Too Many Cooks and Sublime Coconut Cake

June 1, 2009 · 25 comments · Print This Post

in Baked Goods, Book Reviews, Cake, Cookbook Reviews, Desserts

Sublime Coconut Cake

Last week we had terrible weather in Boston. It was dark, dreary, and downright depressing. Not even the alliteration in those words could bring a smile to my face. So I finally gave in to the cozy temptation of my soft red couch and curled up with a copy of Emily Franklin’s new book Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes. I was a little unsure if I would be able to relate to this book prior to beginning it. The closest thing I have to a child is Watson and he pretty much eats whatever I put in front of him (most of it horribly unappealing in both smell and appearance), but I quickly shed my doubts as I delved into the year-in-the-life of Emily’s family, friends, and especially food.

We all know picky eaters or perhaps were picky eaters growing up. Some of you probably still can’t let go of your dressing on the side, hold the cheese, no carrots please holdovers from childhood. Believe me when I say I can empathize. I was one of those plain pizza, only mustard on my hot dog, I hate onions and peppers, and do-not-get-me-even-started-on-fish children. Thankfully I’ve gotten over the majority of these table-related outburst and I’ve thought on occasion how cool it would be if the hypothetical children I have someday would be willing to eat sushi with me. Maybe they’ll get excited because I made homemade pasta, or even like to eat green leafy vegetables instead of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from a box? A girl can dream, but Emily Franklin doesn’t have to. Her anxiety-free views on feeding children and introducing them to new foods and dishes are absolutely refreshing.

Don’t worry. This isn’t a preachy how-to book by any means. It’s simply Emily’s quest to “create happy, healthy eaters without tricks.” While this is a non-fiction book it reads like an effortless dream. I became entirely wrapped up in learning all of the personality quirks her four children possess and found myself laughing out loud at her tales of son Daniel’s days of conversing with his imaginary friend that just happened to be the red blender on their kitchen counter. Daughter Julia (and her father for that matter) both dislike cooked fruit. The eldest, Jamie, is incredibly precocious for an eight-year-old and baby Will spends the year looking longingly (at least I know I would) at his siblings’ dinner plates while nursing.

Sublime Coconut Cake

Some of my favorite moments in the novel involved trips that the family took together. A vacation in Indiana brings about a summer bounty of local ingredients (sometimes mysterious in nature) from farmer’s at the roadside. Fried Green Tomatoes, Barbecued Pike, and “Heather’s Weird Beans” all make appearances on the table.

An excursion to Italy offered up the most memorable scenes for me. Emily describes the trip as “one long, prodigious meal punctuated by conversations, walks, and swimming with the kids.” The multitude of warm days spent eating gelato, and blackberries picked fresh from the bush to pizza made with dough “thin as a pillowcase” sounded like Heaven-on-Earth to me.

Don’t worry. Everything isn’t always happy-go-lucky. Emily’s children may willingly eat roasted broccoli but they are just as real as your own kids and she doesn’t hesitate in detailing their dirty faces, flaws, and swearing phases, but somehow through hissy fits, major shelving malfunctions, delayed ferry rides home, and even personal tragedy Emily consistently gets healthy meals on the table.

Remember how I mentioned being a picky kid before? Well I feel the need to confess that while I love sushi I still don’t eat or prepare cooked fish at home. However, Emily’s recipes for Asian Marinaded Salmon and Garlicky Panko Flounder had me seriously eying the Whole Foods fish counter this afternoon. Apparently Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes isn’t just for picky children. I found myself marking dozens of recipes to try later. I’m especially looking forward to Emily’s rendition of Sticky Toffee Pudding. Whether you’re a regular old Brady Bunch or a single twenty-something the story Emily weaves is timeless. At the end I found myself wanting the book to be longer and I definitely missed “sharing meals” vicariously with her endearing family.

Now Emily’s children may not be into cake but I definitely am and this Sublime Coconut Cake isn’t even a remotely questionable dish. You must make-it! The crumb is light, the icing is delicately coconut flavored and the two together absolutely do live up to the recipes lofty name. It’s also a very quick yet impressive dessert. I finished the entire cake from start to finish in under two hours.

Sublime Coconut Cake

Sublime Coconut Cake
Adapted from Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin

Emily’s Note:
You can make this cake in stages if your timing demands it: Crack open one coconut and grate it into medium-sized shavings. If doing this in advance, put the shavings into the fridge. This can be done 2-3 days in advance. (Erin’s Confession: I used store bought coconut).

For the Cake
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups superfine sugar
3 cups flour
4 level tsp. baking powder
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk (so 4 eggs in total)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375º. Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour once and re-measure, then sift together all dry ingredients. Add eggs and yolk one by one to the butter and sugar mixture and beat after each addition. Add dry ingredients a bit at a time, alternating with coconut milk and vanilla.

Spray two round (9 x 2) baking pans and shake into them a bit of flour (tap out the excess). Insert parchment paper circle on the bottom of the pans and spray lightly and dust with flour. Fill evenly with batter.

Bake for 30-45 minutes until a toothpick placed near the center comes out clean (Erin’s Note: Mine was done in 30 minutes).

For the Frosting:
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cream of coconut
1 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. coconut milk (add more or less milk as needed)
the grated coconut from before (Erin’s Note: Or around 7 ounces, half a bag, of coconut from the bakery aisle).

Mix together sugar and butter. Mix in the cream of coconut and vanilla. Sprinkle in flour. Add in milk little by little, only enough so that frosting is light and spreadable but not runny.

After cake has cooled completely, frost the top of bottom layer and sprinkle around a bit of the grated coconut to cover the surface. Place the second round on top and frost the top and sides. Spread the rest of the grated coconut around the top and gently pat coconut to sides so that cake is completely covered.

Note: If you prefer the look and texture of toasted coconut, you may put the grated coconut on a cookie sheet and bake at 300º for about 15 minutes, or until just tanned.

Sublime Coconut Cake

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria June 1, 2009 at 9:40 pm

I am adding that book to my list! Sounds good and the cake looks fabulous!


2 Susie June 1, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Between you and Carrie with your coconut creations I am in need of a coconut fix!!!! Looks great. And I am almost sold on the book too… I’ll have to check and see if it’s available on kindle…


3 carrie June 1, 2009 at 11:16 pm

mmmm coconut! trade you! 😉

I always feel inspired and depressed when I hear about books like these and children who eat “real food’. I KNOW my kids won’t eat strawberry oatmeal for breakfast forever, and books/authors like this prove that it’s POSSIBLE… but lemmee tell you. this ‘phase’ my kids are in better not last TOO long. The book sounds like it is worth the read should opportunity strike. ever.



4 snooky doodle June 2, 2009 at 12:31 am

oh that cake looks delicious! i love coconut. Wish to read that book hope to find it in Europe 🙂


5 Allen June 2, 2009 at 12:49 am

What a beautiful cake!

“Or around 7 ounces, half a bag, of coconut from the bakery aisle” (i.e. Erin ain’t crackin’ open no dang coconuts!) LOL … I would have done the same thing 🙂


6 Erin June 2, 2009 at 9:32 am

You know me too well. Actually in the book Emily talks about beating a coconut into submission with a hammer on her hardwood floors so I figured it was best if I stayed away from real coconuts. Watson is beating up my house enough with his claws without me adding to the destruction.


7 Amanda June 2, 2009 at 12:56 am

I totally would not have eaten coconut cake as a kid. Coconut was too weird! But I love all things coconut now…


8 Monica H June 2, 2009 at 2:18 am

What a fun and useful book. I love that you’re actually making the recipes too!

This looks great!


9 dawn June 2, 2009 at 9:29 am

gorgeous gorgeous! love your new look too.


10 Hänni June 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

Your description of this book was positively delightful.


11 Tabby Kelliher June 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

Hi Erin,

I love your cooking site! I hate to bake but you have me wanting to cook this cake and to read that book too.

Have a great day 🙂


12 kitchenbelle June 2, 2009 at 11:34 am

This book looks fantastic and I would love to own it! Thank you for hosting a contest! 🙂


13 Danielle June 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

Sounds like a fun book. I’ll keep an eye out for it at the store.


14 jacquie June 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

yummm. i love coconut and you just don’t see it in a lot of recipes.


15 sandy June 2, 2009 at 4:53 pm

my son would love this cake! when he was little i used to call him my coconut baby. 🙂


16 Kerstin June 2, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Sounds like a great book! Your cake looks fabulous. I was also a super picky eater growing up, and didn’t start cooking until after college – my mom is amazed I now have a food blog!


17 Susan June 2, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I still don’t like the stuff I hated growing up; brussel sprouts, any kind of beans, and whole wheat bread. I like coconut bread and cake. I will definitely be trying this.


18 Olga June 2, 2009 at 10:39 pm

I would love a piece of this cake! looks so delicious!


19 Jackie @ June 3, 2009 at 12:33 am

oh coconut cake is my guilty pleasure. Thanks for the book review, I’ll definitely go and find it at Borders tomorrow.


20 kristina June 3, 2009 at 7:16 am

I was just looking at this book in the bookstore a few days ago and had the same worry you did: would I be able to relate to it without children of my own? But I’m definitely going to buy a copy now (if the contest entry doesn’t work out!). It sounds wonderful. And the cake looks absolutely gorgeous–yum!


21 Craving Chronicles June 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

Oh, where was this recipe 2 weeks ago when I needed to make my mom a coconut cake for her birthday?! It sounds divine, and I will be trying it next time I have an excuse 🙂


22 Kim Frohnappel June 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Mmmmmm. I love a good coconut cake! This one might make hubby happy too.


23 Elissa June 6, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I’m the biggest coconut fan out of anyone I know and your cake looks stunning Erin as usual! Emily’s book sounds very sweet and I’ll have to check it out 🙂


24 Abbey June 8, 2009 at 1:52 am

A random comment to say I am LOVE LOVE LOVING the look of the blog. I’m sure it’s not new, but it’s new to me and it’s AWESOME!!

Now that it’s summer, I’ll be able to come around more. Hooray!

See ya ’round the blogosphere…


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