I’ve been rather intrigued with the array of coconut products at the market lately. Coconut water, coconut creamer — even coconut vinegar, and more. When I was recently given both a fresh jar of coconut oil and a bag of curious coconut sugar (it looked like rocky brown sugar), I felt compelled to combine them and create a new treat. I decided to add coconut milk, coconut flour and shredded coconut: a quintuple coconut concoction! The result was downright delicious (and arguably healthy). Here is the recipe.
Little Coconut Cakes (makes 4 dozen mini-muffin sized cakes)
- 1 cup drained crushed pineapple (from a 20-ounce can in juice, not syrup)
- 1 ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
- 1 cup coconut sugar*
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup coconut flour*
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (refrigerated carton style)
- For the glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg white (2 tablespoons)
- 2 Tbsp. pineapple juice from can above
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using oil or nonstick cooking spray, generously grease your mini muffin pans; set aside. On a baking sheet, toast shredded coconut for 6-8 minutes, until fragrant and becoming golden brown. Meanwhile, place a sieve over a bowl and pour the crushed pineapple over it; let it sit to drain, gently pushing down on it once to aid draining.
Sift the coconut sugar into a large bowl (include the little crystals in your batter; just be sure to remove all the large clumps as you sift). Beat sugar on medium/high speed with coconut oil, adding the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time, mixing until even. Sift the salt, baking soda, baking powder and coconut flour over the egg mixture. On low speed, blend the batter as you pour in the coconut milk, again mixing until even. Batter will seem very dry. Add 1 well packed cup of the drained pineapple (you’ll have some crushed fruit left over to use as you wish; reserve the juice for glaze). Fold in 1 cup of the toasted coconut until evenly distributed. Fill your muffin tins with about 1 heaping tablespoon of batter per cup.
Bake for 20 minutes, until fragrant and with toasty edges. Let cakes cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then loosen with a butter knife and remove by inverting pan or using a spoon to scoop them out. Let cakes cool completely on counter top or cooling racks. Make the glaze by vigorously whisking together the powdered sugar, egg white, and pineapple juice. Drizzle each upside-down cake with 1-2 teaspoons glaze; quickly top each one with a pinch of the remaining toasted coconut. If using cooling racks as you glaze, place the racks over a cookie sheet and/or parchment paper, and use a spatula to scrape up and re-use the glaze that collects below the racks. Let the icing dry completely, then devour! Cakes are best eaten at room temperature, not refrigerated, and stored in a loosely covered container (not airtight) for up to three days.
Little coconut cakes are wondrously moist and flavorful, rich with gentle sweetness in every bite. Their tad of glaze creates a crisp shell that surrounds their soft, coconutty centers, while their bits of pineapple offer an inviting texture. Remarkably delicious, they are gluten-free, dairy-free and — aside from the glaze — contain no refined cane sugar.
Maybe next time… To keep refined cane sugar completely out of this recipe, omit the glaze or replace it with a different topping: perhaps a coconut sugar based frosting or a dab of maple syrup to which the sprinkle of coconut will fasten. These little upside down cakes would also make lovely mini cupcakes; bake with or without paper liners, keep upright instead of inverting, and add a pretty little spiral of icing on top of each one. While I’ve never used coconut extract before, I imagine it would be a yummy replacement for part or all of the vanilla extract, and would be highly fitting, only bumping up the coconut flavor.
*While I’m sure there are plenty of great brands available, I used Madhava Organic Coconut Sugar. Made from the sap of coconut flower buds, the sugar had a sweet caramelized flavor and was surprisingly dark in color. As for coconut flour, I used Coconut Secret, which I found to be delightfully fragrant, light and fibrous. Coconut flour is apparently made by drying and finely milling the uncooked, white meat of the coconut.