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News / Life / Clark County Life

Creamy coconut makes for a delightful dessert (if you do it right)

Follow recipe for a cool, creamy, delicious treat

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 19, 2024, 6:01am
Updated: July 11, 2024, 3:14pm
4 Photos
This Coconut Cream Delight has four layers of yumminess.
This Coconut Cream Delight has four layers of yumminess. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

I think I’ve lost my touch.

Let me explain. There’s something about a recipe that compels me to ignore the bits I don’t like and make the simplest bits five times as complicated. The result is that I’ve made a lot of weird and terrible stuff in the past year or so. (Although you could argue that I’ve been making weird and terrible stuff my whole life.) I’ve had a lot more misses than hits lately and, while no one else seems to mind — failures are so entertaining! — I’m tired of eating my own oddball food.

So, I thought I’d do a teensy experiment on myself and try following directions. I have gone that route once or twice in the past and it never turned out well. Maybe third time’s a charm? I chose as the object of my experiment a layered and chilled dessert called Coconut Dream Delight, mostly because I automatically love any dessert that has “delight” in its name. Chocolate Delight? Yes. Pineapple Delight? Absolutely. Strawberry Cheesecake Delight? I’m in. Pickle and Rutabaga Delight? Very possibly. That “delight” changes everything.

Well, I failed my own test in about three seconds. I made a lot of little changes and one change that seemed little but wasn’t. First, let me tell you what worked.

I had a packet of Maria cookies left over from the pay de queso I made a few months ago, so I used those for the Graham cracker crust. I added extra vanilla, cinnamon and a couple of tablespoons of shredded coconut in addition to the stick of melted butter and 1 tablespoon sugar. (Every single dessert since the beginning of recorded time benefits from a bit cinnamon and vanilla. No exceptions.) The recipe didn’t specify to bake the crust before assembling the pie — this is supposed to be a no-bake dessert — but I think a parbaked crust is less inclined to crumble or get soggy. After pressing the crust into the pan, I baked it at 350 degrees for 10 minutes then stuck it in the fridge to cool.

Next, I used a hand beater on high to mix cream cheese with a heaping ¼ cup of powdered sugar until the mixture was very soft and smooth, then I added 2 cups of cream, a small box of vanilla pudding mix, ½ cup shredded coconut and 1 tablespoon coconut extract and beat until thick but still spreadable. (Yes, that’s a lot of coconut extract, but it’s necessary.) I layered the cream cheese mixture evenly over the cooled crust.

I made another creamy layer with 1 cup of heavy cream, a heaping ¼ cup of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I used a hand mixer to whip it until stiff peaks formed, and then I spread it over the cream cheese and put it in the fridge to chill for a few hours. The recipe says it can be served after as little as one hour or it can chill overnight, but why on earth would anyone opt to wait longer than they had to?

The final touch was toasted coconut. In a small skillet, I toasted ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut. I kept an eagle eye on the coconut and didn’t ever leave the stove to clean our gutters or learn taekwondo or whatever usually draws me away from a hot burner and ultimately results in smoke and horror. Anyhow, it turned a beautiful golden color and tasted heavenly with just a bit of crunchiness. (The internet says you can toast unsweetened coconut in exactly the same way. Add a tablespoon of sugar if you want to sweeten it.)

I sprinkled the toasted coconut over the creamy layer and lifted the whole thing out of the pan with parchment paper. This was the first time I had ever baked with parchment paper and now I’m sad because I’ve been missing out on this miraculous thing. I always skip it because it seems too fussy but actually it’s a fuss-reducer when it comes time to cut the dessert into pieces. Just leave a couple extra inches of paper around the edge and use those as handles to lift your dessert (or brownies or icebox cake or what have you) right out. Bada boom, bada bing.

I forked a big bite of Coconut Cream Delight into my mouth and that’s when I realized that one of the little changes I made was a big mistake. I used salted butter instead of unsalted butter for the crust and then I also added salt. I should have either used unsalted butter (as the recipe instructed) or omitted the additional salt. It made the whole dessert just a hair too salty, so that every time I took a bite, I had an inner tug-of-war: Is it disgustingly salty? Or is it good salty? Is it salty-sweet in a pleasant way or is it just salty-salty in a stop-eating-this-now sort of way? It took about 10 bites to make up my mind and by then I’d eaten the whole piece.

Well, no matter. There’s at least one delightful aspect of my experiment: I didn’t set anything on fire.

Coconut Cream Delight

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup butter, melted

1 ½ cups crumbs from Graham cracker, Maria cookies, vanilla wafers or Biscoff

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup powdered sugar, divided

3 cups cold heavy cream, divided

1 3.4-ounce box vanilla, banana or chocolate instant pudding mix

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, divided

1 tablespoon coconut extract

Turn oven to 350 degrees and line an 8-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper (optional but helpful when serving). Melt a stick of butter. Put cookies in bag and crush until fine. Pour into a bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar and melted butter. Mix until thoroughly incorporated and use fingers or heavy implement to squish in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes (optional) and cool quickly in fridge or freezer. Put cream cheese in bowl with ¼ cup powdered sugar. Beat for about 3 minutes until soft and fluffy. Add 2 cups of cream, pudding mix, ¼ cup coconut and 1 tablespoon coconut extract. Beat until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture over cooled crust. Next, beat 1 cup heavy cream with a heaping ¼ cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat until stiff peaks form then spread over cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight. Before serving, sprinkle with remaining coconut. If desired, toast coconut in small pan over medium heat, turning constantly until golden brown. Allow to cool and sprinkle on bars. Cut into squares and serve or use parchment paper to lift out of pan and then cut into squares.