After a wicked winter with more freezes than we care to recount, we’re welcoming spring with open arms and an appetite for lighter flavors, including sweet and versatile coconut. In the fall, we toast its flakes to sprinkle atop spiced pumpkin pies; in the summer, its milk (also used in our homemade piña coladas) makes a delicate ice cream base that pairs perfectly with key lime. For this season’s baby and wedding showers and our upcoming Easter gatherings, we went to four local pastry queens for coconut-infused desserts that will have you making coconut your springtime staple for sweet treats.
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Chandra Ricetti went on to become the pastry chef at Paris’ Hôtel Plaza Athènée, where she honed her classic French techniques. She says her coconut cream-filled crepe recipe is inspired by her time in France and her childhood travels to visit family in Maui, where coconuts are bountiful. “It is very light and not too sweet,” she says. “The subtle flavors really appeal to my 6-year-old, Luca, because he’s isn’t fond of desserts in general but loves this cake.”
Perhaps Fort Worth’s most buzz-worthy pastry chef right now is AF+B’s Laurel Wimberg, who built a reputation for the divine desserts at Craft Dallas and more recently Lark on the Park before she was recruited to Fort Worth. Here she provides her take on the pineapple and banana-based hummingbird cake, a Southern favorite that that will appear on AF+B’s dessert menu this spring. Wimberg adds shredded coconut to her batter and ices with traditional cream cheese frosting.
While we won’t ever turn down a homemade coconut bar, we find many can be gooey and cloying. Not Melody Fitzgerald’s version, which incorporates a layer of blueberry-chocolate ganache and lemon juice, both in the filling and in the blueberry compote topping that adds vibrant acidity. “The lemon juice, blueberries, chocolate and the coconut combine beautifully and create a bar that’s not overly sweet,” she says. Fitzgerald, who’s worked under Dean Ferring and created Julia Child’s 88th birthday cake, closed her Southern Breeze Café in Keller last fall to focus once more on her wedding cake business, her real passion.
Though she doesn’t have a storefront, Emily Allen is well known in wedding and special event circles for her whimsical desserts with handmade details, inspired by her love of vintage baking. She says creating these robin’s egg-inspired coconut macarons can be tricky, as factors like humidity and under- or over-mixing play into getting the shells just right. “But if you can get that down, the rest of it is super easy and fun,” Allen says, adding that splattering the macarons with culinary “paint” is a great way to involve children in the process.