Coconut Crunch Pound Cake: A Piece of Cake #52
Let's just get this over with: I have pink hair now.
Not to toot my own horn, but it’s pretty rare that I’m tripped up by a recipe I want to develop. At this point in my baking career, I can imagine the cake I’d like to bake, fiddle with any number of base recipes I rely on, and after a couple of attempts, achieve the thing I had dreamed up. Cake, after all, is cake, and there are only so many ways to bake one. Well, consider my horn un-tooted.
I’ve had a coconut crunch cake on my running list of ideas for a long time, and the dead of winter felt like the right time to bring a little sunshine into the kitchen. My idea was always for a salty, coconutty crunch topping on a rich, moist, dense pound cake base. Simple, straightforward, and delish. I mean, I’ve already done a pound cake recipe for this very newsletter. This should be a one and done, right? Wrong, apparently.
When I develop a recipe, I’ll start by looking at a few of my old standbys. My shortlist for pound cake recipes: Rose Levy Beranbaum, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, and King Arthur. I’ve made Ina’s “Perfect Pound Cake” recipe many times, and have always been happy with the outcome. But I wanted to include the tang of cream cheese, and also to incorporate coconut cream in the batter for similar flavor reasons. So off I went looking for a cream cheese pound cake recipe. King Arthur’s recipe for “Velvet Pound Cake” has cream cheese, but was scaled for one 9x5 loaf pan, and I like the yield of two 8x4 loaves from the Ina recipe.
Further research led me to Alexis deBoschnek’s pound cake recipe round-up on The Kitchn. (You’re probably familiar with the series, but they side-by-side back a bunch of well-loved recipes and choose a favorite.) Her clear winner was Grandbaby Cakes’ Cream Cheese Pound Cake. Now we’re talking. This had both the cream cheese and the yield I wanted. Like Ina’s recipe, Grandbaby Cakes’ recipe used sifted cake flour and no chemical leavening. So that’s where I started. I swapped out coconut cream for half of the cream cheese and nixed the added oil figuring the coconut cream would take care of that. I also upped the salt, because, well, that’s just what I do. The resulting cake was… fine. The crunch was banging but the cake was stodgy. That was, of course, because of the coconut cream I added, and not the fault of Grandbaby Cakes’ recipe. This thing needed some leavener.
On my next attempt, I took a note from the King Arthur and Rose Levy Beranbaum recipes by adding in leavener. In my case, I went with baking soda, vs their baking powder. Why? Because that’s what I used in the Key Lime Pounder, and as many of you know, that cake slaps. The result was a total overflow explosion in the oven. On the upside, what little cake was left in my two little loaf pans was pretty nice. The texture was better, but it was a bit too tender and obviously, the proportions were off, hence the coconut-flavored mudslide.
At this point, I was determined to either nail it, or act like none of this ever happened and never speak the words “coconut crunch” again. Both the Ina and Grandbaby Cakes recipes used a classic tube pan instead of loaves. I realized two things: that I’d never published a tube pan recipe on here, and also that I love a tube pan. So that was that. Next, I nixed the cake flour—I rarely use it anyhow and the cakes I had been making were too tender. So in went the AP flour. A long (and anxious) bake later, and bingo. The cake was tall, luscious, and absolutely what I had in my brain to begin with. This journey had me teetering on the edge of my flop era, but the end result was great cake for you. And that’s all worth it in the end, isn’t it?
A couple of notes about the finished recipe:
Depanning: Don’t overthink the flip. While the cake is still a little warm, run an offset spatula along the sides to release it from the pan. Then pop a big plate on top of the pan and flip. Then place whatever serving platter you’re using face-side down on the bottom of the cake. Holding all three pieces together, do one final flip. Zhush up the crumble topping as needed.
If you don’t have a tube pan, but you do have two 9x5 loaf pans, this recipe will work just fine in those.
Hunter made a great point when they first tasted this cake: “I’ll bet it makes a great French toast.” And you know what? They’re absolutely right. Just carefully slice off the crunch layer before dipping in the egg mixture, and sprinkle the crunch back on before serving.
Coconut Crunch Pound Cake
For the Crunch
¾ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cups dark brown sugar
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
⅓ cup large unsweetened coconut flakes
For the Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup coconut cream NOTE: Whisk the entire can together until smooth and then measure
2 ¾ cups granulated sugar
Make the Crunch
In the bowl of the food processor, combine the flour, sugar, shredded coconut, nutmeg and salt. Pulse until the coconut is finely chopped and everything is incorporated.
Add the butter and run the processor until the mixture comes together and looks like wet sand. Move to a bowl and toss in the large unsweetened coconut flakes. Set aside.
Make the Cake
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy and fully combined. Add the coconut cream and beat until combined.
With the mixer running on medium, slowly add the sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, beat again.
Add the flour mixture to the mixer in two additions, mixing on low in between. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again on low until fully incorporated.
Grease a 10x4 tube pan. Add the batter and spread it evenly. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to make sure it's settled in.
Evenly cover the batter with the crumb topping. Note: Squeeze the crumb topping together in your hand to make larger crumbs. The combo of big and small chunks will give the best result.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 45 mins or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a serving platter.
If you enjoyed this week’s journey of “idea to recipe,” then I highly recommend my friend Bobby Finger’s new piece on Eater, “Who’s Really Behind Joanna Gaines’s Perfect Peanut Butter Brownies?” It’s less about the brownies than it is about discovering how recipes are developed, and understanding issues of authorship. Because Bobby’s a great writer, he interviews NYT Cooking’s Julia Moskin and an IP lawyer to really get to the heart of it.
I’m fortunate enough to live down the block from Playground Coffee Shop, which is yes, a wonderful coffee shop, but also a community space, bookstore, and nonprofit that has done so much for our neighborhood and beyond. That was made clear in their recent Instagram post: before Playground even mentioned their own GoFundMe to help keep their doors open, they highlighted the work of Gambian Youth Organization and the work that org has done supporting families impacted by the Jan 9th fire in The Bronx. Please, if you’re able, support both of these community organizations. Relief for Families Affected by Bronx Fire | Help Playground Coffee Shop Stay Afloat
A Piece of Cake is written by Bill Clark and edited by Andrew Spena. Photography by Hunter Abrams. Logo design by Brett LaBauve.
Love the pink hair, you're still as handsome as ever.
Loved this! I'm curious whether you considered egg whites as a leavener? Obviously way more labor intensive and I did see there are already 8 eggs in the cake -- just curious as someone who likes to look at other recipes and invent as well!