When I walked into the library on Friday, I spotted the February issue of Martha Stewart Living on the magazine shelf, and decided to actively procrastinate for a few minutes. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I stumbled upon the Valentine's Day, all-chocolate dessert spread. Imagine a page covered in silky chocolate, entitled "Truly Madly Deeply," staring at you as you prepare to buckle down and write an English self-assessment- now that's a real distraction. But I couldn't resist the temptation to peruse the recipes, and this chocolate-coconut sheet cake immediately caught my attention. I'm sure you can guess how I ended up spending my Friday night. ;)
Chocolate and coconut are two of my favorite ingredients, and together, well the photo speaks for itself. This is the moistest, most deeply chocolatey cake I have ever made. Buttermilk and brewed coffee are key, and premium Dutch-process cocoa powder accounts for the cake's rich, almost midnight black color. Taste-wise, every bite is straight out of dessert heaven. Each forkful contains three layers: wisps of tender coconut shavings on top, the fudgey, almost gooey center, and the phenomenal, aromatic cake. I probably sound a bit strange as I passionately describe this baked good as though it has a life of its own, but it's the weekend before mid-terms, and what's a girl with a sweet tooth to do?
Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Living
For the cake:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*, plus more for dish
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk**
3/4 cup warm, strong brewed coffee
3 tblsp safflower oil (I used olive oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
1 stick plus 2 tblsp unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tblsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups finely shredded, dried, unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup warm, strong brewed coffee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; line the bottom and two long sides with parchment, leaving an overhang. Butter parchment, and dust with cocoa powder. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Gather flour mixture into a mound, and create a well in center. Pour eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla into well, and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Pour batter into dish, and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Even if the center looks a bit fudgey, it will continue cooking once you remove it from the oven. It is key not to overcook it.
2. To make the topping, melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Sift confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and coconut in a large bowl; combine with a spoon. Stir coffee and vanilla into melted butter, and pour over coconut mixture. Stir to combine, and immediately spread evenly over warm cake. Let the cake cool completely on wire rack.
*I recommend using Dutch-process cocoa powder, if you wish to achieve a darker color and richer chocolate flavor. However, natural cocoa works fine as well. Here is a link to a photo that demonstrates the contrast between a cake made with Dutch-process versus natural cocoa. David Lebovitz also has a wonderfully detailed post that explains the differences between the two kinds.
**If you do not have buttermilk on hand, not to worry! You can make your own simply by measuring out 3/4 cup of milk and adding the juice from half a lemon to it. Let the milk sit for a few minutes until it curdles on the top, and you are ready to go.