26 March 2012

Coconut Strawberry Coffee Cake

The inspiration for this recipe was a result of a recent trip to the Pancake Factory. I walked in a few weeks ago with apple cinnamon pancakes on my mind only to find out that they now offered coconut pancakes. Given my now feverish coconut obsession, I had to try them. As I placed the order I was told by our waitress that using jam instead of syrup was exceedingly good. I was skeptical, but with five gigantic pancakes coming my way, I could surely spare one.

When my pancakes arrived I dove right in. As is customary (for me) I ate the first one sans syrup. The pancakes were fantastic; soft, crispy, and loaded with coconut. I was in love. Could jam possibly make it better?

Firstly, let me say that I love all sorts of jam, but for me strawberry is always king. However, when I reached for the little packet of jam, it dawned on me that perhaps strawberry and coconut wouldn't really pair well together. I figured worst case scenario one of my pancakes was only slightly less awesome than the others. Instead the opposite was true. The fusion of the two was insanely good. The sweet strawberry jam coupled with the rich coconutty flavour was just so good. At that moment, I resolved myself to make a cake or quick bread that would combine the two flavours.

I originally planned on adapting the coconut coffee cake that I made around this time last year. But when I looked back at the recipe I was reminded that I didn't think there was enough coconut flavour, and also that some of the this flavour was generated by coconut milk, which I was planning to remove in favour of a strawberry puree. I did a quick search and found a recipe that was closer to what I wanted, giving me a spring board for the experiment to come.

That's exactly what this was, it was a total experiment. The purpose of the recipe was merely to give a baseline of proportions. I changed everything in the recipe except for the amount of flour, eggs and volume of coconut. My alterations included: shape, size, less sugar, milk to buttermilk, baking powder to baking soda, butter to oil, no lemon, and a larger grate of coconut. As well as the addition of a strawberry puree reduction which I hoped would cary enough strawberry flavour to give a flavour profile similar to my out of body pancake experience.

Once again I saved my first piece for Sunday breakfast. As soon as I opened the container the scent of coconut exploded. I was really excited. My first bite was loaded with the rich, creamy flavour of coconut, followed by the subtle, perhaps muted flavour of strawberry. I quickly realized that if you didn't take your time to enjoy each bite you probably wouldn't notice the strawberry at all. Instead you would think there were just some unusual spices in the cake. Speaking of which, it was amazing how complex the combination of coconut and strawberry made the flavour of the cake seem, despite the fact that there are no added spices. The texture of the cake was pretty much perfect. Super soft and moist, similar to a good bran muffin perhaps. And even with all that coconut, you weren't constantly chewing it. Sure, there was a bit of "coconut chew" but not nearly the amount you would expect.

This cake is wonderfully light and flavourful even if I do wish their was a bit more impact from the strawberries. I think maybe doubling the amount of strawberry puree, or adding whole strawberries would help reenforce the flavour. Although, I'm not a fan of using a sauce or frosting there maybe an argument to be made in this case. Regardless, in the end it's a pretty great cake. I mean I did eat three pieces :). Though in order to perfect the flavours, I think I'm going to have to make a few more trips to the Pancake Factory. For, you know, research.


Coconut Strawberry Coffee Cake

Inspired by Norval Pancake Factory and Farmgirl Fare

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (325g)
2 cups unsweetened medium shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar (134g)
2 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter milk**
1/4 canola oil, or any neutral vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

** Alternatively substitute 1/2 cup milk less 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp vinegar. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes

Strawberry Puree Reduction

Adapted from eHow

1 lbs strawberries, fresh or frozen, sliced
1/4 cup sugar (50g)

Add strawberries to food processor and run until no chunks of strawberries remain. You should have approximately 1 1/2 cups of puree

Preheat oven to 350F and line the bottom of a 9" square cake pan with parchment paper and grease pan.

Pour puree into a small saucepan and add sugar. Place over medium heat until puree reaches a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until puree has reduced by a third (1 cup remaining). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl add flour baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine. Add coconut and whisk until completely combined.

In a large bowl add cooled puree reduction, sugar, buttermilk, and oil and whisk until completely combined. Add egg and whisk until combined.

Add dry ingredients to wet stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean (this took me 32 minutes).

Allow to cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely.


  1. I read your review of the Pancake Factory--it sounds like such a wonderful place! The Perkins that used to be near my home and some NJ diners had the same feel, but in the last 10 years the food has gone downhill. It sounds like Factory still has that homey touch! That's so funny how you were thinking of coconut and they suddenly introduced coconut pancakes!

    The cake looks wonderful--I bet it would be great with jam or baked with a ribbon of jam throughout the middle. You know why I couldn't eat it as written ;) but I do like plain berry coffee cake...

  2. Yum! Your cake looks awesome! I would love to try coconut pancakes with warm strawberry syrup!