Mauritius... Merely a happy memory. A vanilla- and coconut-scented paradise island, with sandy beaches as white as the freshly laundered shirts hanging on my washing line, that are even as I type being pelted with the best Spring rain South Wales can muster.
Still. I wouldn't have it any other way. For just this very morning - just! - I decided to take a risk and throw my lovely (but grubby) dry clean only (oh whatever) white trousers in to the washer with the multiple short-sleeved white shirts of this here flight attendant. And do you know what? They came out fine. Better than fine. Pristine even. So today, even the bad weather making me wish I were still in Mauritius isn't going to put me in a bad mood. I have just discovered I can save myself an absolute fortune in dry cleaning bills. I think that's what's known as a turn out for the books.
Today's glass, readers, is half full.
Oh, and have a look at this too. Happiness indeed. Thank you Channel 4. Mo konten twa. You didn't know I spoke Creole, did you?
I think it's absolutely one of the worst things in life (scabies and natural disasters notwithstanding) to taste something beyond perfection when travelling and know that you'll never be able to recreate it yourself when you get home. I still dream about the banana leaf curries I ate in Ipoh, Malaysia, and the fancy restaurant fare we splurged on in Sydney. I didn't think Mauritius was going to be that kind of a holiday. Yes, the seafood was beyond amazing, but give me some fresh fish and a barbecue in the Summer and what we make in our back garden will do just as well. We ate freshly prepared roti and daal in the market in Mahébourg, and they were wonderful, but I make a pretty mean roti myself, so I'm not going to be losing sleep there either.
No. What Mauritius did to me is unforgivable, and it happened over dinner. The chefs in my hotel made a coconut cake that was so light, fluffy and heady with the scent of freshly cracked coconuts that I almost had to be forcibly removed from it. Topped with a marshmallow-soft icing and strands of freshly sugared coconut, seriously, I could have eaten the whole cake.
This marks a new chapter in my life. In the past, coconut has never really been my favourite flavour. But now I am a new man. A man who eats both halves of the Bounty by himself (sharing is not caring in this case).
I knew that I would have to attempt to recreate this holiday wonder cake in my Cardiff kitchen, and considered my options carefully. Life is often cruel, as anyone who has ever dealt with a fresh coconut will know: why is it so hard to get to the precious white stuff inside? I decided that my coconut wherewithal would have to come from a tin of coconut milk instead of the actual nuts. The last time I got friendly with a coconut was too much of a work out for my liking, and in addition, the kitchen is no place for a hammer.
So I went back to my beloved Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and had a look at what The Beranbaum had to offer. She had a lot; I added some extra coconut milk to one of her stars, and the result is this coconut flavoured layer cake, filled with raspberry mascarpone cream. In the unseasonally hot Spring we've been having (until today!), I decided a completely covered in frosting type cake would be a bad idea, and besides, some Spanish raspberries seduced me in the Co-Op. Nobody is saying no to those crimson little sluts.
It's not what I set out for it to be. But it's pretty much perfect anyway.
Pretty Much Perfect Coconut-Raspberry Cake
You will need:
400g plain flour
400g caster sugar
5 tsp baking powder
225g unsalted butter, softened
5 egg whites
400ml coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 small punnet raspberries (about 150g)
3 tbsp icing sugar, or to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line two 24cm cake tins.
- Put the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix together well to distribute the baking powder using a wire whisk. Add the butter, cubed, and two thirds of the coconut milk. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the ingredients just together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
- In another bowl, mix the egg whites, remaining coconut milk and vanilla together; add this mixture in batches to the flour mix, beating well after each addition.
- Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for around 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
- Cool in the tins for 10 minutes and then unmould onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Mix the filling ingredients together roughly. Check to see if it is sweet enough - you may want more sugar, or some vanilla. Use to sandwich the two sponges together. Serve in fat wedges.