The Perfect Match

Coconut and chocolate were made to go together. This is a fact.

Perhaps my first dabble into this perfect pairing was in 3rd grade. That was the year I started making my own lunch for school. I know that seems young, but I was really independent and wanted to control what I was eating each day. My mom said that I had to make sure to pack a piece of fruit each day along with my PB&J, but she didn't give any other specific instructions. If you've read my other posts you know that we were a pretty health conscious family. There were no Ding Dongs to pack into my lunch. We did always bake though, so sweetened shredded coconut and chocolate chips were often in the house. I would place a handful of each inside a small, blue container - you know the thick kind you used in the 80s that they really don't make anymore - and take it in my lunch box.

So, there I would sit at the school lunch table. My friends with their Twinkies and me dipping into the shreds of sweet coconut and chocolate chips with my little spoon. They said it was weird, but perhaps they were secretly jealous.

When I saw a recipe for a coconut cake with chocolate chunks in it a few years ago in Bon Appetit I had to try it right away. I was not disappointed. This cake is very moist and it is just the right amount of coconut and chocolate. Don't be put off by the orange zest. It enhances the flavor of both the coconut and the chocolate.

Coconut Cake with Dark Chocolate Chunks

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (scant) finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk, divided
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli), roughly chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, divided
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan with 2 inch high sides. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Stir in unsweetened coconut and set aside. Open the can of coconut milk and pour into a bowl. Whisk the mixture to recombine the liquid and the solids that may have separated. Measure out one cup and set aside. Beat the butter, granulated sugar and orange zest in a hand or stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with the 1 cup of coconut milk in 2 additions, beating until just blended after each addition. Fold in half of the chocolate pieces. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Top with remaining chocolate pieces and sweetened coconut.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Loosely tent with foil if the coconut browns to quickly. Transfer to wire rack to cool in pan for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract together in a medium bowl. Add additional coconut milk in 1/2 teaspoon increments until mixture is thin enough to drizzle over the cake. Reserve remaining coconut milk for another use.

Once the cake has cooled 45 minutes, run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen, place the rack on top of the cake and flip cake out on to rack. Then place platter on cake and flip over again so cake is right side up. Drizzle with glaze and allow to cool completely.

Note: This cake is best the day it is made, but you can make it one day ahead if you would like. Cover and keep at room temperature.