There was a story in circulation a few years ago that coconuts were more dangerous than sharks. We’ve spoken about coconut before. But as dessert fans worried about the reputation of the coconut, we wanted to know if this was true. Today, World Coconut Day, Dessert Advisor will consider this coconut-shark claim. Afterwards, we will dive headfirst into a collection of coconut desserts from around the world.
Let’s begin with the quote, “coconuts are ten times more dangerous than sharks.” Who said it, and why? This claim apparently came from a press release for a UK travel insurance agency trying to drum up more business for tourists visiting Pacific destinations like Papua New Guinea. Fuelling their claim was a research paper published by Dr. Peter Barss in a 1984 copy of the Journal of Trauma. Barss had been working in Papua New Guinea for four years, and during this time he noted that 2.5% of head traumas were the result of falling coconuts. While only two injuries were fatal, the travel insurance company took the findings and ran with them.
We don’t know what this did for coconut dessert sales around the world. One thing we can be sure of, though, is how delicious the coconut is. Playing an increasing role in a number of dairy-free and vegan desserts, the coconut is one of the more versatile foods you can find. As most coconut production comes from Indonesia, the Philippines, and India, we’ve managed to find some less familiar desserts made of coconut to get you thinking of different ways to enjoy the drupe ubiquitous with tropical coastlines.
Also known as pandan chiffon, or buko pandan cake, this light and fluffy green sponge cake is very popular in the Philippines. These pandan cakes can also have coconut strips mixed into the batter or placed on top as a decoration. While other countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam have their own versions of the pandan cake, they tend to serve it without coconut.
Other names include tuoto and toe-toe bulla, it’s a small snack or dessert found in Jamaica. Typically, one would traditionally make this little cake from shredded coconut, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, and coconut milk. Tied to times of slavery, this would be prepared when people could only combine coconut, molasses, and flour. Imagine a cake tin resting on top of hot coals, with a metal sheet placed on top to keep the warmth in. Toto is now a common fixture at any family gathering.
A classic Caribbean confection, that is both vegan and gluten-free. You make it with coconut, sugar, and flavourings, which you then bake. Common in Trinidad, Guyana, and Haiti, some other names for the treat include tablet and coconut ice. It did make its way across to England as well. For this reason, we can also find it in commonwealth countries.
This Dutch-inspired cake brings us to Indonesia. It includes all the usual ingredients like flour, milk, butter, and sugar, plus coconut flesh and coconut juice. But don’t be fooled by the Dutch translation to “coconut tart”, this one is more of a bread pudding that can include raisins and cinnamon, too.
Another dessert hailing from Indonesia, this traditional cake combines rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and banana. Finally, they wrap this delicious bundle in a banana leaf before steaming it. Very popular among the locals, you can pretend to be a local yourself if you call them “kue pisang” – this translates to banana cake.
While we’ve come across many other types of desserts, we’ll leave it there. With enough coconutty food for thought, perhaps we’ve inspired you to try a new coconut dessert today. If you prefer to stick to your usual desserts, this is fine, too – just watch out for falling coconuts if you’re near any trees! Happy World Coconut Day, everyone.