Results tagged cake from David Lebovitz

Absinthe Cake Recipe

When I told Luc-Santiago from Vert d’Absinthe here in Paris that I didn’t like anise very much (or, stupid me, how long have I lived in Paris? I should have said, “I don’t appreciate anise very much.”), I wished I had my camera cocked-and-ready, as the look on his face was priceless. While I appreciate the culture and mystique of Absinthe and its cousin pastis, I’m not a fan of anise-based drinks.

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But luckily I am a fan of anise-baked anything, and do like that flavor when baked in cakes and cookies, such as biscotti and the like. I had a suspicion that a buttery cake with a healthy shot of Absinthe in the batter, then more Absinthe added as a crunchy glaze would be a success…and it was! Happily, the flavor of anise goes amazingly well with chocolate too, so feel free to pair this with a favorite Chocolate Ice Cream or a dark, slick chocolate sauce.

But it’s also lovely with a compote made of fresh or dried apricots, or a Nectarine and Cherry Compote. During the winter, I plan to make a colorful fruit salad of navel and blood oranges with a few rounds of tangy kumquats to serve alongside, since I’m suspicious of that green bottle on my shelf, with an alcohol content of 72%, may fall and explode. (Now that would have made a good opening for an episode of Six Feet Under.) But mostly I enjoy serving this Absinthe Cake all on its own and if you make it, I’m sure it won’t fail to get your guests full attention no matter how you serve it.

If you don’t have a convenient source for finely-ground pistachio meal, you can use almond meal (sometimes called almond flour). I’ve tested this cake with stone-ground cornmeal too, which provided a nice crunch, but Parisian friends found it a tad unusual since they’re not really used to desserts, or anything else, with cornmeal.

And I didn’t have any candied angelica on hand (like, who does?), but next time I make this cake, I’m definitely going to add a handful of finely-chopped angelica to the batter. I think tiny flecks of green flitting around in this cake would be rather festive and certainly in the spirit of le fée verte, aka; The Green Fairy, oui?

If you live in a country where you don’t have the freedom to get Absinthe, move. Aside from that, write a letter to your highest-ranking elected official whose job it is to protect the good of society from such ills, you can substitute an anise-scented apertif, such as Pernod, pastis, or ouzo, although they don’t have that sublime, sneaky herbaceous flavor and aroma found in true Absinthe. The other downside is that you won’t see any green fairies floating around your kitchen…which may, or may not, be a good thing…depending on which highest-ranking elected official you last voted for, I suppose.

Oops, and before I step down down from my high-horse, I do recommend that you use Rumford baking powder, or a similar brand, that doesn’t contain any aluminum. Most natural-food stores and Trader Joe’s carry aluminum-free baking powder and you’ll notice a major difference in your baking once you go aluminum-free. You’ll never miss that tinny aftertaste you get when using other brands.

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Don’t be put off by the sugary-looking glaze. As the cake cools, the glazes melds beautifully with the cake, which won raves from all who tried it.

Absinthe Cake

One 9-inch rectangular cake

From The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)

For the cake:

  • 1 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 1/4 cup (175g) cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 gr) pistachio or almond meal or (1/2 cup (70g) stoneground yellow cornmeal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably Rumford)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (105 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Absinthe
  • 1 orange, preferably unsprayed

For the Absinthe glaze:

1/4 cup (25 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) Absinthe

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Butter a 9-inch loaf pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a mortar and pestle or spice mill, grind the anise seeds until relatively fine. Whisk together the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and anise seeds. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, until they’re completely incorporated.

4. Mix together the milk and Absinthe with a few swipes of grated orange zest.

5. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the beaten butter, then the milk and Absinthe mixture.

6. By hand, stir in the other half of the dry ingredients until just smooth (do not overmix). Smooth the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

7. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool 30 minutes.

8. To glaze the cake with Absinthe, use a toothpick and poke 50 holes in the cake. In a small bowl, gently stir together the 1/4 cup (25 g) sugar, and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of Absinthe until just mixed. (You can add a bit of orange zest here if you’d like too.)
Be sure not to let the sugar dissolve too much!

9. Remove the cake from the loaf pan, peel off the parchment paper, and set the cake on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

10. Spoon some of the Absinthe glaze over the top and sides of the cake, allowing it to soak the top and spill down the sides a bit. Continue until all the glaze is used up.

(Note: The photo at the top was this cake, but baked in an individual-sized cake mold.)



Related Links

Absinthe Ice Cream

The Sweet Life in Paris

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate

Jean-Charles Rochoux has perhaps the tiniest chocolate shop in Paris, located on an unassuming side street off the Rue de Rennes. It’s hard to see and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But what causes most passers-by to stop are the window displays, filled with intricately-sculpted statues and figures, crafted entirely of chocolate.

M. Rochoux spent many years in the workshop of Michel Chaudun, one of the best chocolatiers in Paris. And indeed, a look around this sleek boutique reveals much inspiration from M. Chaudin, including his version of Colomb, little disks of chocolate studded with cocoa nibs, and Les Pavés, tiny cubes of chocolate ganache that instantly dissolve in your mouth, the lingering pleasure lasting a few precious minutes. Then you decide it’s time for another. I always buy at least six at a time for that reason.

But stacked discretely in the corner are stacks of chocolate bars, and after we had a lengthy discussion on chocolate one day, M. Rochoux handed me a tablet labeled noisettes to take home as a gift. When I got home, I tore open the wrapper and took a bite.
I was completely surprised by what I found inside.

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Each individual roasted hazelnut was coated in crunchy, crackly caramel, then enrobed in the chocolate bar. The contrast of hyper-crisp hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate makes this my new favorite chocolate bar in Paris.

Although I love finding something new, sometimes I have the opportunity to discover something nearly forgotten.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon, in the city of Lyon.

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Bernachon’s Signature Cake: ‘Le President’

Not only does Bernachon make great chocolates, they actually make the chocolate itself. Let’s say you go to a shop to buy filled chocolates, or bars of chocolate. You’re buying chocolate that the chocolatier has bought (and perhaps mixed to his or her specifications). That’s the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate-maker. There are very few chocolate-makers in the world, only 14 exist in the United States at present. Bernachon is a small shop, but it’s stunning what they’re able to produce.

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Piping ‘Couronne Noisette': Hazelnut and Praline Paste Blended with Milk Chocolate

I love Bernachon chocolate, although it’s nearly impossible to find outside of their shop in Lyon. But what great chocolate it is and it’s certainly worth the 2-hour TGV ride from Paris.

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‘Les Roches’, Just-Dipped in Freshly-Made Dark Chocolate

Their most famous bonbons are the seriously-rich, ganache-filled palets d’Or flecked with bits of real gold. At the shop, they barely have time to keep them in the showcase, as customers come in, the saleswomen fill boxes directly from the decades-old wooden storage trays.

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A Super-Skilled Chocolatier at Bernachon Making Chocolate Ruffles

But when I visit, I stock up on their chocolate bars, which allow me to commune with the pure chocolate all by my lonesome. I like the Nuit et Jour, the Night and Day bar, where one side is bittersweet dark chocolate. Flip it over, the reverse is smooth milk chocolate. Moka is made by grinding roasted coffee beans along with cocoa beans for a double-buzz, and Extra Amer is a super-dark bar of chocolate with very little sugar. It’s bliss for some, and too intense for others.I fall into the first category. But my absolute favorite is Kalouga.

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Kalouga is a rather funny name for a chocolate bar. It’s the Basque word for ‘Caramel’ (any scholars of the Basque language out there?) But I found the Basque word for tasty, gustagarri, and that’s what this is. I first tasted one of these bars about 5 years ago, but was dismayed to find they stopped making it since. Too much of the luscious caramel would begin oozing out after the tablets were made and it was problematic to store them.

But I kept asking them to make them, and word got back to them that there was an American living in Paris who was insane for them. And lo and behold, they’re back in production! (Yes, that was the story I was told…whether or not I believe it is another story…)
Either way, you may thank me later…once you’ve tried one.

Once you bite inside, the gooey salted caramel immediately begins spilling out, and it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once. If you’re the generous type, I recommend opening it when you have a bunch of friends over to share the bounty.

Otherwise, you can just eat the whole thing yourself.

Guess which I did?

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Paris
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

Bernachon
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Lyon
Tél: 04 78 52 67 77
Lyon

(Bernachon chocolate bars are available in Paris at A l’Etoile d’Or.)

Pâtisserie Arnaud Larher

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The worst thing about the pâtisserie of Arnaud Larher is that it’s too dang far away from where I live. Located on the northern fringes of Montmarte, it takes me 3 different métros to get there, and even then, it’s a hike from the métro station (which is buried very, very deep underground, since that quartier of Paris is mostly soft limestone, aka plaster of Paris, and building the métro stations at Montmarte required extremely deep digging into the earth to reach solid ground.)

The best thing, though, is once I arrive, I forget the arduous journey when I see all the terrific cakes and candies and treats waiting for me…

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I made my first trip ‘up the mountain’ a few years back to check out his Croq-Télé, round buttery cookies with roasted hazelnuts and a nice amount of salt, meant to be consumed while watching television. His macarons are a tad dense for my taste, but the chocolate-covered guimauve, or French marshmallows, are yummy.

And although they’re hard to spot tucked in between the riot of chocolates and bonbons tied in neat little bags on the shelves, the Pavés de Montmartre, golden squares of almond cake wrapped in a sheath of almond paste then briefly cooked, augmenting the almondy richness, are one of the most singularly (and simply) stunning cakes in Paris. No small feat, in a city with no lack of stunning desserts.

Arnaud Larher
53, rue Caulaincourt
Paris
Mètro: Lamark Caulaincourt

Kugelhof Recipe

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One thing that does seem to cross international lines successfully is baking.
I never visit a country without sampling their baking. I visit bakeries and want to try everything, from Mexico’s delicious tortillas served warm with butter, to Indian naan breads just from a tandoori oven.

Here in France during the winter, the windows of pastry shops are lined with all sizes of Galettes de Rois, disks of caramelized puff pastry filled with almond paste. Alsation bakers offer sweet, doughyGugelhofs with plumped raisins and toasted almonds with freshly-grated citrus peel. And even though the world is mired in cultural misunderstandings, wars, and hostility, perhaps the United Nations might consider sending an International Baking Brigade around the world to promote cross-cultural baking traditions.

So while that ain’t likely to happen in my lifetime, I was thrilled to receive a new book from Nick Malgieri of baking recipes from around the world. I was fortunate to meet Nick years ago when I was starting my career writing cookbooks and he was overtly generous giving me advice about writing and publishing. Fortunately for bakers everywhere, Nick shares his vast knowledge of baking in his many well-written books. He perhaps knows more about baking than anyone I’ve ever met and is one of my heroes.

His latest cookbook, A Baker’s Tour, is a terrific and comprehensive overview of the world’s most delicious baked goods.

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So when last week I trekked out to Vandermeersch for their amazing Kugelhof, I was distressed to learn they’re only available on weekends. (Of course, being in France, if I had gone out, say…Thursday, I would have discovered, “Desolé Monsieur, We make kugelhofs every day…except Thursday.”)

I was delighted to find a recipe in Nick’s book and decided to bake a yeasty Kugelhof myself. It also gave me also the opportunity to use the beautiful ceramic Alsatian Kugelhof mold that I found while pickling through some neglected boxes at a vide grenier, a neighborhood flea market, a few weeks ago in Paris.

Nick calls this a Gugelhof, which is the Austrian name for this cake. He advises to measure flour by spooning it into a graduated measuring cup, then leveling it off. I made an orange flower water syrup to soak the cake, an inspiration from Vandermeersch bakery, as suggested in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Paris Sweets.

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Kugelhof

Adapted from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri and Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan.

Sponge

½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (not instant)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Dough

  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (see note below)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, for lining the cake pan

One 6- to 8-cup kugelhof pan (or you can use a bundt pan)

1. Maker the sponge by warming the milk over low heat in a small saucepan until it’s tepid. Pour into a bowl, and mix in the yeast then the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the raisins and the rum, then set aside.

3. In a standing electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt with the paddle attachment until soft and light, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla.

4. Beat in the egg yolks until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, add the sponge, then beat another minute.

5. Drain the raisins then beat the rum into the dough, then beat in the flour. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes and let rest for 10 minutes.

6. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes.

7. Slowly beat in the raisins and chopped almonds.

8. Scrape the dough into a butter bowl and turn it so the top is buttered. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough just begins to puff, about 20 minutes.

9. Butter the kugelhof mold well the scatter the sliced almonds over the inside of the mold, turning to coat it evenly.

10. Scrape the dough into the kugelhof mold and cover with a towel or buttered plastic wrap.

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Let rise until doubled.

11. About 15 minutes before the dough is fully risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the kugelhof until it’s well-risen, and deep golden, about 40-45 minutes.

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Cool the kugelhof for 10 minutes, then unmold.

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To make a nice, moist syrupy glaze; bring 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar to a boil. Remove from heat once the sugar is dissolved and add 1 ½ teaspoons orange flower water and 2 tablespoons finely ground almonds (optional, but good).
Liberally brush the syrup all over, on top of, and around the cake.

Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Note: To peel your own almonds, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the untoasted almonds and let cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drain. Once the almonds are cool enough to handle, the skins will slip right off.

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Toast the almonds until golden brown for best flavor before using. I snap one in half to make sure they’re crispy all the way through.

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Most nuts benefit from being toasted in a 350° oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

Continue Reading Kugelhof Recipe…

James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread Recipe

persimmon bread recipe

Like most Americans, I’ve discovered that French people also aren’t so familiar with persimmons either. They see them at the market, but don’t stop to buy any. Or if they do, they take them home, bite into an unripe one, make a face, and toss ‘em out.

One of my friends living north of San Francisco in Sonoma County had a enormous persimmon tree. Each fall, the leaves would drift off the tree, leaving bright orange globes of fruit dangling off the sparse branches. The beautiful, gnarled wood was quite a contrast to the smooth, brilliantly-colored orbs of fruit. (The wood of the persimmon tree is not just beautiful but it’s prized by makers of many of the finest golf clubs in the world and is considered superior to most others woods or man-made materials.)

Persimmon Bread recipe

The most common persimmon you’re likely to find is the Hachiya, a slightly elongated fruit that tapers to a point. They’re incredibly tannic and astringent when not ripe and need to be squishy-soft and feel like a full water-balloon before using, or you’ll be sorry. Once ripe, the sweet jelly-like pulp can be spooned out and pureed through a blender, food processor, or food mill, although some folks like to eat it as is or frozen. The pulp freezes beautifully, and in fact, I’ll often freeze some for late-winter use. To ripen a Hachiya persimmon, simply let it sit on your countertop until it’s so soft, it’s like a water balloon about to burst. You can hasten the process by putting persimmons in a well-sealed container; adding an apple, which give off a lot of ethyline gas, which will speed things up.

The other common persimmon is the Fuyu, which is more squat than the Hachiya and matte-orange. Unlike the Hachiya, the Fuyu is meant to be eaten hard and is delightfully crunchy. I peel them, then mix pieces into an autumnal fruit salad along with dates, slices of Comice pears, pomegranate seeds and yes…even some bits of prunes!

Finding recipes for using persimmons can be difficult. I invented a recipe for a quick Persimmon Cake for my book Room For Dessert, which I make often for Thanksgiving. And I also like James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, a nifty recipe from his classic book on breadmaking, Beard on Bread, published over 30 years ago.

persimmons sifting

I was fortunate to meet James Beard several times when he came to dinner at Chez Panisse. In the years after he passed away, we’d get all sorts of celebrity chefs breezing through our kitchen. Many of them were hyped, media-created hotshot superchefs who I never found as interesting as people like James Beard, Jane Grigson, and Richard Olney, who were really wonderful writers.

The most charming thing about this simple Persimmon Bread recipe is that Beard gives bakers an inexact amount of an ingredient: sugar. So go ahead just this one time to improvise a little. Although I recommend using the higher amount of sugar, feel free to use whichever quantity you’d like…after all, you have permission from the granddaddy of all cooks, James Beard himself.

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Persimmon Bread

Two 9-inch (23cm) Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

  • 3½ cups sifted flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey
  • 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

2. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.

3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

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German Chocolate Cake Recipe

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Although Germany is famous for tall, multi-layered torten with alternating layers of cream, cake, fruit, nuts, beer, sausages, etc…German Chocolate Cake is decidedly the result of good-old American ingenuity. Deep, dark chocolate cake is layered with a rich filling of toasty coconut and pecans, then glazed with a slick, bittersweet chocolate icing. It’s based on a recipe using Bakers™ Chocolate, a company which employed Samuel German in 1852, hence the name. The first version of German’s Chocolate Cake—of which the apostrophe is part of the original name, was created in the mid 1950’s.

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This is the best version of this classic dessert by far. It’s a slight variation of the fine recipe from my pastry pal Mary Jo Thoresen, who I worked with for many years at Chez Panisse.

German Chocolate Cake

One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

For the cake:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted

For the syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum

For the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ ounces unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.

4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.

7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.

8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake layers completely.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling:

1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.

2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)

3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

To make the syrup:

1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.

To make the icing:

1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.

2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.

To assemble the cake:

Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.
Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.

Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

(It may seem like a lot of chocolate icing, but use it all. Trust me. You won’t be sorry.)