Going coconuts!

Photo by Keri White

I adore coconut. I love the flavor and texture, and I love that it is vegan/pareve and can be used to make delicious nondairy desserts.

I love that it is versatile and is spectacular on its own but also pairs well with chocolate and fruit and caramel and vanilla … need I go on? I think not.

The desserts below reflect my admiration of this delicious drupe (yes, drupe; that is the classification of fruit that coconut falls into.) The first recipe is a riff on tres leches cake and, although this version is dairy as it contains condensed milk, this ingredient can be swapped out for “cream of coconut,” a sweetened, syrupy coconut product. Be sure to pay attention to the different coconut cans — cream of coconut is sweet; coconut cream is a richer, fattier unsweetened coconut milk; and coconut milk is also unsweetened.

Dos leches cake

Makes 1 square cake, about 9 servings


For the cake:
2 cups cake flour or sifted all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
½ cup coconut oil
(microwave for 10 seconds to make it liquid)
¾ cup granulated sugar
4½ tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coconut extract

For the dos leches soak:
1 cup sweetened condensed milk or cream of coconut
1 cup unsweetened coconut cream or coconut milk,
well stirred to an even consistency

For the toasted coconut topping:
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Heat your oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-inch square pan.

Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Mix the water, coconut oil, sugar, vinegar, vanilla and coconut extracts in a small bowl.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to blend.

Pour it into the pan, and bake it for 30-35 minutes. When the center springs back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean, it is done.

Cool the cake completely and poke the top of the cake with a chopstick or fork to make holes all over to allow the “leches” to soak it.

While the cake cools, mix the dos leches soak ingredients, making sure that the texture is even and smooth. When the cake is completely cool, slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake, letting it seep into the holes.

While the cake is “soaking,” toast the flaked coconut. Heat a large, nonstick skillet on medium-high, and pour the coconut in the pan. It should be spread in a single layer; do in two batches if the coconut is too deep. Stir with a spatula constantly as the coconut toasts; watch it carefully, as it goes from raw to burnt quickly. When the coconut is golden brown and crisp, remove it from the pan and let it cool on a plate.

When you are ready to serve the cake, sprinkle the toasted coconut over the top.

Coconut rice pudding

Serves 2 generously

This is a great thing to do with leftover rice. It is also pareve/vegan, which makes it a useful dessert for kosher diners looking for a creamy rich pudding after a meat meal.
It is delightful served warm, equally lovely cold and can stand alone, be topped with fresh fruit, a drizzle of chocolate, some chopped nuts or toasted coconut (see above recipe for technique). Adding a scoop of coconut oil at the end brings a richness and depth to the pudding, but if you are cutting fat and calories, this can be omitted.

1 cup cooked rice (I used basmati because it was
left over from my Indian dinner)
1 can coconut milk, well stirred
⅓ cup brown sugar or white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon coconut extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ cup toasted flaked coconut

Mix the rice, coconut milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a simmer, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Remove it from the heat, and add the extract and coconut oil; stir.

Serve warm or chilled, topped with toasted coconut.

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