-12 servings)
75 g (5/8 C) all-purpose flour
117 g (1 C plus 3 T) super-fine almond meal (finely ground almonds)
50 g (1/2 C) desiccated (dried and minced) coconut
20 g (2 T) smoked (black) sesame seeds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
134 g (9 ½ T) unsalted butter, softened
281 g (1 3/8 C plus 1 T) granulated sugar
100 g (about 1/2 C) coconut oil, melted but cool
181 g eggs, cold (about 4 medium or 3 extra large plus 1 yolk)
170 g (1/2 C) coconut milk
60 g (1/4 C) dark rum
Optional: 117 g (scant 1 C) macadamia nuts, toasted and chopped
40 g (4 T) rum
40 g (scant 1/4 C) granulated sugar
Rum & confectioner's sugar for icing
Large coconut chips and sesame seeds for decoration
Preheat the oven to 325°F (no convection). Grease either a kugelhopf pan or a loaf pan and set aside. Whisk together the flour. desiccated coconut, and almond meal, then place it on a rimmed sheet pan. Toast the mixture on the middle rack for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until lightly golden all the way through. Once toasted, pour the mixture back into a mixing bowl, whisk it to release some heat, then allow it to cool completely. Once the dry ingredients are at room temperature, whisk in the sesame seeds, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325°F with convection (or 350°F standard). With a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then, beat in the coconut oil until thick and creamy. Add the cold eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Once all the eggs are in, beat for another minute or two until the mixture is thick and pale.
Next, stir in half of the flour mixture into the butter until just combined. Add all of the coconut milk and rum, and stir until combined, then stir in the rest of the flour mixture. Next, beat the mixture on medium speed for about 30 seconds to add a little volume. Since there's very little flour in the mixture, the batter won't get tough. Finally, stir in the optional chopped macadamia nuts, if using.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes on a lower rack (if using a bundt pan) or the middle rack (if using a loaf pan), until it passes the knife test and the center reads 200°F on a digital instant-read thermometer. Pull the pan out of the oven, and allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes. Then flip it onto a cooling rack, remove the pan, and allow it to cool for 20 more minutes.
While the cake is cooling, whisk together the rum and sugar in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Once it begins to simmer, stop whisking and allow it to simmer for 2 minutes. Then remove it from the heat source and, using a pastry brush, apply it to the cake. Brush it evenly on every side until it has all been absorbed. Set aside to dry.
If you'd like, you can ice the cake in a simple drizzle of confectioner's sugar and water (or rum), or dust it with powdered sugar once the syrup has dried. But keep in mind that because you've already covered it in syrup, it will be really sweet with additional icing. Then sprinkle the top with shaved coconut and black sesame seeds while the icing is still wet. Enjoy!