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This cake is a tribute to my Indian heritage and is inspired by my love for coconut and jaggery combinations in many Indian sweetmeats made for certain festivals. One item called Modak, a rice flour dumpling stuffed with coconut and jaggery is a particular favourite and every time a friend’s mother-in-law makes it, she’s been given strict instructions to make an extra batch just for me. This was the flavour base I was going for in the cake.
Modak, said to be the favourite sweetmeat of the Hindu God Ganesha, is made as an offering to on Ganesh Chaturthi, the day Lord Shiva gave his son Ganesha an elephant head and declared him superior to all the other Gods. I wait for this time of year to get that plate of Modak and I DO NOT SHARE! As it is, my kids are allergic to coconut and the husband and father-in-law can tolerate it in small amounts, so I don’t feel guilty devouring all of them on my own.
These days I’ve been looking at substituting white sugar with the slightly healthier jaggery powder in as many things as possible, such as my Double Apple Pie and I’ve even made my Banana Walnut Muffins with the substitution and they’ve both turned out fantastic. Jaggery, while still being a kind of sugar with a high calorific content, is still a better option than sugar, which has empty calories, because jaggery retains molasses which have vitamins and minerals. However, it cannot be used as a substitute every time as it has a very distinctive flavour and pairs very well with certain foods and fruits.
As a lover of almost all things coconut, and since I’m all about experimentation, I decided to bake this cake incorporating all the traditional flavours that I love. As usual, as is my luck, the first time I made it, it came out well. The second time, which was for the purpose of the blog, failed, because —— just because i had to blog it! I dumped too much coconut over the top and the middle sank because of the weight. The third time, I tweaked it a bit and got lucky. Thank goodness, as it’s painful as hell to have to make the same thing over and over to get it right, especially when most people in your home cannot even eat it! You also run out of people to send it to!
This is a very soft cake as jaggery has a soft and crumbly texture. Coconut lovers should try this. It’s different, and tastes even better the next day as the coconut absorbs the jaggery even better.
1¼ cup coconut powder
1¼ cup flour
2½ tsp baking soda
4 cardamom pods – outer casing removed and seeds powdered
1 cup light jaggery powder (shakkar)
1/2 cup yoghurt mixed with 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil
For the topping
3 heaped tbsp coconut flakes
2 heaped tbsp jaggery powder
Get Started (pictorial steps below)
- Line the bottom of a round 8 inch diameter baking tin with butter paper/parchment paper and oil the sides.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C or 350°F. Keep only the bottom heating rods on.
- In a large mixing bowl add the coconut powder, flour (sift it in), baking soda and cardamom seed powder.
- In another bowl, mix the jaggery powder, yoghurt and oil together so that the jaggery dissolves (it may not dissolve fully, but that’s ok).
- Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients till well mixed. Pour the batter into the cake pan, mix the coconut and the jaggery under “topping” and sprinkle it all over the surface of the cake, putting more of the topping on the outer edges closer to the pan than the middle. Make sure you sprinkle very little topping on the middle of the cake because if you go heavy, the centre will collapse.
- Bake in the centre rack of the oven for 35 minutes. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, remove it from the oven and let it cool. If there’s cake batter stuck to the skewer, keep it in the oven for five more minutes and then test it again.
- Cool the cake in the tin, then run a knife all along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the tin, flip it on to plate upside down, take off the removable cake tin plate and butter paper and flip it top-side up onto your serving dish.
Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. if you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.
The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.