Making this cake will entail the use of every bowl, spoon, saucepan, measuring cup and spatula in your kitchen.
The cake and its icing contain an obscene amount of butter.
Making the cake part will lull you into a false sense of security about the rest of it.
Making the icing will push your patience to the limit.
Despite owning a dishwasher, you will still wash up over and over again before you are done.
It is best if no-one else tries to do anything in the kitchen for the duration.
There are many things one can achieve whilst playing with a one-year old and watching one’s partner blow up the blender. Making italian meringue is not one of them.
Reading the recipe eighty-five times will not always prevent you from stuffing it up somehow.
Rose Levy Beranbaum is an evil genius.
The end result is well worth the effort.
People will ask you to make it again.
Heart Attack Cake
180 grams of egg whites, or about 6 large, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups of whole coconut milk (not light, or lite, or any other pretendy stuff)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of coconut extract
400 grams of plain flour
400 grams of caster sugar
5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
230 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)
Butter and line two 23 cm springform cake tins. Measure your tins. Make sure they are the same size (yes you, you know who you are).
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with 1/3 of a cup of the coconut milk, the vanilla extract and the coconut extract.
In your freestanding mixer,with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed for 30 seconds, to just combine.
Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of coconut milk. Mix on low speed until combined, then raise the speed to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
Gradually add the egg white mixture in three batches, beating on medium speed for ~30 seconds in between each addition.
Spread the mixture evenly between the two tins. Weighing the tins will help in creating even layers in your cake. There should be approximately 760 grams of mixture in each tin.
Spread the mixture out evenly. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until just golden and springy, when an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for ten minutes, then turn out carefully onto lightly greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert the cakes, so the tops are up. Allow to cool completely.
Silk Meringue Buttercream – an icing in three acts
Coconut creme anglaise*
*you could do this bit up to 3 days in advance
100 grams of sugar
100 grams of egg yolks (about 5 large) at room temperature
1/2 a cup of coconut milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of coconut extract
First, put some iced water in a large bowl. Rest a medium bowl in the iced water. Put a sieve over the medium bowl. Set aside.
In a medium sized saucepan combine the sugar and egg yolks.
In a small saucepan bring the coconut milk to the boil. Add two tablespoons of hot coconut milk to the yolk mixture, stirring constantly.
Set the yolk mixture over low heat. Stirring constantly, add the remaining coconut milk.
Continue to stir over heat, keeping going until just below boiling point. The mixture will thicken and steam slightly. An instant read thermometer will read 76 degrees celsius. This will take a little while. Don’t rush it, or you’ll scramble the eggs and have to start all over again.
Pour through the sieve into the medium bowl. Stir in the vanilla and coconut extracts . Allow to cool to room temperature. If doing more than a few hours in advance, cover with clingfilm (directly on the surface) and refrigerate.
*a bastard of a thing to make
60 grams of egg white (about 2 large) at room temperature
1/3 of a cup of caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
30 grams of water
1/4 of a teaspoon of cream of tartar (Whatever your own beloved might tell you huffily, this is not sauce to have with battered fish, nor will it spontaneously become such.)
Rose says: have ready a 1-cup glass jug.
I say: don’t bother, it leads to far too much drama.
Put your egg whites in a medium size glass or ceramic bowl. Have a handheld beater ready.
In a small saucepan, stir together the 1/3 cup of caster sugar and the water. Heat on medium-high, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Turn the heat to low and leave it to go while you do the next bit. If you have an electric stove, take it off the heat.
Beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Turn off the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Beat again on medium-high until soft peaks form. Continue beating and add the extra 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Go back to the stove. Increase the heat under the syrup to medium-high and boil for a few minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 120 degrees celsius. It shouldn’t be colouring. Transfer to the glass jug if you’re following Rose’s instruction.
Take your syrup to the egg whites. Start beating the egg whites agian, adding the syrup in a thin stream that doesn’t touch the beaters (it will fly off everywhere and set on the side of the bowl). If you’re using a glass jug, the syrup will almost instantly cool down and harden, becoming unusable. You can then try and microwave it. This won’t work. Then you hack the lumps of hardened syrup back into the saucepan with a splash of water and try and turn it back into syrup. There will be swearing. Once you’ve remade syrup, you can complete the meringue. Once all the syrup is in, continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes. It will be lovely and dense and velvety. Set aside.
Act 3: completing the buttercream*
460 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature
Coconut creme anglaise
~150 grams of shredded coconut (I used the moist shredded coconut that comes in a snaplock bag, but you could use dessicated or large flakes)
In your freestanding mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and paler.
Gradually beat in the coconut creme anglaise, beating until smooth.
Add the italian meringue and beat until just incorporated. If the mixture looks curdled it’s too cold – you can fix this by resting the bowl inside another bowl of warm water – but this shouldn’t happen if you haven’t refrigerated anything.
And finally, many long hours after you began, you are ready to ice.
Spread a little smidge of buttercream on your serving plate, to stop the cake skidding around. Put your bottom layer on this. Spread the bottom layer with ~just over a cup of the buttercream, spreading it almost to the edge – the weight of the upper layer will push it out further. Put the top layer on. Then cover the top and sides with the remaining buttercream. You may have a cup or so leftover. This is no bad thing really, given the enormous amount of butter.
Now, for the last bit. This will be messy. Balancing the plate on one hand, tilt the cake so that you can coat the sides with shredded coconut. Coat the top last. Then scoop up all the coconut you’ve dropped on the bench and the floor and feed it to your chickens.
Beautiful! Congratulate yourself heartily. I did. Then I reread part of the recipe and realised I had been meant to mix 2 cups of shredded coconut into the buttercream. Damn. I was a bit peeved about this until we ate some, but the consensus was that the buttercream would have been made all gluggy and grainy with more coconut. As it is, it is beautifully silky and still very coconutty in flavour. It’s up to you…
Everyone has loved it.
The beloved said it’s good enough to eat off the cat.
And I will make it again. One day.