Monday, December 3, 2012

Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees

Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
You may have noticed that I've been struggling to keep up with my weekly blog posts recently. It's been a tough month, unfortunately life keeps getting in the way of blogging. I never want the blog to feel like work or a chore for me, so rather than forcing myself to do something earlier I waited until I really wanted to bake. This weekend I decided to get started on some Christmas baking. Of course this happened to coincide with our first heatwave of the summer, thanks Sydney weather! My apartment turns into an oven in the heat, so I managed to make myself slightly delirious by turning the oven on and trying to spin sugar at the same time in this heat. It was a bit of a disaster, the sugar strands were basically melting as soon as they formed. I gave up and sat in front of the air-conditioner for the rest of the day.
Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
Thankfully, a cool change came through and I managed to get some spun sugar action going the next day. I'm still trying to get the hang of spun sugar, so I think I could do an even better job of these cute little Christmas trees next time. By adding a bit of green food colouring to the toffee mixture, the spun sugar made these great little tree-shaped cake toppers. I think they work quite well on top of this stark white cake, a very soft and moist coconut cake layered with whipped lemon cream cheese icing. Even if you're not making it for Christmas, this is a damn tasty cake.
Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
The spun sugar trees definitely take some practice, I made about 10 before I was happy with a few of them. Unfortunately the weather was the absolute worst type of weather for spun sugar, so they didn't last very long (maybe 2 hours) before they started melting. My main tip would be to make sure you don't make them too early if you are in hot weather like myself, otherwise the humidity will get to them and they will disappear before anyone gets to see them. I kept them in the fridge and dusted them with icing sugar to keep them dry. And make sure you protect your bench tops with baking paper to avoid having to scrape stray beads of toffee that are glued to your counter. You can even decorate the trees with sprinkles or silver cachous, but I was just happy to see that my initial idea turned out pretty well and didn't want to mess with it anymore.
Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
Coconut Cake with Whipped Lemon Cream Cheese Icing & Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
(serves 12-15, icing recipe adapted from Not So Humble Pie)
For the coconut cake:
250g butter, softened (if using unsalted, add 1/4 tsp of salt to mixture)
1 1/2 (about 350g) cups sugar (I used caster (superfine) but white sugar is fine)
1 teaspoon coconut essence
4 eggs
1 cup (about 80g) desiccated coconut
3 cups (about 375g) self-raising flour
250g (about 1 cup + 2 tbsp) sour cream
1 cup milk

For the lemon cream cheese icing:
500g (about 17.5oz) cream cheese, room temperature
50g butter, softened
2 cups (about 250g) icing (powdered) sugar
Finely grated zest from 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
1 cup thickened (heavy) cream, cold

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) (170°C (340°F) for fan-forced). Grease two 18cm round cake tins (you can use 20cm ones, it will just mean you have a slightly shorter cake) and line the bases with baking paper. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add coconut essence and then add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add half the dry ingredients (flour + coconut) followed by half the wet ingredients (sour cream + milk) and mix until just combined. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined, taking care not to overmix. Split mixture between the two tins and bake for 45-50 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean). Cool in tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the icing place cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add lemon zest, then add icing sugar gradually, beating until combined. In a separate mixing bowl, beat cream to nearly stiff peaks then add to cream cheese mixture and mix until smooth. Take care not to overmix. Sandwich icing between the two cake layers and crumb coat the cake with icing. Use the remaining icing to cover the cake completely.
Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
For the spun sugar:
1 1/2 (about 350g) sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Optional: green food colouring, I used Wiltons gel icing colouring

For the spun sugar trees, place all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan on low heat. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow it to boil for 3-4 minutes until the mixture becomes a bubbling, thickened syrup. Place the base of the saucepan carefully in cold water to halt the cooking process (I just filled my sink with some water). Using two forks held back-to-back (see photo above), or a special sugar whisk, dip prongs into the syrup mixture. Shake the forks back and forth over a clean, lightly oiled sharpening steel or long metal skewer (this will be messy so it is best to cover your bench top in baking paper), so that long threads of spun sugar are formed. Lift up spun sugar threads carefully and wrap around the tip of a lollipop stick, pinching the top end so that it forms a cone. This may take some practice to get the amount of sugar and shape correct. If the syrup starts to harden too much, return the pan briefly to low heat until the mixture melts again. Remember, any small amount of heat or humidity will cause your spun sugar to melt, so try to leave this step until you are nearly ready to serve your cake. Place spun sugar trees on top of the cake and dust lightly with icing sugar. You can also decorate the trees with sprinkles or silver cachous.
Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees
P.S. Go HERE to check out all my Christmas recipes!
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45 comments:

  1. The spun sugar xmas trees have such a grand effect on the cake. Its so dainty and cute (very you steph). It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas now :)

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  2. Oh my coconut cake! The white reminds me of a white Christmas - if only we had white Christmas's in Australia! Then I'm sure you could practise spun sugar Christmas trees with no problem at all :D Though these ones already look amazing and super cute (:

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  3. Finally. I have been clicking back an forth to see when your next post will be up. I love your blog, your recipes and photos. Truly amazing. It always makes me hungry. Keep up the good work

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  4. Those trees are seriously adorable. And the cake looks delish too!!

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  5. These are so, so amazingly beautiful! Does the sugar not stick like hell to the forks and the pot afterwards though?

    http://lasaloperie.blogspot.com.br/

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    1. it does! i find the easiest way to clean it is to throw the forks in the pot and fill it with water and then put it back on the stove to boil.

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  6. That pop of colour from the trees makes that cake really stand out! What a wonderful idea :)

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  7. steph this looks delicious! it's on the list for my christmas dinner, first time trying spun sugar though! xo

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  8. I'm also imagining that green spun sugar on a croquembouche; pretty! But omg that cake sounds amazing. Glad you're back Steph xx

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  9. your icing looks super fluffy (it's so fluffy im gonna dieeeee) but omg spun sugar tree!!! so fricken amazing!

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  10. been missing your posts :) Really like those spun sugar trees!! looks gorgeous in combo with the snowy frosting

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  11. Your trees look absolutely amazing! It's so cold here at the moment that I'm sure they'd stand up for hours - you need to come back to the UK! ;-)

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  12. the cake sounds delicious & the trees are awesome :)

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  13. i've been coming to your blog everyday to check if you've posted up something new - and YAY you finally have! But like you said - I wouldn't want you to feel like this blog is a chore for you, so if you feel like blogging and posting something new - and please know it's always appreciated.

    I love reading about your cooking adventures and salivating over your amazing food photography. Sorry to hear it's been a tough month - but I appreciate this new blog post - please keep up the good work!

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  14. Your trees are lovely, you should be proud of yourself that you made them, especially when it was hot out! It's such a strange concept to me to have Christmas without snow...

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  15. Woah! I can't believe you made those trees! They'd survive here!

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  16. Una verdadera maravilla de pastel, te ha quedado perfecto, ese corte es de los que enamoran. Besicos

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  17. I love those trees. Beautiful!!
    Thanks for sharing!, I learnt something new today.
    Love from Spain
    Marialuisa

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  18. Nawww what a gorgeous idea. And cream cheese icing is my favourite. Whipped, you say? Oh my!

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  19. These trees are gorgeous, mini works of art. The heatwave hit Brisbane today, I wanted to bake but my common sense wouldn't let me. It didn't want to make the aircon work any harder than it already was.

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  20. Your trees are gorgeous. I have never seen spun sugar coloured like this. Good to have you back.

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  21. hello your idea is great for your xmas trees
    congrats and for the acke too¨¨

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  22. I made this cake tonight minus the tress and it was absolutely divine!!!!

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  23. Gorgeous and looks like delicious!!!

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  24. Seriously - those christmas trees are too cute! They are so perfect! I totally understand your reasoning of not making your blog a chore! xxx

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  25. Wow, those sugar trees are amazing!

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  26. I've already baked this, they are now cooling. Can't wait to taste :-) Just a quick question, do you know how long the icing lasts? I'm just wondering how far ahead I could prepare this. Thanks!!

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    1. It won't last quite as long as regular cream cheese icing because of the cream mixed into it, but I was able to ice the cake and store it for at least 4 days and it still tasted great!

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  27. Just marvelous and sounds so scrumptious. I can't wait to make, serve, and enjoy.

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  28. I found the icing a bit runny/melty/soft - what can i do about that? add more icing sugar?

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    1. Yes, you can add more icing sugar, otherwise chill the mixture for a while and it will stiffen as it cools

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  29. Those Christmas trees are unreal! Absolutely genius!

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  30. Can't believe I've never tried coloured spun sugar. Added to my list of 567 things to try next year. Love it!

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  31. This is so cute! And lemon cream cheese and coconut cake sounds soo tasty :D

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  32. The tree's look amazing! I probably would screw those up big time, you made them so perfectly!

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  33. LOVE the spun sugar christmas trees! soooo adorable! :)

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