Wednesday 24 December 2008

Coconut ice is very very nice

Coconut ice with its pink and white layers is the sort of kiddie sweet treats that regularly appeared at the hospital fete and school fundraisers when I was young. It couldn’t be anything other than toothachingly sweet but I did like it best when slightly soft rather than brittle.

Last month I visited my family on the weekend of my nieces’ birthday. As Grace is celiac and her sister Ella loves to eat Grace’s gluten free goodies, I sought a simple GF treat to take down. Browsing through my sweet recipe notebook I found a coconut ice recipe which just seemed a matter of mixing together condensed milk, coconut and icing sugar. What could be simpler?

When I made it, I found that the list of ingredients was straightforward but the muscle-power required to mix them was huge. The recipe I had was a tin of condensed milk, 750g icing sugar (confectionary sugar) and 250g coconut. Pressing the white layer into the tin was so difficult, I was tempted to get Zinc to sleep on it a while. Mixing the pink food dye through the second half was so hard with a spoon I gave up and used my fingers to rub it in (a bit like you rub butter into flour). The layers were so dry that many pieces did not hold together.

I wasn’t happy with this heap of crumbly sweet slice (see photo top right), but nevertheless took it to Geelong where I knew there would be some willing testers. My GF niece loved it but I hadn’t realised it had been one of my mum’s favourite sweets. Everyone said it was great. But by then I had started to search the internet for variations and had found one with half the icing sugar that I wanted to try.

So last weekend I made some on Saturday for our pre-Christmas / Summer Solstice dinner (photo at left) and to take to my family when I went down to help decorate my parents’ Christmas tree. It still took a lot of elbow grease to stir it but the mixture spread like a paste and I could stir in the pink food dye.

It was still quite a chore to cut it up and I took my family as much as I had the energy to cut up before we left (about two thirds of the tray). When we went to clear out the biscuit tin to take it home, I was surprise at just how much had disappeared. E had been a bit worried about taking it in one of his biscuit tins but was very pleased when we brought home a tin full of baked goods: mince tarts, almond biscuits, brandy snaps. In fact I think he might try taking the tin down to my parents’ place more often.

After my experiments I am recommending the second coconut ice recipe which is far more forgiving on the teeth and your stirring arm. It makes a great gift, makes a cheerful addition to a sweet platter and will bring a smile to those with fond childhood memories but beware of taking it into backyards with gargoyles as I hear they are quite partial to a piece of coconut ice!

Now, given Christmas Eve is flying by, I am off to bake my Christmas nut roast, wrap some presents and enjoy a mince tart. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Coconut ice
(from Scottish Recipes)

400g tin of condensed milk
340g icing sugar (or confectionary sugar)
340g desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pink food dye

Stir together the condensed milk, icing sugar, coconut and vanilla essence in a large bowl till well combined. This will take quite some stirring as the mixture gets quite stiff.

Line a swiss roll tin (about 28 x 18cm) with baking paper. Spread about half the mixture into the tin and use the back of a spoon or your hands to smooth it down (I found this easier with my hands). Update: I have remade it twice in 2012 and found it hard to spread into a swiss roll tin and I have even struggled to get it all into a slice tin which is smaller.

Add drops of pink food dye to the remaining half of the mixture and stir in. Again it is tough stirring the stiff mixture. I found I needed about 8-10 drops or ½ - 1 tsp of food dye – more than my inclination but you want a nice pink colour to contrast with the white layer. Spoon over the white layer and spread out and smooth down as before.

Place tray in the fridge to set – overnight is best but you can get away with a few hours. Cut into small squares or bars as desired. I find it very sweet and cut into small squares of about 2cm x 2cm. It will keep in or out of the fridge for at least a week. (Update: Best to keep it in the fridge, especially in hot weather, but good to bring to room temperature to serve.)

Update Sept 2016 - note to self - when running out of icing sugar and have less than specified in recipe, do not just add the same amount of coconut instead of icing sugar as it will make it too dry!

On the stereo: 
The Original Christmas Album: 20 Party Christmas Crackers: Various Artists


  1. Oh! I adore coconut ice! I'll definitely have to try this. Yum! Sorry to hear about the initial arm breaking lot :( Glad the second lot came out so good!

  2. And a very Merry Christmas to you Johanna.
    Always nice that your goodies are enjoyed and you can come home with different goodies ;))
    Love this pink, so perfect for the little girl in us!

  3. Hi Johanna, The coconut ice looks great and I did get a good laugh at the gargoyle shot! Nice plate, by the way. I will have to give this one a go, I am sure it would be popular in my staff room. Do you think it would mix in a food processor? Anyway, have a great Christmas. I am off to to a spot of housework, wrapping and cooking.

  4. That sounds an awful lot of work! But it's so pretty (and so few ingredients!) that I bet it's worth it. Hope you and E and Zinc all have a wonderful Christmas!

  5. Thanks for your christmas wishes - hope everyone had a nice Christmas

    thanks Vegetation - I was surprised how hard the stirring was but it was worthwhile!

    Thanks Tanna - glad you like the pink - I had to try it because it is traditional but I didn't even love pink so much as a little girl - am tempted to try other colours

    Thanks Holler - we have been laughing at our gargoyle too - I agree that coconut ice would go down well at work - I'd be curious to see how it would mix in a food processor - never thought of that - hope you got your Chrissie preparations under control!

    Thanks Ricki - it does look pretty for a simple recipe - although like you say the work is in the mixing!

  6. that coconut ice looks amazing!! i love those colors together. it is the perfect gluten free treat.

    i baked dessert this year, too, and it definitely tired my arms out. it took about 7 hours for the whole thing to be done!!! at least it was worth it in the end.

  7. That looks so delicious Johanna and brings back so many lovely memories! I hope you have a lovely Christmas full of lots of fun, food and festivities :)

  8. The gargoyle-with-ice main pic caused some much-needed chuckling, thank you! I hope you had a great Christmas.

  9. thanks Joanna - it does take some physical effort doesn't it

    thanks Lorraine - yes coconut ice is full of childhood memories for me too

    thanks Duncan - glad I could give you a laugh - we have decided the gargoyle has crazy eyes from too much sugar :-)

  10. I'm glad you perservered - it looks as though you made a very professional job of it in the end!

    I hope you had a very happy Christmas :)

  11. thanks Lysy - I worried the second batch was too soft initially but in the end I think they did look much better

  12. I just stumbled across this and it looks so insanely good. I know I would eat way more than my share so I don't know if I should make it... I had to save the recipe though!


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