Because I wanted to start getting some photographs for ‘Potcake’, I’ve taken time away from job hunting and freelancing to do what I love – photographing interesting people in their kitchens. You’ll notice that my portfolio consists of several features about chefs.
When I wrote my pitch for my Bahamian cookbook, ‘Potcake,’ I knew that I would have two things:
1) an abundance of Bahamian characters in my childhood who’d have tried and tested recipes that I could photograph and interview
2) a really hard time getting those recipes because no one writes anything down or measures anything!
This was something I realised when I last saw my Bahamian grandmother, my ‘Ma’, two years ago. I told her I was interested in getting some family recipes that I could have for my own reference – I didn’t realise this was the kick-start of ideas for creating a cookbook.
One of the recipes she shared and let me watch her make was her Coconut ‘Trifle’ Cake. Now, for my British readers, trifle has an entirely different connotation – an image of sponge soaked in fruit jelly and topped with custard and whipped cream. This recipe is essentially a moist poundcake recipe that can be adapted to suit any preference. You swap the coconut for chopped pineapple, bananas…the list goes on!
Mrs. Robertha is one of Green Turtle Cay’s beloved women. She also makes a famous Coconut Cake and does it in record speed and everyone adores them just as much as they love her. Moist and flavorsome, I asked her for the recipe. Her reply: “That’s going to be hard…I don’t have a recipe. I just know how to do it.”
I couldn’t help but giggle because I knew that was coming so I went arranged to stop by a day when she was making them and revisited my Ma’s recipe. When, Josie, one of her friends agreed that Bahamians do have the gut instinct of knowing what looks and smells right, they’re always taking that “gamble” hoping for the best outcome. “You can never make something the same way twice,” she said.
It makes this very specific task of getting these Bahamian recipes an exciting and challenging one. It also takes someone like me who has both the natural, annoying tendency to ignore a recipe and just ‘wing it,’ I also have a genuine love for sharing what I’ve made with you. And if I can’t share it with you in person, I’ve got to get it down in words!
With the combination of my grandma’s recipe and photographs of Mrs. Robertha making hers, I’m pleased to share with you a common Bahamian recipe – Coconut ‘Trifle’ Cake:
This recipe makes one cake and makes no promises to be healthy!
1/2 pound [225 g] of butter
1 cup [8 ounces / 200g] of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup [4 ounces /100g] of white (caster / granulated) sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups [11 ounces or 525 g] of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon of vanilla (Mrs. Robertha also adds 1 tablespoon of almond extract to hers)
2 bags of 7 ounce [400 grams / 4 cups roughly in total] of shredded coconut (I’d recommend unsweetened)
1/2 cup [125ml] of double cream or what Bahamians use – evaporated milk (this is where the ‘trifle’ aspect of the cake comes in)
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a large spoon and then ‘blend’ thoroughly with either a hand mixer or processor. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 175 degrees Celsius in a lined and slightly greased loaf tin (preferably a small 3×5).
Make sure to visit Mrs. Robertha at her little grocery shop offering Bahamian necessities and her baked treats like this Coconut Cake right in the center of town. All photos are copyright of Kelsi Farrington, 2014.