A Series of Unfortunate Bites: Uncle Monty’s Coconut Cake

The second book in The Series of Unfortunate Events was labeled The Reptile Room. It spoke about the Baudelaire orphan’s experiences in Lousy Lane, a street by Tedia, a city by a horseradish factory. They lived with their uncle, Montgomery Montgomery, or uncle Monty for short. He was a passionate herpetologist and a kindhearted guardian to the orphans. One of the things he often loves to prepare was a coconut cream cake, which included layers of white cake, sandwiching a light, creamy coconut mousse, covered with toasted coconut flakes. I was a picky kid growing up, and I didn’t like coconut, that is, until reading this book and hearing that description about this light, fluffy coconut cake with rich coconut cream, topped with toasted, crunchy coconut. I couldn’t help it. Lemony Snicket’s writing made ingredients that were off-putting to children sound desirable, whether it be anchovies in the puttanesca or coconut in this cake.

For the most part, I tried to just inject as much coconut flavor as I could into every component. The cake uses coconut oil so that it’ll have that flavor profile, while I made a soaking liquid with coconut water so that the cake will stay moist and still have an intense coconut flavor. I’ve provided two mousse recipes, one that is more like a panna cotta using the more flavor-intense coconut cream, and one that is lighter and more mousse-like, similar to the cream topping described in the book, using coconut milk. And no, it’s not because I fucked up and bought the wrong coconut-based dairy substitute and tried to make do with it. Shut up and just enjoy the recipe.

Ovo-Vegetarian: Contains eggs but no meat or fish.

Coconut Cream Cake: Makes 8 servings
3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract*
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
toasted coconut flakes*


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Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whip the eggs, extract, salt, and sugar for 10 minutes, or until it is ribbon-thick. In a bowl, whip the coconut oil until it is soft and airy. Fold part of the whipped eggs into the oil. Sift in the flour into the remainder of the whipped eggs, and fold all of the egg mixtures together. Spray a 9×9 cake pan, and pour the batter inside. Bake for 30 minutes.

To toast the coconut flakes, take coconut flakes, spread them on a baking sheet, and bake for 5 minutes.

Coconut Water Syrup:
1 cup coconut water

Reduce the coconut water by 3/4ths over high heat. Set aside and cool.

Coconut Mousse:
1 can cream of coconut (15 oz)
1 tablespoon gelatin + 2 tablespoons cold coconut water
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a pot, heat the coconut cream. Combine gelatin and coconut water and chill in the refrigerator until it’s solidified (bloomed). Melt the gelatin into the coconut cream and all purpose flour. Heat on high heat and whisk and until it’s thick, about 5 minutes of whisking. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator. Whip heavy cream until stiff and fold into thickened coconut mixture.

Alternatively, if you want a fluffier mousse:
1 can coconut milk (chilled)
1 tablespoon gelatin + 2 tablespoons cold coconut water
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Skim the set top of the coconut milk and set aside. With the residual liquid, heat over a pot with the bloomed gelatin. Reduce by half and allow to cool until thickened and solidified (and room temperature). Whisk heavy cream into stiff peaks. Fold cream, and then the reserved coconut milk topping. Allow to cool before using.


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Assembly: Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from pan. Slice the cooled cake in half using a bread knife. Transfer the bottom of the cake to a plate, lined with parchment paper. Brush or spoon the coconut syrup on the lower layer of the cake. Spread the chilled coconut cream onto the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top, and spoon more of the syrup onto the top layer. Cover with more coconut mousse, and set in the fridge. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Slice and serve chilled.

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