These days, because Graham prefers to monopolize one of my upper appendages at all times with his babooning, my recreational kitchen activity falls into two distinct camps: Things I Can Do While My Child Naps and Things I Cannot Start Until He Goes to Bed. In the former group, I place things like “eat a bowl of cereal,” “empty the dishwasher,” and “throw a salad together for lunch.” Since this time of year, most produce hasn’t quite mastered the art of needing nothing, these are not usually exciting things. The latter hosts more ambitious projects, like making a few pans of lasagna for the freezer, or a batch of chicken and kale stew – you know, useful, dinnerish things. This is not a time in my life for French onion soup, or homemade pasta, or for fancy layer cakes.
But somehow, late last week, in the space of a morning nap, I made a macaroon cake.
By now, you must know I have a weakness for simple cakes. To qualify as “simple,” there are criteria to meet: A simple cake must be made in one bowl, without the aid of anything electric. It must be single-layer. It must beckon the next day at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m. And, above all, it must be flexible – gussy-up-able for a party, or delicious made in its absolute simplest form, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and eaten straight out of the pan. Simple cakes are the favorite jeans of the dessert world. (Last week, I retired my favorite jeans. It was time; jeans make better doors than windows. I’m a wreck about it.)
I thought, when I slid it into the oven, that this was a cake that wanted a little drama. It had been so simple to make – just a little melting, a little whisking, and a little folding, plus enough coconut to satisfy last week’s macaroon issue. I thought I heard it cry for frills and lace, in the form of a flood of deep chocolate ganache and a blizzard of toasted large-flake coconut. I melted chocolate. I toasted coconut. Only, when the cake came out, it cried louder to be eaten. I listened. (Pay close attention, readers. Anthropomorphizing desserts enables you to excuse any lack of self-restraint in the kitchen.)
When you have a cake that’s less patient than an almost-one-year-old, there’s not much you can do. I recommend taking a seat on the porch steps, just inside the shade line, so you (and perhaps a small hipster) can watch the camellias absorb a warm spring afternoon. I’m not sure there’s anything nicer.
Well, okay. Two slices is pretty nice, too.
(You Passover people: I’d be willing to bet it’d be fabulous with a scoop of Coconut Bliss.)
It’s a cake. No, it’s a chocolate macaroon. No, wait, it’s a cake. It’s both! Stuffed with coconut but stirred and baked like a regular cake, this sweet confection is quick to make and absolutely satisfying. Eat it straight up, right out of the pan like brownies, or fancy it up with a drizzle of ganache and a flurry of toasted coconut. (For real drama, make two, and layer it up.) My preference is somewhere in between—topped simply, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Note: I melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave with good results. In my appliance, two 30-second increments on high power (stirring in between) works well.
TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
1 cup unsweetened medium-shredded coconut (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of waxed paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.
Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in gently with a spatula until no dry spots remain. Fold in the coconut, then pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges of the cake just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is puffed. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack, then again onto a round serving plate.
Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.