I was so excited when I received an email a couple months ago from Melissa Murphy’s marketing agent asking me if I’d want to review her book, The Sweet Melissa Baking Book… of course my response was a quick “Yes!” I have been a huge fan of Melissa’s for a while now. I found her Zagat rated patisserie online, which is located in Brooklyn, New York, and fell in love with the photos on her website. I was then able to watch videos and get recipes from her MySpace page and have been hooked from then on. Melissa’s pies and tarts have been rated #1 by the Zagat Marketplace which is an unbelievable accomplishment if you ask me. Many of you have probably also seen her work her wonders on the Food Network Challenge: Edible Ornaments. She is such an inspiration to me and really proves that your dreams can come true.
Well once the book arrived at my doorstep, I tore the box open and devoured the book page by page. My book is pretty pathetic looking now that I have marked over half the book’s pages with sticky notes… and these were just the recipes I considered baking for the blog! I have to say that this is an amazing book which will keep you baking all year long. I could name every recipe for you, but I wouldn’t want to torture you any more… my suggestion is to just go and get the book and enjoy yourself to the fullest as you ohh and ahh over every delectable recipe.
After reading the book, I knew that I had to immediately try her recipe for Fluffy Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Filling. Ever since pastry school, I have had an unhealthy addiction to passion fruits. If you have never had the chance to taste one you are definitely missing out. The flavor of passion fruit is so intense and tasty that I knew I had to try her recipe for passion fruit filling. This cake turned out beautifully and left me licking my spoon over and over again as I dipped it back into the bowl of passion fruit filling. The coconut cream cheese frosting does give the filling a run for its money though… it is equally dream like. Well, I could go on and on about it, but I will stop and just share this delicious recipe excerpt with you… enjoy!
FLUFFY COCONUT CAKE WITH PASSION FRUIT FILLING
This is one of the most incredible layer cakes; the passion fruit curd in the center is such a delicious surprise! Your guests may not know what it is, but they will love it! Passion fruit juice is becoming more widely available in major cities, especially in specialty food stores and in the ethnic section of the supermarket. Instead of the passion fruit juice, you can substitute lemon juice (just use 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice as is, without reducing), and create another great classic combination—lemon and coconut! Yummy.
There are three components to this cake, as there are in most of my split layer cakes: the filling, the cake, and the frosting. If you have some time, you can spread out making these elements over a few days and make the whole process seem almost effortless.
Note: The fluffy white cake in this recipe is a phenomenal white cake. It is astonishing how delicious and moist it is; the texture is sublime! The trick to this cake is to efficiently incorporate the ingredients as thoroughly and quickly as possible, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and to not overbeat the batter before you fold in the meringue. Your careful attention to these details will be well rewarded.
Makes one 9-inch cake
FOR THE CAKE
20 tablespoons (2 1/2) sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
FOR THE PASSION FRUIT FILLING
1 1/2 cups passion fruit juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
FOR THE COCONUT CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sweetened cream of coconut
3 cups sweetened coconut flakes
BEFORE YOU START
Place a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans. Line each with a 9-inch round of parchment paper.
TO MAKE THE CAKE
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. In separate large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.
4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well after each addition but be careful not to overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on medium-high speed for 10 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
5. In the very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the very clean whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold medium stiff peaks.
6. Using a rubber spatula, briskly fold one-third of the meringue mixture into the batter to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until just combined.
7. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans. Use a spatula to level the batter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched with your finger, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool for 30 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.
The baked layers may be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 2 weeks. Do not unwrap before thawing.
TO MAKE THE FRUIT FILLING
1. In a medium skillet, bring the passion fruit juice to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer, and reduce the fruit juice by half, about 10 minutes. (You will have 3/4 cup passion fruit concentrate.) Allow to cool. Stir in the lemon juice.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, eggs, and sugar until well combined. Whisk the passion fruit concentrate into the egg mixture.
3. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water. Be sure it is not touching the water. Cook, stirring, until nappante (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon) or
185°F on a candy thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
4. Strain the mixture into a bowl set in an ice bath (see Note).
5. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap flush against the surface of the filling (to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate until cold before using.
The fruit filling keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
TO MAKE THE FROSTING
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar on low speed, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until fluffy and smooth, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until just combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. Decrease the speed to low and add the vanilla and cream of coconut and mix until just combined.
Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let the frosting come to room temperature and beat in the mixer slightly before using.
TO COMPLETE THE CAKE
1. See How to Assemble a Layer Cake (page 91) for instructions on how to fill and frost a split layer cake.
2. After the cake is frosted, use your hands to help pat the coconut onto the sides and the top of the cake.
Once completed, the layer cake may be stored in a cake saver in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Note: An ice bath is a large bowl filled with two quarts of ice and two cups of water. A smaller bowl containing a hot liquid is set inside the bath in order to help cool down the liquid quickly.
Add more ice as needed.
PRO TIP: When you mix the ingredients for the frosting, start on the mixer’s lowest speed and quickly turn on and off a few times so the confectioners’ sugar doesn’t fly everywhere. When the ingredients come together, increase the speed to medium high.
The foregoing is excerpted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008.
Here are a couple photos to help you visualize some techniques for assembling layered cakes. First you need to level off the dome of the cake once it has cooled. Always use a serrated bread knife when cutting cakes.
For this particular cake you also need to split the two cake layers in half, so that you end up with four thin layers of cake. Normally this is done when you have a looser filling like a cream or curd filling.
When assembling layer cakes you always put one of the flat sides on the bottom of the cake and then reserve the other flat side for the top of the cake. When adding filling to cakes you need to create a dam effect so that the filling won’t spill out onto your frosting. Place a small amount of your frosting in a piping bag and pipe a border around the outside of the cake. Then add your filling to the cake. With every layer do this same technique. When you go to frost your cake always start off with a good amount of frosting and then use a offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top of the cake so that it starts to spill over to the sides. Then continue adding frosting to the sides of the cake until you have completely covered it. Note: This frosting doesn’t have to be perfect on the sides since you are adding coconut there.
Now you just press the coconut shavings along the side of the cake and enjoy! I added robin’s eggs on top for an Easter look.
Now since I am a cupcake lover I decided to bake the cake in a smaller size pan and then use the leftover batter to make some yummy cupcakes. I filled the cupcakes with the passion fruit filling using a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip. Just stick you pastry bag into the cupcake and gently size the filling out until the cupcake expands slightly and filling comes to the top. I boxed a couple of the cupcakes up in clear boxes with Easter M & M’s and shredded paper filling.