In October of 2018 I was fortunate enough to take a trip on the Sea Cloud from Valletta to Naples. The Sea Cloud was the private sailing ship built in 1931 for socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. We made several stops in Sicily, saw the volcano Stromboli put on a night show of eruption, swam in the Mediterranean off the ship and stopped at the Ionian island of Lipari. After docking in Naples we transferred to Sorrento where we stayed in a lovely hotel, the villa Cocumella, with its own organic garden. The breakfast was an exquisite array of fruits, meats, cheeses, breads and cakes. One taste of the coconut cake and I knew I needed to at least try to get the recipe. I asked our delightful tour guide Claudia if there was some way I could get it. What a lovely surprise at breakfast the following day when the chef handed me the recipe. It is very easy to make and has never failed me except once. In homage to where I got the recipe, I call it Sorrento coconut cake.
In March of 2019 I was at Rancho la Puerta and was eyeing some items in the Mercato, their gift shop. The Ranch had recently set up a chocolate making enterprise and were selling their products. I found a very attractive little bag of cacao nibs and brought them home. At some point I decided my coconut cake would be quite delicious with some chocolate mixed in. As it was baking I decided to taste one of the nibs, something I should have done sooner. And that is when I learned that cacao nibs are not chocolate chips but actually shards of cacao beans. They are quite bitter and not at all appealing in the cake. Sadly, I had to trash the cake and begin again - without chocolate.
I wanted to bake a cake in our quarantine but really felt we did not need something very rich. Somehow, having a supply of chocolate chip cookies or shortbread seemed too decadent to have sitting around. I thought the coconut cake would be an appealing and modestly healthier alternative.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a bowl mix until combined:
8 ounce package of unsweetened grated coconut
1/3 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/3 cup milk
4 ounces oil or melted butter or oil
Prepare a 9 inch springform pan by buttering the sides and lining with baking parchment
Pour mixture into pan and bake 30 minutes or until top is browned about 30 minutes
If you have real chocolate chips, not cacao nibs, they make a nice addition