*Okay, so it’s not really Polish. But the topping reminded me of a German Chocolate Cake topping, and since (half) my ancestry is Polish, I thought I’d just use the same concept for this cake’s name.
Did you hear the one about the (half) Polish woman who wanted to bake a cake?
One of the greatest challenges of living in a long-term, committed relationship is dealing with those areas in which you and your partner don’t necessarily mesh. In order to coexist harmoniously and still retain one’s sanity, it’s sometimes necessary to make accommodations. (Okay, fine; not only “sometimes,” but pretty much every day. Okay, fine; several times a day.).
Since this union is the second go-round for both the HH and me, we no longer bristle at the petty, quotidien issues that drive some newlyweds crazy (does the toilet paper roll from the top or the bottom? Do you re-fold the newspaper in its original configuration after reading, or leave it in separate, blowzy sections once you’re done with it? Is it okay to exchange sotto voce commentary while watching Atonement in the movie theater, or not?). Nevertheless, we do make our own concessions. The HH prefers to play music ultra loud (beyond 11, even), whereas I prefer it as a soothing backdrop to other activities. He takes a laissez-faire attitude toward housework and disciplining The Girls; I prefer a schedule, and rules. (“And we definitely prefer Dad’s approach. . . sorry, Mum.”)
One major difference that forces the issue pretty much daily is our respective dietary habits: as I may have mentioned (perhaps, on occasion, in passing?) the HH loves to eat meat; I do not.
So when it comes to food, we’ve both learned to adapt. Over the past 11 years, the HH has eaten more tofu, collards, rice noodles and quinoa than he ever knew existed in the world. He’s also sacrificed some of his own cherished favorites, as when I had to cut out all alcohol (plus sugar, and fermented products, and fruits. . . don’t ask) from my diet for 2 years. He cheerfully complied and went without at home, with not a peep of protest.
So, as I browsed through my bookmarked recipes this week for something to bake, I was pleased to land on a recipe for Lemon-Coconut Bundt Cake from Deb’s great blog, Altered Plates. The HH adores coconut (whereas I’m fairly indifferent to it); coconut cream pie tops his list, but he’ll embrace cookies, muffins, bars, or any other coconut confections as well. I thought this would be the perfect cake to show my appreciation for his tolerating my (fairly) unconventional dietary habits over the years.
When I discovered that the Coconut-Lemon Cake recipe originated with Veganomicon, I wasn’t at all surprised. Seems you can’t read any food blog–vegan or not–these days without stumbling on a reference to that revered tome. I’ve tried many recipes from my own copy of the book, but none of the baked goods. In general, Moskowitz and Romero (I like using their surnames–it’s actually the correct format when referencing other authors; and besides, it makes them sound like a comedy duo that way: “Romero & Moskowitz’s Laugh-In,” or maybe a law firm: “Moskowitz and Romero, LLP” ) often make use of baking ingredients far removed from my own kitchen cabinets: white sugar, wheat flour, margarine, and the like. And while it’s not difficult to adapt those kinds of recipes to my own requirements, I already had plenty of other recipes lined up.
I was definitely drawn to the concept of lemon and coconut coexisting in harmony (sort of like the HH and me!). But an entire Bundt cake seemed massive (I mean, how many extra baked goods can one bring to the office?). I decided to halve the recipe and bake it in a round cake pan.
In addition, M & R recommend serving the cake unfrosted. Now, maybe a naked Bundt (like the Venus de Milo or Miley Cyrus’s shoulder) is sufficiently alluring on its own; but an unadorned, plain-Jane round layer, sans frosting or filling? Well, that just wouldn’t do. Instead, I omitted the coconut from the cake itself, then added it to a a lemony, gooey topping, reminiscent of the frosting on a German Chocolate Cake, for a little more flair.
I’m happy to report that the HH was very pleased with the final result. The cake itself revealed a cheery yellow, moist and light interior; the slightly more brash lemony topping, lush and loaded with coconut, provided a great contrast in texture and sweetness. In fact, the HH seemed so pleased with his treat that I felt perfectly justified asking him to turn down that deafening volume on the stereo.
Polish Lemon Cake (adapted from Veganomicon)
This cake is very moist with a gooey, rich and intensely lemon topping. Perfect for a dessert or an afternoon snack, it keeps well in the fridge (and is even better the second day).
1/3 c. (80 ml.) agave nectar
1 Tbsp. (10 g.) organic cornstarch
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) coconut milk
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) unflavored soymilk
2 tsp. (10 ml.) freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 ml.) vanilla
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) soymilk powder
3/4 cup (60 g.) shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
3/4 cup (175 ml.) agave nectar
1/3 cup (80 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (200 ml.) coconut milk (1/2 a 400 ml. or 14-ounce can)
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) unflavored soymilk
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. (10 ml.) freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground chia seeds
1 cup (150 g.) light spelt flour
1/2 cup (70 g.) coconut flour
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) sea salt
1-1/2 tsp. (7.5 ml.) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5ml.) baking soda
Make the topping: In a small saucepan, whisk together the agave nectar and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in the milks, lemon zest and turmeric. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the mixture for one minute, stirring.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla and soymilk, whisking until smooth (don’t worry about tiny lumps, as they’ll be camouflaged by the coconut; if you want it really smooth, you can blend with a hand-held blender before adding the coconut). Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the vanilla and coconut. Allow to cool while you prepare the cake.
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease an 8″ round pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together the agave, oil, milks, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, and chia seeds. Whisk to ensure that the chia is evenly distributed. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, sift the spelt flour, coconut flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir the wet mixture into the dry until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, until deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out perfectly clean. Alllow to cool about 20-30 minutes, until cake is no longer hot.
Scrape the coconut filling over the cake and spread evenly. Refrigerate until cold, about an hour. Cut into slices and serve. Makes 8-10 servings.
[This recipe also appears in my cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 75 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the Sweet Freedom button at left, or visit this page.]
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