I’m feeling rather tropical as of late. Must be the heat or maybe its the 24-hour cycle of Olympic events from Rio that is emanating from every electronic device I own. All this broadcasting from Copacabana Beach is making me crave tropical drinks with long straws and plastic monkey decorations like nobody’s business. A recent stop at the local produce market persuaded me to grab case of ripe mangoes bought on the cheap. I can never resist a deal. I immediately ate one warm out of the case, sticky orange juice running down my arm. The next day, I did the same thing with a cold one. I like them better cold. Two down, six to go. I made some coconut sticky rice and sliced the third one on top. Five left.
Five left and few ideas. I started thinking about cake. Outside of some particularly bad, over-gelatinized hotel buffet desserts, I couldn’t recall having a mango cake. Recipe digging turned up a lovely sounding mango loaf cake by the ever-reliable Dorie Greenspan. It called for 2 cups of chopped mango, which sounded like a lot. I was judging recipe potential by which used the most mango and I think we were on to something here. Plus it’s Dorie. She always comes through in a bind.
Wanting more of a tropical feel, I threw in some additional things like coconut, candied ginger, allspice, changed out the vegetable oil for coconut oil and I soaked the called for raisins in rum. Because, well, it’s rum and why not? I poured the mixture into the loaf pan, sprinkled some coconut on top and shoved it in the oven on an incredibly hot evening. I do this a lot. It’s hot so I bake. A sign of insanity certainly but when I get something in my head, it’s go time.
What emerged an hour and a half later was gorgeous. Golden brown with a heavenly smell; fruity and spicy at the same time. They should make candles in this scent, I’m telling you. I couldn’t wait to slice it but waiting was a necessity else the cake fell apart. The worst thing you can do, usually, is cut a baked good open when it’s warm as there’s a great chance of moisture loss. It’s always best to resist the temptation and unfortunately it was nearly 11pm when I pulled the beauty from the oven. Tastes would have to wait.
The next morning, my apartment still full of the heady baking smells, I cut a small slice. Incredibly moist, studded with bits of fruit here and there and spiked with Caribbean flavors, I almost cried in delight. So wonderful, like a light, fruity gingerbread in a way but very summery and bright. It is a very moist cake and stayed that way for a good week. I wrapped the few remaining slices tightly, threw them in the freezer and they kept perfectly.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SAMBA THIS. The cake filled my tropical fancies perfectly, packed as it is with chunks of fresh mango, coconut, ginger, lime and dark rum. It’s as great with a cup of tea as it is tucked inside a lunch bag. Every so often, you want to eat a little something that reminds you of happy times in tropical places or, if you don’t have those memories, makes you want to create some. This is that cake. As an extra special bonus, the incredible moistness give the cake fantastic keeping qualities.
Seven years ago: At the market, Herbal Infused Simple Syrups, Summer Corn Pudding
Six years ago: Peach Blackberry Cobbler
Five years ago: Life in Southwest France
Four years ago: Sleeping It Off in Gascony
Three years ago: Prosciutto Stuffed Figs
Two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
Last year: Carrot Green & Parmesan Bites
FRESH MANGO COCONUT TEACAKE – adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe in “Baking from My Home to Yours”
Given the moistness of the finished cake, it’s really important to make sure you bake it all the way through. Dorie taught me a nifty trick here to keep the bottom from becoming two brown – stack two sheet pans for an extra layer of insulation. Genius I tell you. Depending on your loaf pan, you may need to go longer than a 90 minute bake time. Be patient and let it run it’s course or you’ll have a gooey center.
½ cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons dark rum
3 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup coconut oil, melted until just liquid if needed
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoons ground allspice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 cups diced mangos (from 1 large peeled and pitted mango)
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest (from 1 lime)
½ cup shredded coconut + 2 Tablespoons for the top
¼ cup candied ginger, chopped
- In a small saucepan, bring the rum to a boil, remove from the heat, add the raisins, stirring to coat and let steep until needed.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° Line an 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pan with a sling of parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray. Put the pan on two stacked sheet pans (or one insulated sheet pan if you have that) – the extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from over baking. Genius.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and coconut oil together.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
- Rub the brown sugar between your palms into the bowl, breaking up any lumps, then stir in.
- Pour the egg/oil mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until blended- the batter will be very thick (really more like a dough than a batter) and not easily mixed, but persevere, it will soon come together.
- Stir in the mango, plumped raisins, lime zest, ½ cup coconut and candied ginger.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Sprinkle the 2 Tablespoons of coconut on top.
- Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean. Check at the one-hour mark – if the top looks like it’s browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
- After 5 minutes, run a knife around the ends without the parchment and gently unmold. Invert the loaf and cool to room temperature on the rack.
- The bread will keep, tightly wrapped, for several days.