Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks Recipe (gluten-free/dairy-free adaptable)

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Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks | Pamela Salzman

I haven’t lived in a cold climate since I was in college, which was a loooong time ago.  Sure, several times a year I visit my family in New York and we ski in Utah, but it is not the same as being there 24/7 for months on end.  I am much better off in Southern California because I have never been nor will I ever be a cold weather person.  Even when I was growing up in New York, I loathed winter.   No matter how much I bundled up, I felt miserable when the temperature dipped below 40.   I remember sneaking into the hallway many a night and turning up the thermostat to 80 degrees and then turning it down as soon as I woke up in the morning.  My mother inevitably said to my father, “I was so warm last night!”  And now, 30 years later, my parents finally know why the heat in our house was so wacky.

two different types of coconut

I was walking in a parking lot (in LA) a few days ago, and I overheard someone say “Boy, it’s really chilly today!”  Um, it was 58 degrees at the time.  Perhaps cold is relative, but even I’m not that lame.  I sympathize with all of you suffering through the polar vortex of 2014.  I pray that the temperature becomes reasonable sometime soon.

butter and maple syrup



If I lived in impossibly cold weather right now, I would probably move into the kitchen and bake and make soups all day long.  If you like the way I think, give this simple little coffeecake a try.  I found the recipe on four years ago and “cleaned” it up a tad with a whole grain flour and an unrefined sweetener.  You have to like coconut to enjoy this cake because you’ll be using three different coconut products here.  No complaints from me.  The actual cake is so moist, even when using whole grain flours like spelt or whole wheat pastry flour.  Even though unrefined flours contain more fiber and protein than “white” flours, I actually prefer the taste which is a littler nuttier.  But if it’s not your thing, you can use all-purpose flour here just the same.  But it’s really the top of the cake that is the best.  Just picture crispy, golden flakes of coconut mixed with soft chunks of bittersweet chocolate — RIGHT?!   Heaven.

ready for the oven

I think this cake is perfect for brunch because it’s not too sweet, but you could easily serve this for dessert with a little ice cream and/or some berries or oranges.  Although if the windchill is below 0 degrees where you are, pair this with some hot tea, crank up the thermostat, and call it a day.

coconut coffeecake with chocolate chunks | pamela salzmanCoconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks | Pamela Salzman

Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks
Serves: 8-12
  • 1 ¾ cups whole spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour*
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (use Earth Balance to make this dairy-free)
  • ¾ cup pure grade A maple syrup or cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I like Native Forest and Natural Value, which are BPA-free)
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate bars, broken into ½-inch irregular pieces, divided (or you can buy chocolate pieces)
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9” springform pan** and dust pan with flour, shaking out excess. You can also line the pan with parchment paper if you like.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir in shredded coconut and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer beat butter and maple syrup in a large bowl until combined. It will be lumpy. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions alternating with coconut milk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Fold in half of the chocolate.
  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared cake pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate pieces over batter, and then sprinkle with flaked coconut.
  6. Bake cake until golden and tester inserted comes out clean, tenting with sheet of foil if coconut atop cake is browning too quickly, 45-50 minutes.
  7. Transfer cake to rack and cool 45 minutes before removing from pan.
*For a gluten-free version, use the following in place of the wheat flour:
½ cup sweet rice flour
½ cup brown rice flour
5 Tablespoons potato starch
¼ cup sorghum flour
3 Tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

**You can use a regular 9-inch cake pan, but inverting the cake makes a bit of a mess with the coconut. Just a heads-up.

The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of orange zest, which I thought was a nice touch, but my family didn't like it. If you love coconut and you want this to really taste like a Mounds Bar, you can add a ½ teaspoon coconut extract to the batter which just makes it a little more coconutty. And if you want this to taste like an Almond Joy bar, add a ⅛ teaspoon of almond extract to the batter!



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  1. Lindsey says

    I was wondering if you could substitute potato starch for something else in order to make it gluten free?

    • Pamela says

      Possibly! This was just the combo I made up and tried, but I have no doubt there are lots of possibilities of GF flour combos. You can try increasing the sweet rice flour and tapioca flour to make up for the lack of potato starch. Or just use a good GF multipurpose flour blend like the one from King Arthur (not sure if that has potato or not) and add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum.

  2. Lesley Yaniv says

    I am DYING to make this cake, but I can’t have gluten or rice. What can I substitute?
    Incidentally, I was trying to make pecan milk yesterday, because I want to get a finer flour than I can buy,(I use almond flour, but I am sensitive to almonds) but I am not getting all the pulp out of the milk, and therefore have a grainy milk and not enough pulp for flour.
    What am I doing wrong?

    • Pamela says

      Do you have a favorite brand of gluten free flour mixture that doesn’t contain rice? Have you tried the Bob’s Red Mill GF flour? I would try that 1:1 plus a 1 tsp. xanthan gum.. Otherwise you can try making your own GF rice-free flour blend with millet flour, GF oat flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, sorghum flour and a teaspoon of xanthan gum. re: making pecan milk and pecan flour, I haven’t tried to do either. Did you strain your milk so that it wouldn’t be grainy? I love using nut milk bags. I’m sorry, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t have enough pulp to dehydrate for flour!

  3. Mia says

    Eight inches of snow already, and it continues to fall. Not to worry, however, because I am having a comforting afternoon snack of your delicious coconut cake and a cup of hot tea. The texture is wonderful, and the combination of coconut and chocolate is fantastic, without being overpowering. I also used the orange zest which I think enhanced the flavor. Many thanks!

    • Pamela says

      I knew this recipe would be perfect for all you people stuck inside from the snow! So glad you enjoyed it. I actually liked the orange zest too, but my family didn’t. Stay warm!

  4. Julie says

    I’m thinking of making this is a bite size version for the birthday treat at my kids preschool…any tips for converting it into mini muffin tins? Is it as straight forward as dividing the batter and not baking as long?

    • Pamela says

      Yes, that’s exactly how you would do it! I can’t say how long you would bake them since all mini muffin tins are different. I’m thinking the coconut might not get as golden though if you’re only baking these for 20minutes, but that’s just a guess.

    • Pamela says

      Grade B maple syrup has more maple flavor, so it might come through in the cake. If you don’t mind, then it’s ok!

  5. Cathy K says

    Hi Pamela! I can’t wait to make this. I am curious about the combination of flours that you have here in the recipe vs. just substituting Bob’s GF flour. I am planning on following your recipe but wonder if you tried with the GF flour. Thanks!

  6. Staci says

    OMG! These are my favorite sweets! i am making it today for my girls and my painters! gotta make everyone happy, right?

    thank you so much for yesterday’s cooking class. i look forward to meeting you again in the future!


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