Danish Dream Cake
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I could get a vanilla bean at one of the grocery stores a stone’s throw away. I know exactly which aisle, no matter the store: glass bottles of spice at one end, technicolor H A P P Y B I R T H D A Y candles at the other. There’s no aisle that dares spell party like this one, the story of a celebration told in dry rub and cake mix, ending with the sprinkles. I could get a vanilla bean here, easy. In and out. Nevertheless, I head across town: It’s always a good day for the spice shop.
For all the foot traffic outside, the shop is museum-quiet. There’s a placeless, timeless scent that draws a memory forward, but of what? The spices line the walls floor to ceiling, arranged on wooden shelves with the care of a meticulous librarian. Everything in its place. In lieu of a register by the door, a lone man in an apron roams the store until I’m ready, a central counter materializing between boxes of bulk spices being unpacked. There’s a distinct feeling that this is someone’s home and you’ve arrived in time for tea.
I don’t wait to unzip the vanilla bean from its pouch; I do it as soon as I get to my car. It’s too sweet, too comforting. It smells like my first grade teacher Mrs. Miller, who would guide us through meditations after recess to quiet the playground buzz. I leave the pouch open for the ride home.
Although I choose the cake for the coconut, it’s the vanilla that stirs me. Unseeding the bean is heavenly. My knife first glides down the middle, then on its side, scrapes each half clean. The granules speck the batter like black ellipses… their size giving no indication of their potency. The cake domes in the oven. There’s no kitchen I’d rather be in while its baking smell rises, sugary and warm. On top, the caramelized coconut slides over and down the insides of the pan, soaking the edges like a Tres Leches. I let the cake cool, but I’m only human. Before dinner there’s a sizable piece missing.
I look through my recipes the next day—the cake still in my fridge, for now—already in pursuit of something else that’ll lead me back to the spice shop.
The following is the recipe I used, as found here.
250 g (9 oz) all-purpose flour
250 g (9 oz) sugar
50 g (2 oz) butter
2 dl (4/5 cup) milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
125 g (4.5 oz) butter
1/2 dl (1/5 cup) milk
200 g (7 oz) brown sugar
100 g (3.5 oz) coconut flakes
Step 1: Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy in a bowl.
Step 2: Melt the butter using a saucepan or microwave oven. Add the milk to the saucepan and stir. Add it to the bowl with eggs and sugar.
Step 3: In a separate bowl; mix together all-purpose flour, vanilla sugar and baking powder. Add to the other bowl, and mix it all together into a smooth batter.
Step 4: Line a baking pan (about 25×35 cm – 10×14 inch) with baking paper and pour the batter in it.
Step 5: Bake the cake at 200 C (400 F) for about 20-25 minutes.
When the cake is in the oven, prepare the coconut topping.
Step 6: For topping; melt the butter in a saucepan.
Step 7: Add the milk and the brown sugar and let it boil for about a minute.
Step 8: Add the coconut flakes and mix it well.
Step 9: When the cake has been in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, take it out and pour the coconut mixture over it. Use a knife to spread the topping evenly.
Step 10: Bake the cake for another 10 minutes and it should be done. Let it cool off before serving it.