[Coconut Chocolate Cake]
It was Maxence’s birthday last week, and one of the things we did to mark the occasion — in addition to one glorious meal at Les Ambassadeurs — was to invite friends to join us and celebrate at a small cocktail bar that recently opened in our neighborhood, on an improbable little street we’d hardly ever noticed before. Maybe it didn’t even exist.
The bar is trendy yet cosy, with a cushy banquette and plenty of stools to sit on, artwork on the walls (of course no one will settle for just being a bar anymore, they have to be a bar-cum-art gallery) and a long mirror to check your makeup in. And just as importantly, the music is soft enough you don’t need lipreading skills to communicate, and the drinks menu features classics and a few bartender specials, at prices that won’t have you file under Chapter 11.
A grand time was had by all, and around midnight, when we had slowly but surely taken over the place, I whipped out the box of coconut chocolate cake I had brought. I learned on previous occasions that attempting to cut a round cake in thirty slices on some small and sticky corner of a bar whilst holding up your end of an animated conversation, is tricky at best. And contrary to popular belief, the Champagne really doesn’t help. So this time, I baked the cake in a square pan and cut it in small servings just before we left: all I had to do then was pass the box around for everyone to take a piece.
This cake is a variation on the Gâteau au Chocolat Aérien, using less sugar, substituting fromage blanc (or plain yogurt) for some of the butter, and coconut flakes for part of the flour. Moist with a fluffy crumb, it has a lovely and light chocolate flavor, delectably tickled by the little specks of toasted coconut.
4 rue Viollet-Le-Duc in the 9th
01 48 74 43 49
– 75 g (1 cup) unsweetened coconut flakes
– 200 g (1 cup) sugar
– 100 g (1 stick, minus 1 tbsp) butter, softened
– 125 g (1/2 cup) fromage blanc or plain yogurt
– 4 eggs
– 150 g (1 1/4 cup) flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, diluted in 4 Tbsp hot water
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 25-cm (10”) cake pan with parchment paper. I used a square 23-cm (9”) baking dish for easier sharing.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle the coconut flakes over it. Put into the oven for eight minutes or until golden, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven (leave the heat on) and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or in a food processor, combine the sugar and butter. Mix until white and fluffy. Add in the fromage blanc and the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix again.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder (sieve the flour if you’re mixing by hand) and coconut flakes. Add the flour mixture into the batter, and mix until just combined. Try not to overmix.
Pour the batter into the cake pan, level the surface with a spoon, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Don’t bake it to death, otherwise it won’t be as moist inside. Let rest on the counter for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely.