This dessert is very special to me because it reminds of my Grandma who is no longer physically with us (but definitely spiritually) and she would always call it “Chiffon.” I remember how she would make it for special occasions and the holidays for us and since it was her favorite dessert, it always made her happy to see us enjoy it as much as she did.
This dessert is very light and satisfying since I make it with angel food cake, that is not an overly sweet cake. My Grandma used to make it with Lady Finger cookies when we lived in Dominican Republic, but after moving here to the states, she used angel food cake instead. Either one works just as fine for this dessert.
To make this recipe you will need the following items:
2 Angel Food Cakes (about 10 oz each)
1 29oz (approx 1lb) can of Fruit Cocktail in syrup
3 Cups Milk
2 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp Cornstarch
3 tbsp Cold Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 Cup Shredded Coconut (fresh coconut is preferable)
1 Can (approx 14 oz) of Condensed milk
Lime peel (2 pieces)
1/2 cup Maraschino Cherries (drained)
First, we have to make a “maizena” which is a thick cornstarch custard that is flavored with some sugar and some spices.
To make the maizena, add the regular milk into a pot and put on medium high heat.
Add the cinnamon sticks to the milk and then add the honey,
Add the vanilla, make sure to use good quality vanilla (or vanilla beans), I usually use Dominican vanilla, then stir well,
With a knife, cut some of the peel from a lime (2 strips of lime peel are fine),
Make sure to get most of the peel and not the white bitter part, you can trim the excess white bitter part with a knife from the peel.
Add the lime peels to the pot, then add the sugar, (I don’t recommend you add more sugar than what the recipe calls for because you don’t want the custard to be overly sweet)
Stir well to incorporate everything,
Then, take a cup and add the corn starch,
Add the cold water to the corn starch,
Stir well to dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water, I recommend you use a fork to avoid clumps,
When the starch is well dissolved, add it to the pot,
Stir well, the cornstarch can settle on the bottom of the pot, so make sure to constantly stir it while it comes up to a light boil,
Let it come up to a light boil, stirring constantly,
let it cook until it starts to get thick (about 10 – 15 minutes) and turn into a very light yellow color. One way to check if the maizena is ready, is to dip a clean spoon,
When the spoon comes out with a thick coating of the custard and you run a finger through it and it doesn’t run, then it’s ready.
Turn the heat off and place a strainer over a big wide cup (or medium sized bowl), pour the maizena through the strainer, this is to ensure get a nice smooth custard without lumps,
It’s thick, so use a spoon to help the custard strain faster, (discard the cinnamon sticks and lime peel)
Once the maizena is strained, you will have about 2 cups maybe a little more of custard for the cake later on.
Cover it with some plastic wrap or a small plate (that’s what I do ) and put it in the refrigerator and let it cool (about 2 – 3 hours)
While the maizena is cooling, let’s make what my Grandma lovingly called “polvo de amor” which means “love dust”.
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Crack open the coconut (you can buy shredded coconut, but fresh coconut tastes much better and can be found in many supermarkets now,
Take the coconut meat from half of the coconut, to shred it, I use my mini food processor, but if you have a mandolin shredder, you can use that as well.
Grind it until it’s nice and fine,
Line a baking dish with some aluminum foil (for easier cleanup) and evenly spread the shredded coconut on it,
Put it in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes (keep an eye on it, it might be ready sooner depending on your oven temp) until the coconut starts get toasty and turn into a golden color,
Set aside and let cool.
Now comes the fun part! When the maizena is cold, we are ready to assemble the cake!
Angel food cake is available in the bakery section of most supermarkets, but if for some reason your supermarket does not carry fresh angel food cakes, you can buy the box with the instructions and make it at home. Or you can use lady finger cookies which are very easy to find in grocery stores as well.
Remove the cake from the container, this cake can be sticky so use a knife to make sure it doesn’t break when pulling it out.
Cut thick slices (about one inch), cut one cake first because you will probably not need the entire two cakes (unless you use a bigger dish).
Take a deep dish, line the bottom with some of the cake slices. Don’t worry if they don’t look perfect,
Then take the fruit cocktail, I prefer to use the lite cocktail that is a bit less sweet, but you can use regular fruit cocktail,
Strain some of the juice (about half) from the fruit cocktail,
Take the juice and pour it all over the layered cake slices (make sure to get some juice over every slice),
Then take HALF of the maizena (cornstarch custard) and spread it over the cake slices,
Take HALF of the fruit and spread it over the custard,
That concludes the first layer of the cake.
Now start layering the remaining slices of cake over the fruit in the dish, then take the second angel food cake and cut a few more slices to complete the second layer.
Once you have a nice second layer of cake, (again, don’t worry if it’s not perfect)
Take the condensed milk and spread it all over the top layer, making sure to cover every slice with all of that deliciousness,
After covering it with the condensed milk, take the remaining maizena and spread it over the top layer of cake,
Once you have the top layer nice and evenly coated,
Spread the remaining fruit over the moist cake,
Then take the shredded toasted coconut (polvo de amor ) and sprinkle it evenly over the top.
Now for the final touch, take the cherries (as much or as little as you like) and place them over the cake, and look at how delicious and gorgeous this cake looks! Make sure to let it sit for atleast 2 hours (4 would be preferable) before serving so that the milk, custard and fruit juices settle and the cake absorbs and develops the flavors.
Tell me that wouldn’t impress your guests if you served it to them?