Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Coconut cake with chocolate ganache

Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc, Marion, Gimlet and Supernormal. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

This recipe has been in our family for some time. A while ago I adapted it slightly as a homage to an ever-popular chocolate bar – the Cherry Ripe.

For the time poor, it can easily be made without the addition of chocolate ganache and cherries. If you choose to do this, double the amount of syrup, as otherwise the cake will be a bit dry.

I enjoy the texture of syrup cakes. Middle Eastern in origin, such cakes are cooked and a warm syrup is then poured over them as they come out of the oven. This guarantees that the cake is consistently moist – a great advantage, because even the most diligent baker can sometimes overcook things.

Syrup cakes keep well and are great served the next day. In fact, they are better the next day because the flavour has had a chance to develop.

We now have a repertoire of about five go-to cakes at home. All of these take about 10 to 15 minutes of preparation to get to the oven, and have been on constant rotation for their speed and delicious goodness.

Half the battle for cooking desserts at home is locating and weighing all the ingredients. This time-consuming job is often palmed off to a younger member of the family in exchange for a spatula coated in cake mix a bit later on. Accuracy is the key to all baking and pastry work and an electric set of scales is the way to go.

Do not succumb to the allure of the packet cake mix, even when short on time. The length of time to cook a packet mix is not dissimilar to weighing and cooking a cake from scratch. The taste and health advantages of baking from scratch, instead of relying on a large commercial food factory, are exponential.



  • 125g soft butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 cups desiccated coconut


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 3 tsp lemon juice

Chocolate ganache

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 200ml cream
  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
  2. Line a 23-centimetre springform cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Pour in the beaten eggs, whisking until they are thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the self-raising flour and then the coconut.
  4. Place the cake in the oven, reduce the temperature to 180ºC and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place the syrup ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil, simmer for five minutes, then set aside to cool.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature after the 15 minutes to 150ºC and continue baking the cake for 30 more minutes.
  7. When the cake is ready remove it from the oven and let it stand in the tin for five minutes before pouring the syrup over.
  8. To make the chocolate ganache, heat the cream in a saucepan to about 80ºC (hot to the touch but definitely not boiling). Take the saucepan off the heat and stir the chocolate into the cream until it has melted.
  9. Once the cake has cooled in the tin, pour the chocolate ganache over the top.
  10. To serve, remove the cake from the tin and decorate with slices of fresh, pitted cherries, or morello cherries, or cherries preserved in brandy. Add a dollop of double cream to the plate.

This recipe is from The Saturday Paper archive. Andrew McConnell is on leave.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on January 27, 2024 as "The cherries on top".

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