i spent the weekend doing two of my favorite things: filling up an entire deep freeze with chocolate chip cookie dough and morning-after-eggsister-wedding bacon muffins, and cleaning the house with eggboy and stacy, our pet roomba. i don’t know when my geezerness became so extreme that house cleaning jumped to the top of my list of favorite things but here we are, sitting in a living room that now feels twice the size, thanks to some furniture rearranging and cookbook organizing, in a house that won’t be a total embarrassment when my family arrives from chicago later today for a visit. yay! we’re going to defrost this carrot cake finally.
and speaking of cake we’ve now passed the three week mark until eggsister’s wedding which means that cake baking can now comfortably commence without fear that freezer smell will soak into the layers. i am so excited. all i really want these days is 314 people to come to town every weekend, hungry for wedding cake, so that i can bake this much all the time. oh, i guess that’s what bakeries do...
so the past two weeks have been filled with finalizing the recipes for all of the layers. did i tell you eggsister’s brilliant idea? rather than having each of the cakes a different flavor, each layer will be a different flavor so the cakes look rainbow-y.
two of the cakes will be: pistachio, hazelnut, and orange blossom almond (very excited for this recipe in particular, i’ll be sharing it soon!!)
but as i was visualizing the white funfetti layer, the brown chocolate layer, and the white coconut layer together, i kept wanting the coconut layer to be pink. wouldn’t that be pretty to have sort of a neapolitan look? so i got to work, testing what seemed like a reasonable choice given the floral theme of the cakes and bridesmaid dresses: coconut cake with hibiscus! i loved the idea of making a naturally pink cake using just hibiscus flowers. so i ordered a pound of dried hibiscus online, confirmed via lily that coconut and hibiscus would go well together, and then spent a wild week wishing i hadn’t been such a slacker in high school chemistry. here’s why: what makes hibiscus that beautiful bright pink color are anthocyanins. based on some limited harold mcgee and bravetart research, i learned that anthocyanins are red/pink in acidic situations. but to make a cake rise you have to add leavening agents like baking powder, baking soda, egg whites, which are all alkaline and can bring the ph of the cake batter into basic territory. not basic like loving ryan gosling, but basic like opposite of acidic, like your ph is higher than 7. and in a basic situation, anthocyanins turn anywhere from purple to a gross grey. so the challenge was adding just enough leavening agents to produce a tasty fluffy cake but not so much that the color turns gross grey. and enough acid to keep it a pretty color but not so much that the flavor makes you pucker up. here is a video summary:
eventually i started packing the batter with acidic ingredients like lemon, buttermilk, vinegar, and toward the end i was subbing honey for part of the sugar. i was starting to love the color!! but also toward the end i made the biggest discovery of all which was that… hibiscus…is…not…good? i mean, i like it in tea. i like it in glaze. i like it pickled and stuffed with goat cheese on the streets of tel aviv. but in this application, i kept doing this face 😝😝😝😝😝 at the thought of having to taste test any of this cake. and when i finally admitted this on instagram stories, so many kind humans came out of the woodwork to tell me that yes, it’s totally ok to not like hibiscus because they, too, do not like hibiscus. thank you, kind humans. also thank you to all of you who sent over all sorts of awesome suggestions and cake batter ph resources (especially stella, who is wrangling some strawberry cake batter ph right now)!!
so i had a talk with myself, i said self, if you don’t like hibiscus cake, how are 314 of eggsister’s closest friends going to like hibiscus cake?
and i sent the working recipe to michelle who is hopefully going to pick up this experiment where i left off.
and i pulled out my rosewater and food coloring.
and i changed my stripper name from chinese hotdish to coco rose.
and when, on test cake #6 i still couldn’t help myself from sneaking big bites of this new coconut rose cake, i knew i’d made the right decision. y’all i am so proud of this cake!!! it’s crazy moist, buttery, soft, coconutty, rosey, a tiny bit almondy, and it’s going to look great in between a chocolate and funfetti layer. i slathered it with a layer of american buttercream but then whipped up some swiss buttercream to practice my roses. like italian buttercream, swiss buttercream was really easy to pipe and had a nice light texture. i love the look of it. but i just hated the process of making it, i get so stressed out heating egg whites and it always takes longer than i want it to. even though i was watching legally blonde the whole time i still wasn’t a fan of the process. additionally, i’m not wild about how italian and swiss buttercream pick up color. i thought i was adding a lot of food coloring but american buttercream seems to pick up color more easily… so i'm still leaning towards using american buttercream for the final wedding cakes but i also want to first try german buttercream. little sis mia will be in town to help me with that later this week!
also, here is another great buttercream rose video that i found that helped with this rose practice session.
coconut rose cake
makes one 3-layer, 8-inch cake
3 1/3 c (423g) all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c (100g) virgin unrefined coconut oil, soft but not melted
2 1/4 c (450g) sugar
pink and/or red food coloring (i used a bit of pink and a bit of red from this kit)
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp coconut flavor oil (i get mine at michael's and prefer the flavor to extract, but if you can only find extract, use 1 tsp of that)
1 2/3 c (400g or 1 can) full-fat coconut milk
for the frosting:
1 1/2 c (338g) unsalted butter, at room temeprature
5 c (600g) powdered sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 tb (90g) coconut milk (or heavy cream, if you don't want to open another can of coconut milk; in that case, add 1/4 tsp coconut flavor oil or a splash of extract)
1/4 tsp rosewater
preheat oven to 350ºf. grease and line the bottoms of three 8" cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
sift together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. add the kosher salt and give it a little mix.
in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, coconut oil, sugar, and food coloring until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. add the vanilla, rosewater, almond extract, and coconut flavor oil.
reduce the mixer to low and, in three alternating additions, add the flour mixture and the coconut milk and mix until just combined.
divide the batter among the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes. let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
for the frosting:
in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, salt, coconut milk (or heavy cream + coconut flavor oil), and rosewater until smooth and combined.
frost the cake as desired (see notes for details on the buttercream roses!) and enjoy!