Bienmesabe de Coco
(Venezuelan coconut cream cake)
Around the Spanish-speaking world, you can find several versions of a dessert called bienmesabe—Spanish for "tastes good to me." The original version, from Spain's Canary Islands, is an almond custard.
This recipe is for bienmesabe as it's made in Venezuela. Cake or ladyfingers are layered with coconut cream and topped with meringue for a decadently rich and sweet treat. Also spelled bien-me-sabe.
6 to 8 servings
For the Coconut Cream
- Eggs yolks -- 5
- Sugar -- 1/2 cup
- Cornstarch -- 2 tablespoons
- Coconut milk -- 1 (15-ounce) can
- Milk -- 1 cup
- Salt -- pinch
- Vanilla -- 1 teaspoon
For the Cake
- Poundcake, cut into 1/2-inch slices -- 1 (1-pound) cake
- Sweet white wine, sherry or Cognac -- 1/2 cup
For the Meringue
- Sugar -- 1 cup cup
- Water -- 1/3 cup
- Egg whites -- 5
- Cream of tartar -- 1/2 teaspoon
- To Make the Coconut Cream: Beat the yolks, sugar and cornstarch with a whisk in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Heat the coconut milk, milk and salt in a medium saucepan to simmering.
- Whisk a small amount of the simmering liquid into the egg yolk mixture, then whisk the egg yolk mixture into the simmering milk. Continue whisking until the liquid thickens and just starts to simmer.
- Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
- To Assemble the Cake: Spread a small amount of the coconut cream on the bottom of a 9x9-inch serving dish. Lay some of the cake slices neatly over the coconut cream and sprinkle with the wine, sherry or cognac. Spread the cake with half of the coconut cream, then repeat with another layer of cake and the remaining coconut cream.
- Wrap the cake tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
- To Make the Meringue: Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and let simmer while you beat the whites.
- Add the egg whites to a clean mixing bowl and beat on low until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until the whites hold soft peaks. Turn speed to low while you finish the syrup.
- Increase the heat on the sugar syrup and boil until the syrup reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer.
- Return the mixer speed to medium-high and beat the whites until they begin to hold stiff peaks. With the mixer still on, slowly pour the hot syrup down the edge of the bowl into the whites. Continue beating for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the meringue has cooled.
- To Finish the Cake: Preheat oven to broil and place a racker on the lowest level of the oven. Remove the serving dish from the refrigerator and top the cake nicely with the meringue, making decorative swirls with a spatula or using a piping bag. Place the serving dish into the oven and broil for 1 or 2 minutes, or just long enough to set the meringue and lightly brown it. Serve immediately and refrigerate leftovers...if you have any!
- Use ladyfinger cookies instead of poundcake. You will need around twenty-four.
- If you don't want to use wine or liquor in your dessert, substitute a simple syrup instead. Mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan and boil until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of rum flavoring if you like.
- For added flavor, sprinkle each layer of cream with a little ground cinnamon. Or try stirring 1/2 cup of grated, toasted coconut into the coconut cream, or sprinkle it on the top of the cake to garnish.