It’s just not Easter without some sort of coconut dessert, whether it’s a classic Southern coconut cake or a creamy coconut chocolate egg. So this year we decided to take our inspiration from both of those to create a fresh, yet still familiar dessert for rounding out our Easter dinner.
We liked the idea of a classic layer cake, but we wanted something a little lighter. So instead of layers of white cake, we baked up airy and crisp meringues. We then stacked the meringues, layering them with a rich coconut cream, fresh berries and toasted shredded coconut. The result is creamy, fresh and the perfect finish to the holiday meal.
The recipe does take a little time to assemble, but none of the components is difficult. Feel free to substitute any fruit for the berries. Mango and pineapple would be a delicious tropical choice, while strawberries and banana (tossed with lemon juice to prevent browning) with a bit of finely chopped fresh mint would be sweet and refreshing.
BROWN SUGAR COCONUT MERINGUE CAKE
Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes (40 minutes active)
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 cup toasted coconut flakes, divided
5 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 whole eggs
13.5-ounce can coconut milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups fresh berries, such as blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
Heat the oven to 300 F. Line 2 baking sheets with kitchen parchment. One at a time, set a 9-inch round cake pan in the centre of each sheet of parchment, then trace it. Flip the parchment sheets over so the line is visible but on the underside. Set aside.
In a very clean bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating until fully incorporated and firm peaks are held. Fold in the vinegar, then gently fold 1/2 cup of the coconut and 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch into the meringue.
Transfer half of the mixture to the centre of each circle traced on the parchment. Spread the meringue so that it is even, but stays within the circle. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until golden and crisp around the edge. It should remain somewhat spongy at the centre. Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the coconut cream. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with the granulated sugar. Add the whole eggs and whisk again until completely smooth. Add the coconut milk and whisk once more until combined. Set the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly, cook until the cream thickens and comes to a simmer, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Pour the mixture into a bowl and press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the cream. Refrigerate to cool completely, about 1 hour.
To assemble the cake, place a disc of meringue on a serving platter. Top with half of the cooled coconut cream, half of the berries, and half of the remaining toasted coconut. Set the second layer of meringue over that, then repeat the toppings. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated, covered gently with plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours, though the meringue will lose some of its texture.