Bake

Sesame Coconut Crunch Cake

June 17, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist:Veronica Olson Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
Author Notes

A few blocks away from my first apartment in NYC was an Entenmann's Bakery Outlet. You could peer in and see towers of glossy blue-and-white boxes and crinkly cellophane-sealed treats. Sugar is my siren song, so I responded. Twenty minutes later, dizzy with choice, late afternoon sun blinding me, I snagged a Louisiana Crunch Cake. Back home, I discovered this was a tube of impossibly soft, vaguely coconutty yellow cake with a thin shellacking of glaze. I also discovered that slice after slice was disappearing at an alarming rate. When I returned a week later to stock up, the store, like a chimera, had vanished. A fluttering vinyl banner was the only reminder of its existence.

I gave up looking for the box on the shelf and decided to re-create my memory of it. For the loftiest, tenderest, most cottony cake, I turned to reverse-creaming, a mixing technique pioneered by Rose Levy Beranbaum, living legend and dear friend. It has the added advantage of being much quicker than the traditional cream the butter and sugar way. For the best texture, bleached cake flour is a must. Nerdy types like me will appreciate knowing that bleaching alters the flour’s acidity and structure, enabling an airy but close-grained interior. (Also? Hate to break it to ya, but the oft-repeated suggestion of cutting all-purpose flour with cornstarch just isn’t the same. Sorry.) For a pervasive crunch, in homage to the benne seeds of the South, there’s sesame in addition to the coconut that clings to the pan. Once baked, the entire cake is encrusted with a delicate snap-crackle-pop.

So where did this cake come from? The earliest mention I could find is in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from July 1941. In a column called Food Frontiers, Margaret Pettigrew wrote that “the glamour girl of desserts to sweeten the Summer menu is Crunch Cake” from Mammy’s Pantry, a Southern-style restaurant on Montague Street in Brooklyn. She described the cake as “golden, flavorsome and feathery light,” piled high with meringue. Very different from the current iteration, and also without the specificity of Louisiana.

A few years later, in 1949, The Daily Register (in Red Bank, New Jersey) shared a flyer from Acme Markets advertising a Louisiana Crunch Cake for 45 cents. The enticing copy declared it a “luscious golden cake made with fresh oranges, delicious crunchy crust, made of tasty macaroon crunch.” There’s a picture of a lady, hair pulled back, in a dress with a scalloped collar, holding a hefty ring cake.

Most recipes online reference the Entenmann’s version as their inspiration. In all likelihood, the predecessor to the Entenmann’s one may have started in Burny Brothers Bakery in Chicago—a series of ads and coupons from the bakery mentioning the cake pepper newspapers in the ’50s. In the late ’70s, Entenmann’s acquired Burny Brothers. And so I like to think that the cake I saw through the glass all those years ago is a treasured heirloom, in its own commercial way.

Shilpa Uskokovic

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 1 full size Bundt
Ingredients
  • Sesame Coconut Crunch Cake
  • 1/3 cup (45 grams) raw sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 sticks (226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups (360 grams) bleached cake flour
  • 2 1/4 cups (450 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) neutral oil (such as avocado, canola, or sunflower)
  • 2/3 cup (150 grams) sour cream
  • Zest from 1 large orange
  • 2/3 cup (150 grams) water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • Glaze
  • 2 cups (225 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack positioned in the center.
  2. Stir the sesame seeds and coconut together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, thickly butter a 12-cup-capacity Bundt pan, getting into all the dips and valleys (for maximum ease, best to stick to a simpler-shaped Bundt pan). Coat the bottom and sides of the buttered pan evenly with the sesame mixture, gently tapping out any excess.
  3. Sift the cake flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using the paddle attachment, beat the dry ingredients on low speed (#2 on a KitchenAid mixer) for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the butter, oil, sour cream, and orange zest to the mixer. Beat on low speed till the mixture just starts to bind together, about 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium (#4 on a KitchenAid) and beat till the batter is a smooth paste and slightly lighter in color, around 2 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the water, eggs, vanilla, and coconut extract.
  6. Add the egg mixture in two parts to the batter, beating on medium speed for 30 to 45 seconds after each addition. The batter should look pale and fluffy.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth the top with the back of a spoon or offset spatula.
  8. Bake till the top is golden brown and slowly springs back when lightly pressed with your fingertip, or a wooden skewer inserted in the center emerges with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. (If you invert too soon, the warm cake may fall apart. If you wait too long, it may remain stubbornly stuck.) Cool fully before glazing.
  10. Make the glaze by whisking all of the ingredients in a small bowl. It should thinly coat the back of a spoon. If it needs adjusting, a drop of milk or a few spoonfuls of sifted confectioners’ sugar should do the trick. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, then let it set before tucking in. The cake will keep under a cake dome (or inverted bowl) for 2 days at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Angela
    Angela
  • Shilpa Uskokovic
    Shilpa Uskokovic
  • Nell
    Nell
  • Chefjoyziki
    Chefjoyziki
Shilpa Uskokovic is recipe developer, food writer and budding food stylist and photographer. She was previously a line and pastry cook in some of NYC's top rated restaurants like Marea, The NoMad Hotel, Maialino and Perry Street. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Shilpa loves books, Bundt cakes, cute Basset Hounds and peak millennial memes. She was born and raised in Chennai, India.

4 Reviews

Nell June 13, 2021
This worked out perfectly. Baking time was closer to 60 minutes. Really delicious and reminded me of the Entenmanns's cake although next time I may omit the sesame seeds.
 
Chefjoyziki June 11, 2021
Unfortunately this did not turn out for me. It was a dense texture despite using cake flour and sifting. It did not cook through despite over an hour in the oven and no dough on the knife when I checked for doneness. Bummer it looked so good too.
 
Angela June 11, 2021
Sometimes a cake can be overwhipped resulting in too much air being incorporated. It will rise up quickly and then fall, leaving a dense pasty layer in the cake. (My husband still liked it, but I think he was just being kind)
 
Author Comment
Shilpa U. June 14, 2021
Hiya! Sorry to hear it didn't turn out great. Just a quick double check, what brand of cake flour did you use? And let me know if you're baking by volume or weight. I'd love to troubleshoot so we can get this cake the way it's meant to be!