These coconut orange mini cakes may be ‘mini’ but they have the taste of a cake giant. Fluffy yet dense sponge chock-full of dessicated coconut. Silky and rich ultra orange-y buttercream. Smooth orange curd with just the right amount of tartness. Textures galore. These mini cakes have the ability to transport you to an exotic island where you can enjoy the feeling of sand between you toes and the heat of the sun on your skin, all in a single bite.
How many people are already fed up with winter? Raise your hand. That many (on the northern hemisphere, at least)? Thought so. It’s all wet and cold and dreary and not nice at all. Oh, you’re not from the UK and all you can see is brilliant sunshine and fluffy snow and it’s all basically straight from a fairytale? Well, good for you. For the rest of us, I’m providing an escape – in the form of these delectable coconut orange mini cakes. They may look like adorable little heaps of fluffy snow but they taste like a vacation on an exotic island. Where it’s sunny. And pleasantly hot. And there’s a clear cerulean ocean stretching beyond the horizon. And warm sand between our toes. And also the potential hazard of a coconut falling on our heads. You know, that kind of island. You’re welcome.
These cakes may be mini, but they have the taste of a cake giant. Furthermore, mini-ness (Is that a word? Probably not but just roll with it…) for whatever reason increases the cuteness factor exponentially. Mini-ness also allows chronically indecisive people (hi there) to play around with many different decorating styles rather than, you know, stick to a single one. Should I cover the whole cake in coconut? Ohh, how about I make a bottom coconut border and then drizzle chocolate on top? Or or or, what if I cover just the sides in coconut and then pipe a decorative border on top and create a chocolate pool in the middle? Ohh, what if… nope, we’re stopping here. Although, a ‘naked cake’ might also be… No. That’s it. Three decorating variations. It’s actually a win-win situation: I get to indulge my indecisive tendencies, and you get three cakes for one. See – all’s well that ends well.
It’s not just the appearance game that these mini cakes are winning. If anything, they taste even better than they look. I know, it seems impossible, but it’s totally true. The sponge is fluffy, yet satisfyingly dense in that way that only dessicated coconut can provide. Have I mentioned it’s chock-full of coconut? It is. Exotic island vibe, remember? The buttercream is silky smooth and rich but also airy (How? Magic!) and ultra orange-y. The intense orange flavour comes from the orange curd and extra orange juice. To balance out the sweetness of the buttercream and to add an extra texture, we’ll also add orange curd layers in between the sponge and buttercream. The curd is just the right amount of tart, and is super citrus-y… it basically tastes like distilled sunshine. So, to summarise: fluffy yet dense coconut sponge + silky and airy orange buttercream + smooth and slightly tart orange curd. Are you in love yet?
Texture is often (too often) overlooked in both baking and cooking. It’s not just all about taste, folks! Texture gives an extra dimension to the food and provides an additional experience – and because we don’t want our mini cakes to taste two dimensional, we’ll be layering the sponge, the buttercream, and the curd three ‘stories’ high. See, third dimension added. (Sorry, I just had to.) The dessicated coconut adds a dense crunch (if there is such a thing) to the cakes’ exterior and if you want to go a step further, the chocolate drizzle and chocolate ‘lake’ set on cooling and give a satisfying snap when you take a bite.
A quick side-note about the chocolate drizzle. Please please please don’t make the mistake I’ve made and put your cakes in the fridge to ‘help set the chocolate quicker’. You see these white lines in the photo below that thankfully look almost decorative? They’re because of the rapid temperature change. Give the chocolate the time it needs to set. Don’t rush it. Because you’ll be drizzling the chocolate onto a cold cake straight from the fridge, it will set quickly anyway. Learn from my mistakes.
This time, we’ll take the slightly longer route of making the sponge. On top of the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, we’ll also whisk the egg whites separately with some caster sugar until they transform into a spectacular glossiness that forms stiff peaks, and then gently fold them into the rest of the sponge mixture. Fluffiness is an extremely serious business.
The curd is made in the usual way with heating the orange juice, sugar and butter over gently simmering water, and then an egg, some egg yolks and cornflour are added. Two things here: firstly, cornflour usually isn’t a curd component, but we’ll be adding it in this case because we want our curd extra-thick so that it doesn’t cause the buttercream to become runny. Secondly, don’t make the mistake of over-heating the orange juice mixture and then adding the eggs. I’m sure you can imagine the disaster that results. Add the eggs immediately after the butter has only just melted, whisking vigorously as you do so.
The buttercream is same old, same old. Butter, icing sugar, milk… I won’t bore you with the details. You’ll notice that I’m giving quite a wide range for how much milk to add. It’s all winter’s fault. You see, even with heating, it’s inevitably colder in the kitchen. (At least here it is.) So the butter doesn’t go fully soft at ‘room temperature’ and in order to get a soft easily-spreadable buttercream, I’ve had to add more milk. If you’re a lucky… person… and live in a warmer climate, just add less milk.
When it comes to how you decorate the coconut orange mini cakes, I leave it all up to you. Decorate them all in the same way, or follow my indecisive lead and make them all different. Smother them in coconut, or chocolate, or go minimalist and leave them ‘naked’ or just covered in buttercream. As always, go nuts. Later on, when you take a piece and savour the flavours of coconut and orange intermingling, enjoy the feeling of sand between your toes, the sounds of the waves on the cerulean ocean, and the heat of the sun on your skin. Who knew that the answer to teleportation was a piece of a coconut orange mini cake?
COCONUT ORANGE MINI CAKES
- 150 g unsalted butter, softened
- 200 g caster sugar, divided
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 eggs, egg yolks and egg whites separated
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 240 g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 50 g dessicated coconut
- 6 – 7 tbsp milk
For orange curd:
- juice of 2 large oranges
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 75 g caster sugar
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 1 egg + 4 egg yolks
- 2 1/2 tbsp cornflour (Note 1)
- 2 1/2 tbsp warm water
- 350 g unsalted butter, softened
- 350 g icing sugar, sifted
- 2 – 8 tbsp milk (Note 2)
- 2/3 of prepared orange curd (see above)
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- dessicated coconut (about 75 – 100 g)
- chocolate (melt about 50 g of ~75% chocolate with 2 g unsalted butter, leave to cool to room temperature)
- orange zest
For coconut sponge:
Preheat oven to 175 ºC (350 ºF) and like a baking tray with greaseproof/baking paper. Use a shallow baking tray (I've used a 10 x 14" tray 1 inch deep).
Cream together butter, 1/2 of caster sugar and vanilla extract.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition.
Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and add the dessicated coconut. Mix well.
Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until well incorporated.
Mix in the milk.
Add the remaining 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix until well incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix (otherwise the sponge can become rubbery).
Add lemon juice to egg whites and whisk them until frothy.
Add the remaining 1/2 of caster sugar to egg whites and whisk until stiff peaks just start to form.
Add 1/3 of the meringue mixture into the sponge mixture and mix well. (Note 3)
Fold the remaining 2/3 of the meringue mixture carefully into the sponge mixture until well-incorporated. Do not over-mix (otherwise you lose the meringue's "fluff effect").
Transfer the sponge mix into the baking tray, levelling and smoothing out the surface.
Bake at 175 ºC (350 ºF) for 25 – 30 min or until golden and a skewer/toothpick comes out clean.
Leave the sponge to cool completely before assembling the cakes.
For orange curd:
Add orange juice, lemon juice, caster sugar and butter to a heat-proof bowl and heat over a pot of gently simmering water until the butter is just melted.
Whisk together the egg, egg yolks, cornflour and water until you obtain a smooth paste.
Slowly add the egg mixture to the orange juice mixture, whisking vigorously until well-combined.
Heat the curd over gently simmering water for 10 – 13 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture at the end should be creamy and thick.
Leave to cool. To prevent the top layer from forming a 'skin' or crust, cover the bowl with cling film.
Using either a hand mixer with whisk attachments, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat/whisk butter and 1/2 of icing sugar for 5 minutes on medium to high speed (increase the speed slowly to avoid having the kitchen covered in icing sugar).
Add 2 tbsp of milk and the other 1/2 of icing sugar. Beat/whisk the mixture on medium to high speed for about 10 minutes until pale an fluffy.
Add 2/3 of the prepared curd and orange juice, mixing until well-incorporated.
If your kitchen is too cold and your buttercream seems too stiff, add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time, beating/whisking well after each addition.
Assembling the cakes and decoration:
Cut circles out of the sponge using round cookie cutters (I've used a round cookie cutter about 2 3/4" in diameter, which gave me four 3-layer cakes and lots of yummy off-cuts for snacking on).
Assemble the cake layers in the sequence: sponge, buttercream, curd, sponge, buttercream, curd, sponge.
Cover the top and sides of the mini cakes with a smooth layer of buttercream (or go rustic and not-smooth, whatever floats your boat).
Cover the cake with dessicated coconut as desired, and/or pipe decorative borders with buttercream.
If you use chocolate for decorating, refrigerate the cakes for at least 1/2 hour before drizzling them with chocolate. (Note 4)
The cakes keep well in the fridge or in a cool dry place for 3 – 4 days (they won't, though).
Note 1: Cornflour usually isn’t a curd component, but we’ll be adding it in this case because we want our curd extra-thick so that it doesn’t cause the buttercream to become runny.
Note 2: The amount of milk in buttercream depends on the temperature of your kitchen and therefore how soft your butter is.
Note 3: The first 1/3 of meringue mixture doesn't need to be added carefully. It's a "sacrificial" amount that serves to loosen up the sponge mix.
Note 4: Refrigeration ensures that the cakes are cold enough for the chocolate drizzle to set quickly, rather than dripping all the way to the bottom of the cake.
In the mood for more orange yumminess? Why not try The Ultimate Orange Cookies?