This cake is wonderful for a tea party. Serve it with a selection of Asian teas, as they will complement the cake perfectly.
Asian coconut and pear cake with coconut ginger icing
- 500g sugar
- 2 litres water
- 2 lemon grass stalks, crushed
- 5 pears, peeled and cored
- 650g cake flour
- 5ml (1 tsp) baking powder
- 5ml (1 tsp) bicarbonate of soda
- a pinch of salt
- 450g sugar
- 250g butter, at room temperature
- 250ml (1 cup) coconut cream
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
- 250ml (1 cup) buttermilk
- 750g cream cheese
- 250g icing sugar
- 80g desiccated coconut
- a pinch of ground ginger
- black sesame seeds, to garnish
- fortune cookies, to garnish
- gold leaf, to garnish (see Cook’s Tips below), optional
For the pears, combine the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon grass and the pears, cover and cook until tender, about 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove the pears using a slotted spoon and cool on a cooling rack.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease 2 x 23cm cake tins with 5cm high sides with butter, and dust with flour.
For the cake, mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter and coconut cream in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. On a low speed, beat in the dry ingredients and then the buttermilk, each until just blended.
Using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.
Divide the batter between the cake tins. Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in the tins on the rack for 10 minutes, then run a small sharp knife around the sides of the tins to loosen the cakes. Turn the cakes out onto wire racks and cool completely.
In the meantime, slice the pears into thin slices lengthwise, and set aside.
For the icing, beat all the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Slice each cake widthways into two. Place one layer on a cake plate and spread a quarter of the icing over the cake. Scatter some sesame seeds over the icing and top with slices of pears. Add the second layer and repeat until all the layers are stacked up. Spread the remaining icing over the top of the cake and garnish with fortune cookies and gold leaf, if using.
Gold leaf is available from most major art stores. Note that only genuine 22 carat gold leaf is edible (composite gold leaf is not edible). In Johannesburg, try Herbert Evans in Rosebank, 011-447-3262. Use the leftover poaching liquid to mix with your favourite spirits for cocktails, or reduce it to make a flavoured syrup to garnish dessert plates with.