Coconut Chocolate Cake and Starving for Suffrage

My book club met tonight to discuss A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. As I chose the book, I brought the dessert.

I’ve been craving coconut cake, but at heart, chocolate cake is what I love best. Unable to choose, wanting to have it all, as it were, I made a chocolate coconut cake:

I am a huge fan of the Tuxedo Cake in Rebecca Rather’s Pastry Queen cookbook, so I used that recipe as the basis for this one, making two substitutions and one addition. You can find the recipe here; the blog author makes one of the subs I did, yogurt for buttermilk, although I used Fage 2%. I also used coconut oil in place of the canola oil, and added 1/2 tsp. of coconut extract along with the vanilla.

Let me say, this cake is a winner. It tastes phenomenal, and it just about the best chocolate cake you could make. Delicious. Sturdy. Substantial.

I baked it in two 10″ pans, and it domed like crazy. Looking into the reasons a cake might dome way over the top of the pan, and examining my equipment, I’m guessing that my thin metal pans were the cause. No fear. The cake is sturdy enough that I could slice off the rounded top with a serrated knife and move forward.

I made a Swiss meringue buttercream for the frosting, adding toasted coconut. I thought a butter/powdered sugar frosting would be too dense; I think a 7-minute icing with no butter might have worked just as well, but since this makes a big cake and 7-minute icings don’t do as well on the 2nd day, I went for it. As the many comments on this recipe say, cooling the meringue is key. I used an ice water bath under the mixing bowl to cool it down quickly. The toasted coconut added great texture to the overall eating experience.

I selected the book, and I enjoyed it, although I will admit that the first time I read it, I was confused and had a hard time getting the hang of it. It does not progress in a linear fashion, and I started late one night, so was a bit disoriented. Sad to say that the busier I get, the more signposting I need as far as what to expect from a book—had I read a review or two, or focused a little harder, I would’ve caught on sooner.

This is the first book I’ve read on my iPad that made me want to go back to a paper book, primarily because I flipped back and forth so often between whatever chapter I was on and the lineage in the beginning. I should’ve just written it out on a piece of paper to keep close at hand, but truthfully, I didn’t realize it was there at first!

Others in my book club didn’t find the characters very sympathetic, but perhaps it says something about my general outlook on life and politics that I felt differently about these women, living over five generations, struggling with how to live a meaningful life as a woman given the constraints of the times. I do agree with one person who suggested that a family full of people who so clearly struggle with some mental health issues (to some degree or another, and perhaps not called such during their lives) might have a hereditary chemical imbalance.

This made me want to go back to read The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper. Well, sort of, but I’m a little afraid that I’d experience those much more viscerally than I did when I read them in high school and college.

I’m glad the cake was good. It pumped up our endorphins, which we all needed!

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