Is it cake yet? Or the zombie apocalypse! Either way, first get your machete…


Tools of the coconut trade, facão (machete) and zombie brain spike, coconut water.

So I sprained my back a little yesterday working in the garden, and since sitting still for too long makes it feel worse, I decided on therapy through cake since baking keeps you upright and moving without any lifting, plus, duh, CAKE! Needless to say, Gary and his sweet tooth approved (he is the one asking, “Is it cake yet?”)

And because I wanted coconut cake, and we live in rural Bahia, my first step was not to find flour and sugar but to go get the facão (means big knife in portugese). At this point it occurred to me that getting out a machete was a funny way to start cake, unless it’s the zombie apocalypse or you take cake WAY too seriously, but it’s also fairly typical of our daily life here, and with a sore back and rainy weather I might as well bake and blog, so here we are.

So the reason I needed the facão was I had plenty of fresh grated coconut in the freezer from the last cake, but I needed coconut water also, so I grabbed the machete and headed out into the garden to cut one down. This is where the zombie brain spike comes in: coconuts are crazy tough! If you’ve ever seen the film Castaway, Tom Hanks’ struggle to open one is all too real, I love watching city folk here at the beach discover this themselves, it’s hysterical how they throw them around to no avail.


Cocos nucifera, with coconuts.

But the zombie brain impal-er is a solid stainless steel monster of a Christmas present from a brasileiro friend that allows you to just stab a hole into the coconut and get the water out, or stick a straw in the hole to drink the water straight out of the shell.

And we’re not the only ones who enjoy fresh coconut, whenever I go out into the yard with these tools/weapons/implements-of-murder-most-foul the dogs come running because they know they will get some also, and it’s good chewy fun while keeping a shiny coat.

So now it’s almost cake, and I’m thankful for something else: my Betty Crocker cookbook (1st edition, 7th printing 1950) that my mom bought for me in an antique shop. Not only did I grow up using my mom’s version of the cookbook, but because it comes from a simpler time, I don’t have as many problems using the recipes living abroad as they don’t call for gourmet or rare ingredients I can’t find in Brasil, or super technological gadgety kitchen equipment I don’t have.

(“Is it cake now?!”) Kickin’ it old school with fresh grated coconut and Betty Crocker (recipe @ end of post)

So after 45 minutes of fiddling with the oven temperature because my Brasilian oven only gives me wide ranges of temps, a bit of machete work, stabbing and some mixing, we have cake!


Note oven thermometer, the only way to know what temp the oven is really at, and the propane tank supply (which is delivered by bicycle). A rustic and unsophisticated setup, but it works well enough. Run and hug your digital oven and/or piped in gas provided you have it and it’s not on!

Coconut cake

3 & 1/3 cups flour
2 cups sugar (this is why sprinkles instead of frosting!!)
1 tsp. salt
6 tsp. baking powder

Sift above together then add:

1 cup soft shortening
1 & 1/3 cups coconut water
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat 2 min, then add 6 egg whites (or 3 whole eggs if you don’t need a completely white cake or hate wasting yolks) and beat additional 2 minutes.

Fold in 1 cup fresh grated coconut, pour in 9 x 11 cake pan (greased and floured) bake at 350 F for 40-45 min or until tests done. Good with fresh strawberries!

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