Quick Bite: Let Them Drink Cake
Peninsula Grill’s Christopher Reynolds turns the restaurant’s signature dessert into a sweet sip
If contemporary Charleston were a dessert, only one could take the honors: Peninsula Grill’s Ultimate Coconut Cake. A 12-story high-rise of coconut and vanilla cream-cheese icing coated in toasted coconut, the layered confection is decadent, sumptuous, and unapologetically Southern.
And just like Charleston, the Ultimate Coconut Cake has its secrets. Only a few steps away from Peninsula Grill’s dining room waits a more potent spin-off at the bar (though it’s not on the menu)—The Ultimate Coconut Cake Cocktail. For those who need a “sugarcap” as well as a nightcap, this is your drink. A festive, snow-white concoction, it’s also a perfect choice for impressing company during the holidays. And unlike its hefty inspiration, the cocktail is surprisingly simple to make.
After rimming a martini glass with coconut anglaise (traditionally served with a cake slice) and toasted coconut, head bartender Christopher Reynolds adds Malibu Rum, Stoli Vanil Vodka, Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, and half-and-half in a cocktail shaker. The key, says Reynolds, is giving it a good, hard shake to infuse airiness.
“It comes off as a little frothy and has a nice, light mouthfeel,” notes the Birmingham, Alabama, native who graduated from Johnson & Wales and previously worked as a bar manager at Slighty North of Broad. He adds that the idea was to create a cocktail that looked like the restaurant’s most famous dessert but was still light enough to drink.
Lightness isn’t what you’d expect from a cocktail inspired by a dessert estimated to pack quadruple digit calories per slice, but somehow the drink is delightfully easy to sip and doesn’t weigh you down. Let’s just chalk it up as another Charleston secret.
Coconut anglaise (see below)
1 Tbs. toasted coconut flakes (see below)
1 oz. half-and-half
1 oz. Stoli Vanil Vodka
1 oz. Malibu Rum
3/4 oz. Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur
3/4 oz. Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
1 strawberry, for garnish
Dip martini glass rim in coconut anglaise, then coconut flakes. Add liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until frothy. Strain into glass. Garnish with strawberry.
1 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded coconut
4 Tbs. Granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Bring cream and coconut to a boil. Set aside and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain out and discard the coconut. Place cream back on the stove and bring to a boil.
Whisk the yolks and sugar together, pour a little of the hot liquid over the yolks and whisk to combine, pour this back into the saucepot and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture reaches 183F and coats the back of the spoon.
Immediately remove from heat, strain and place into a bowl over an ice-bath to stop the cooking
process.Add Vanilla. Chill. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, do not freeze.
1/2 cup coconut flakes
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread coconut flakes on a cookie sheet or metal baking pan. Heat flakes for three to five minutes until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.