Day 224 – National Coconut Torte Day

A torte? What’s a torte? Isn’t that some kind of legal thing? Do I need a lawyer that specializes in …coconut? No, it must be some kind of baked good, but sounds pretty fancy. I am going to have to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and get my pastry degree? Seems like a big commitment. I would feel like Rodney Dangerfield going back to school. I’m going to need a whole new wardrobe for this, and some kitchen tools too, plus probably a new Trapper Keeper notebook. This is getting out of hand.

Ok, before I enroll and start pledging a fraternity, let me just look up what a torte actually is.  According to Wikipedia, a torte is a rich, usually multilayered, cake that is filled with whipped cream, buttercreams, mousses, jams, or fruits. So it’s a cake? Ok, I can handle that.  Apparently it’s a cake that is a little more rich that you typical cake and denser. A torte is made with less flour than a cake, and sometimes without flour at all. It’s basically a kind of cake.  So all tortes are cakes, but not all cakes are tortes.  I’m starting to get the gist here.

I may get the gist now, but when I started to make my Coconut Torte, I think I may have skimmed over that line about using less flour. My understanding was that a torte was just a layered and filled cake. The recipes that I found online all seemed to use regular cake and made not mention about going flourless. Granted, my recipe search was not all that involved, but from what I saw, it was more about making beautiful layered cakes. So that’s what I set out to do, but in the end, I’m not sure if I really made a true torte. I wonder if the Torte Community can file a civil suit against me for having committed a tortious act besmirching the reputation of the torte?

What I made was a recipe found on Leite’s Culinaria website for a Coconut Layer Cake. It was actually a copycat recipe for the cake served at the famous Magnolia Bakery which has always delivered great cakes and recipes. Now I know it says Coconut Layer Cake (not torte), but remember, when I found the recipe I was under the impression that a torte was a layered cake. I thought I was doing the right thing. The recipe starts by giving you a recipe for the cake, but I took a shortcut here. I happened to have a cake mix in house and in the interest of time and energy, I just whipped that up instead. I’m sure the recipe cake is delicious and perfect, it was just easier for me to empty the box into a bowl, add in some oil, water and egg whites and have a batter within minutes. That’s what I did and after about twenty minutes in the oven, I had two delicious smelling, perfectly fine cakes cooling on the rack.

Our nephew Sam swung by during the day with his friend Kasey and it’s always a great visit when they stop by. They really bring out Lola’s chattiness and they spend hours just talking about life and all its wonders. They came over around eleven and ended up staying until about six, chatting the whole time with Lola at the kitchen table over coffee, soup, and cake.  I was in and out of the conversation throughout the day having to do a few other things, but it was great to hear their voices and laughter coming from the kitchen. At some point, I had to sneak in behind them and make the cake which was easy and not too disruptive. When it came to making the filling and frosting however, I knew that would be a bit more involved, so I waited until they left so I could clang and clatter around without being rude. Consequently, I didn’t get started on the filling and frosting until later in the day, although I would not have changed anything because it was so nice to have them here. I only regret was I wasn’t able to send them home with any coconut torte.

The filling was a combination of milk and sugar with a little bit of flour. I heated this up until it all dissolved and then I added in the sweetened coconut flakes and some vanilla. After it had all cooled, I spread it out over the layers of cakes. The mix I used yielded two 9″ cakes so to get a third layer, I made a careful bisection of one of the cakes. The filling spread out easily enough, so just like that I had a whole cake assembled with three layers. Now I just had to make the frosting. I had selected this recipe because I thought it was going to use the Magnolia buttercream frosting which is the best frosting ever. However, when I went to make it, I realized this frosting was quite different. It was made with egg whites and vanilla that are whipped together with quick syrup of sugar and water. It was kind of complicated or at least more complicated than I had expected. That gave me perspective on what this quest has done to my confidence in the kitchen. Even though it was a procedure I had never done before and was intimidating, I just pushed through. It wasn’t hard – you make the simple syrup and then you start whipping the egg whites. As those are whipping, you slowly stream in the syrup. Eventually you get a frosting with stiff peaks and they suggest you frost your cake right away, so I did. I’m not the best froster, but I did my best and covered the cake.  The frosting had a beautiful white color to it and a kind of sheen to it as well.  It looked nice. The final touch was sprinkling on some coconut.

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I served up a piece to Lola right away with the caveat that the frosting was still drippy. I had a small taste of the filling when I made it and a small test of the frosting too and both on their own seemed ok, but nothing too exciting. When they combined along with the soft, white, moist cake, it was something special.  Lola was actually struck by the taste saying it recalled a sense memory in her of the first times she had tried coconut. She remembered being at the store and begging her mom to get a whole coconut at the store, and naturally her mom got one. She remembered her dad having to get a flathead screwdriver to open the coconut which was not easy. She was disappointed you couldn’t drink the water straight from the coconut like they do in cartoons.  Then she recalled the taste of the coconut in her mouth – the sweetness, the rawness, the flakiness.  This cake brought her right there. Maybe it was the coconut mixed in with the white cake I used which was the same type and brand of cake her mom would make.  In any case, she thought it was special, and it was. It really combined the three flavors in a meld of deliciousness.  A great cake.

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I mean great torte. It’s a torte I tell you. It’s a layered cake with a creamy coconut filling. That’s a torte. Ok, maybe not considering it had the usual amounts of flour. But whose to say? Similar to all tort law, it comes down to our interpretation and what we feel the intent of the rules are. I think the torte makers of the world only intended for great tasting layered cake, and that’s what this torte delivered. Ruling for the defendant. And a ruling for happy tastebuds everywhere.

Next Up: National Potato Chip Day 

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