I made us a cake. A very special cake to celebrate some very special things. First special thing: today is my 33rd birthday…and while we do not celebrate birthdays per se, I like to think of the day of my birth as a marker for my life; a day to reflect on the life behind me and contemplate the life that lies ahead of me. Second special thing: we are also celebrating the 1 year anniversary of Ful-filled being my full time job! It is pretty crazy to think that the work I do through Ful-filled, whether it be recipe development, food styling and photography, or teaching workshops, has only been my career for one year! The original inception of Ful-filled was to be an outlet to share recipes from our kitchen, in hopes of maybe someday writing a cookbook. And now, to have realized that so many of my passions get to be poured out through this little space we share on the internet & social media simply blows my mind! Final special thing: it’s 2018 and much like birthdays, a new year is a way to reflect on our lives and set forth intentions for the way we live out our purpose.
Now, some of you may have rolled your eyes when you saw that I was sharing a cake recipe while so many people are resolving to eat healthier in the new year…but it is my birthday after all, and while the timing may be awkward, it is just the way it is when you are a January baby. You see, for as long as I can remember my birthday has been awkward. I hated the timing of my birthday when I was a child. I hated the cold of winter and that I could not have a “slip-n-slide” party like my big sister who was born in August. I hated that I could not have a birthday party on my birthday (because my parents knew how awkward it was just 10 days after Christmas to ask people for gifts for my birthday) so if there was a party it was always held in the beginning of February, which felt awkward. And most of all, I would always feel so insecure and disappointed when my own relatives would forget my birthday – which would happen literally every year. So yep, my birthday is awkward, but that is okay because I have grown up so much (thankfully) and feel very at peace with the fact that the point of today, the day I was born, is not about me in the first place. I truly believe that we were all born for a purpose to make a difference in the lives of others and that doing so is how we will find true happiness and fulfillment in life.
Now let’s talk about this coconut grapefruit meringue cake. I have never been much of a cake person. Mostly due to the fact that I have never been able to like frosting. There is just something about it that does not work for me. But my distaste for frosting does not keep me from creating cakes at home when a special occasion arises. When I had the vision to combine grapefruit and coconut together for this celebration cake, I knew that I was onto something special. Now, I have never seen anything like this done before and while I was developing the recipe I kept thinking to myself how amazing this combination of flavors was going to be. I have eaten coconut on top of a brûléed grapefruit before and it was divine – so that flavor memory led me to plan on coconut cake with grapefruit curd for the foundation of this cake. But we could not stop just there, this cake needed a frosting of sorts, but not frosting (obviously) and that is where Swiss meringue steps in to save the day.
I adapted a Molly Yeh recipe over the holidays for krembos, which have a homemade marshmallow filling (basically a Swiss meringue) and both the hubby and I were really pleased with the texture and sweetness of that filling. So the decision was made for a toasted coconut meringue frosting as the perfect finishing touch t0 envelop our cake!
This coconut grapefruit meringue cake is everything I could want in a cake. The coconut cake has the absolute perfect texture (it is so moist, there really is not another word to describe it) and the addition of the coconut flakes to the batter was simply amazing – which actually does not surprise me because the recipe for the cake was created by Thomas Keller, so its basically genius. The grapefruit curd is everything, like so good I was dumbfounded that I have not made it before! And finally, the meringue frosting gets infused with coconut extract to compliment the cake layers and combine all together for what is, hands down, one of the best cakes I have ever tasted in my life! I truly mean it. Especially considering I would choose a citrus dessert over a chocolate dessert any day, this cake is literally like a total dream come true!
Now, in closing, I started this whole post off with words about contemplation, reflection and setting forth intentions to live out our purpose. As many of you know, my hubby and I are moving to Greece this year, so the impending move has brought up so many emotions; personally, I feel like I am a living pendulum swaying between grateful excitement and being utterly overwhelmed. But one unexpected blessing is that the act of leaving for a place so far away has forced us to really minimize and only take what is truly necessary for our life which is has been really cathartic.
As we prepare to leave for the other side of the world, I continually remind myself of our purpose, which is to live our life in service of others before ourselves. Giving up the comforts of our life here in America in pursuit of a calling that burns deep within our souls has put us in a beautifully vulnerable position. There are so many things we don’t know about our future in Greece, but the very act of walking into the unknown makes us rely on our faith in trusting that God’s plan for us will slowly reveal itself as we are ready to receive it.
Some notes on baking cakes:
I use even bake strips around my cake pans to ensure the edges of my cakes are just as moist as the center, not to mention it prevents the cakes from doming, leaving you with perfectly flat cakes for layering!
I also did a TON of research on cake pans, and these Parrish Magic Line cake pans were the ones I settled on – they are super sturdy and perfectly straight
Using pre-cut round parchment makes life SO much easier – these are the ones I use
- 2 tbsp finely grated grapefruit zest
- 2 cups fresh ruby red grapefruit juice, strained
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2-3 drops natural red food coloring
- Unsalted butter, for greasing
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup desiccated coconut, unsweetened
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 1?2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 1?4 cups mayonnaise
- 3?4 cup coconut milk
- 1?2 cup plus 1 tbsp. buttermilk or plain yogurt
- 2 tsp. coconut extract
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 egg whites
- 1 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Bring grapefruit juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat & cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 12–14 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Whisk egg yolks, eggs, sugar, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl to combine. Whisk in grapefruit zest, lemon zest, lemon juice, and reduced grapefruit juice. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking almost constantly, until curd is thickened, 6–8 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, adding a few pieces at a time.
- Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd. Chill until set up and very cold, at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.
- Heat oven to 325° & grease three 8" cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper, set aside.
- Whisk flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside.
- Place sugar & egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment & mix until fluffy. Add mayonnaise, coconut milk, buttermilk (or yogurt), coconut & vanilla extracts - mix until well combined. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until batter forms - transfer batter to a bowl & set aside.
- Clean stand mixer bowl and add egg whites - replace paddle with whisk attachment. Whip whites until soft peaks form and fold into cake batter. Divide batter between prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans, then invert them onto wire racks and let cool.
- FOR THE COCONUT MERINGUE FROSTING:
- Make sure the bowl & whisk are very clean and dry. Prepare a double boiler with a pot or heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure it does not touch the water) and place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top pot or bowl over simmering water over medium heat. Whisk for 5 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved. Do not let it boil. mixture should be frothy, warm, and not gritty. If you have a candy thermometer, it should read about 140ºf.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a large heat-resistant bowl (or use the bowl it's already in) and beat with a stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment until thick, shiny, and stiff peaks form, about 10 minutes or more. Then beat in vanilla & coconut extracts.
- TO ASSEMBLE CAKE:
- Lay a cake round on a piece of parchment on a cakestand, evenly spread cake with approximately 1/3-1/2 cup of curd, leaving about 1/2" around the edge without curd.
- Spoon about 1 1/2 cups worth of dollops of meringue frosting on top of the curd, use an offset spatula to evenly & carefully spread the meringue over the entire top & sides of the cake.
- Repeat the above step with the second & third layers of cake.
- Once you have completed the third layer, use up all of the rest of the frosting to evenly coat the outside of the cake.
- Use the back of a spoon to decoratively swirl the meringue. You can chill the cake at this point for 30 minutes and then serve. Or if you want the toasted meringue look, use a blow torch to carefully toast the frosting, chill the cake for 30 minutes and then serve.
coconut cake from Thomas Keller grapefruit curd adapted from Bon Apetit