Coconut Swirl Coffee Cake



  • 1 - (3 1/2-ounce) can flaked coconut (1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 - (3 1/2-ounce) jar macadamia nuts, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 - teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 - (15-ounce) can Coco Lopez® Cream of Coconut
  • 3 - cups unsifted flour
  • 2 - teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 - teaspoon salt
  • 1 - cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 - cup sugar
  • 4 - eggs
  • 1 - teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°. In medium bowl, combine coconut, nuts, cinnamon and 3 tablespoons cream of coconut; set aside. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. In large mixer bowl, beat margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, remaining cream of coconut and vanilla; beat well. Stir in dry ingredients. Pour half the batter into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Spoon half the nut mixture over batter. Spread remaining batter over nut mixture. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan. Serve warm. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Florida's official state tree is the sabal palm, but it could well be the coconut palm. The graceful tree symbolizes the best of the Sunshine State: our semi-tropical climate and our exotic commingling of Caribbean and North American food ways. When I return to Miami after a trip, there's nothing like the sight of a palm tree to make me feel like l'm home.

To many Americans, coconut means the processed, shredded, sweetened stuff found in candy bars and sprinkled on cupcakes. Moving to Florida introduced me to a host of new coconut products, from jelly coconuts to coconut milk.

What most Americans mean by coconut is actually the core of a mature nut, a hard sphere covered with shaggy brown "bark," with a half-inch layer of firm white meat inside. But visit an Hispanic produce market, like Miami's famous El Palacio de los Jugos, and you'll encounter the nut in its natural state: a large, green oblong of mostly fibrous husk, weighting five to six pounds a piece.

A machete-wielding vendor whacks the top off one of these behemoths, preferring a straw for sipping the clean, sweetish "water" in the center. To complete the coconut experience, use a shard of shell or spoon to scoop out the soft, white, custardy "jelly"—the part that would one day become the squeaky-crisp meat of a hard-shelled nut.

Green coconuts are harvested after only six months on the tree. Ethnic markets throughout south Florida carry green coconuts as well as hard ones. Cuban vendors selI these thirst quenchers—the botanical eciuivalerit of canteens—at open-air markets and street fairs. Green coconuts can be found in Hispanic and Caribbean markets in most major cities.

For much of the world, coconut meat is not an end in itself, but a source of fresh coconut "milk." The analogy to a dairy product is an apt one: The fat in coconut milk is closer in chemical composition to butterfat than it is to vegetable fat. As with cow's milk, coconut milk has a cream that rises to the top.

Although making fresh coconut milk isn't difficult, it does take time. When fresh coconut isn't available or time is short, substitute canned unsweetened coconut milk (Coco Lopez®, the first and still the best), which works well in most recipes. Look for it in Caribbean, Brazilian, and Asian markets. Indian markets and health food stores sell unsweetened dried coconut, which can be used to make coconut milk. The readily available sweeterted varieties should be avoided for this purpose.

Coconut milk is often confused with sweetened coconut cream. The latter is a sugary product made in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean. It's an essential ingredient in a piña colada and other tropical drinks, but can't be substitutes for unsweeted coconut milk. The best-known brand of coconut cream is Coco Lopez.