What’s cookin’: Coconut Bliss

Guest post by Amanda Moreno, CHC Processing Assistant

Need a sweet fix? Try your hand at one of these delectable dessert recipes that highlight a staple Caribbean flavor: the coconut. Whether it’s quick and simple coconut kisses, a classic coco quemado or the more involved flan de coco, your taste buds will thank you.

Tía Berta’s Coconut Kisses [1]

Men and children gathered under a coconut tree.

Men and children gathered under a coconut tree from “Cuba, c. 1895”

In Havana Salsa (2006), author Viviana Carballo shares recipes and stories of her family’s life in Cuba. Food played an integral role in her memories of the island and her eventual exile, underscoring the sweetness of her native land but also the bitter pain of having to leave it. In “Tía Berta’s Coconut Kisses,” Carballo offers a short anecdote about her aunt’s coconut macaroons:

“Since Tía was not welcome in Dulce’s kitchen, she had to… rush in and make a commando raid in the shortest time possible. I was grateful for her kindness… She wasn’t much of a cook either, but these besitos required very little skill and just three ingredients—that much she could handle.”

Indeed, the recipe is simple: combine seven ounces of grated coconut flakes, half a cup of condensed milk and one egg, well beaten, in a bowl while preheating the oven to 300°F. Drop dollops of the mixture on a buttered cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. The kisses should be firm but still chewy.

Coco Quemado [2]

In this recipe from 1914, José E. Triay brings us another simple coconut dessert preparation, reproduced below:

Rallado el coco, se le incorporan yemas de huevo batidas, amasándolo, y se echan en almíbar con un poco de canela y vino de Jerez, y se tienen al fuego hasta que espesen; entonces se echan en un plato y se queman por arriba, poniendo sobre ellas la tapadera con unas brasas.

Flan de coco [3]

Coconut tree.

Coconut tree from “Album of Photographs”

Nitza Villapol’s seminal Cocina al minuto (1958) gives us yet another reason to cook with the fruit that keeps on giving. Her flan de coco is a coconut custard that is guaranteed to send you into a delicious sugar coma. Villapol offers brand suggestions for her ingredients, preferring Aspuru sugar and La Dichosa brand eggs for her flan. The ingredients are as follows:

½ taza azúcar blanca Aspuru.
3 huevos de La Dichosa.
1 lata de 14 oz. dulce de coco.
3 yemas de huevo.

Melt the sugar to use as a glaze in the flan mold. Beat the egg yolks lightly and add the syrupy canned coconut shavings. Pour into the mold and double boil at 350°F for an hour and half.


[1] Viviana Carballo, Havana Salsa: Stories and Recipes (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 134.

[2] José E. Triay, Nuevo manual del cocinero criollo (Havana: La Moderna Poesía, 1914), 294.

[3] Nitza Villapol, Cocina al minuto (Havana, 1958), 302-303.