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Gemini Dinner Party Blog


Stephen Doyle

Old fashioned coconut cake by Bianca Phillips (

This cake is best served as a dessert and can be varied to suit your tastes. Either version of this cake ie European (with cream or custard) or Asian style (with citrus palm sugar syrup and/or coconut cream) tastes great. It is my adaptation of Jane Grigson's upside down apricot and almond cake.

6 ripe pears (peeled, halved and cored)

25 cm cake tin well buttered (approximately 60 gms)


220 g unsalted (or salt reduced) butter

grated rind of 1 lemon

190 g castor sugar

120 g self raising flour

110 g desiccated coconut (can substitute almond meal)

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

4 large eggs, beaten


100 g sugar (or grated palm sugar)

3T water

Put the sugar and water in a pot on the heat and stir only until the sugar is dissolved. With a wet brush clean down any sugar grains that stick to the sides of the pot.

Cook until it becomes a deep golden brown, pour it carefully over the base and sides of the cake tin.

Tip: For extra caramel to pour over the cake at serving time, treble or quadruple the volume of caramel made. After the base is covered, with the remaining caramel quickly add citrus juices as well as some water. Be careful as the molten sugar spits. Stir to amalgamate and boil until you get the desired consistency . Throw in slivers of rind (lemon, orange, lime) and ginger to add further interest.


Liberally sprinkle the base and sides of the cake tin with brown sugar or grated palm sugar.


Cream the butter and the sugar with the grated lemon rind.

Add eggs into the creamed mixture and mix, then fold in the combined flour, coconut and baking powder.


Place the pears cut side down on the caramel (fill in the gaps with slivers of pear if you like.)

Carefully drop spoonfuls of the soft sponge mixture over the pears and smooth it -(the mixture should just cover the pears.)

Bake the cake in a moderate oven (180 degrees C) for 50 minutes or until the cake is cooked.

Leave it cool for a couple of minutes in the tin and then cover with the serving plate and invert.

Serve warm or cold with extras as desired.

Tip: To ensure the cake and fruit is intact when you turn it out, you can line the tin with Glad Bake, then butter and sugar the inside of the paper as the recipe directs.

Now that we have an expanded range of coconut products, you could use coconut water as a base for the syrup as well as citrus juices and zest.

If you are matching this cake with our dessert wine, keep to the recipe but if you're having a richer dessert wine, then go to town with all the coconut sugars and syrups and maybe coconut flour and some coconut oil as the butter. Could prove quite interesting.