Postre de Coco de la Tia Lilita (Tia Lilita’s Coconut Custard)

Time2 hours, largely unattended, plus overnight chilling
YieldsServes 8
Inside photo from the cookbook Colombiana by Mariana Velasquez.
(Gentl and Hyers)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.


Place the sugar in a medium skillet, then place over medium heat and cook, without stirring but shaking the pan occasionally, until it melts and starts to take on an amber color. Swirl the pan so that the sugar is incorporated and caramelizes evenly and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then carefully add the lemon juice (this may cause the hot caramel to splatter). Stir to combine, then pour the caramel into a 9-inch metal cake pan. Swirl the pan around so that the caramel thinly coats the bottom, then let cool.


In a large bowl, combine the grated coconut, heavy cream, whole milk, egg yolks and condensed milk and use a hand mixer to blend. In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer starting on low speed, moving gradually to high speed, until stiff peaks form, 5 to 6 minutes. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the milk-and-coconut mixture until combined. Pour the mixture into the caramel-coated cake pan. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.


Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan and transfer to the oven. With the door open, carefully pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the side of the pan. Bake until the custard no longer shakes when tapped on the side and looks firm, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Tent with foil after 30 minutes, if needed, to avoid the top browning too quickly.


Carefully lift the cake pan from the hot water and let it cool completely. Place in the fridge overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours to reach optimal texture. When ready to serve, invert the custard onto a large rimmed platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

Getting fresh-grated coconut:
1 Open a fresh coconut: Starting with 2 medium coconuts, very carefully insert the tip of a metal skewer or paring knife into one of the three coconut “eyes” (only one of them will be soft enough to pierce through) and shake the coconut water into a glass. You can drink it right away or reserve it in the fridge for later. Repeat with the remaining coconut.

2 Hold the empty coconut in your hand, and you’ll see a “vein” that runs around the shell. This is the breaking point of the coconut. Firmly hold the coconut in your hand and, using a hammer or a metal meat mallet, firmly tap along the vein as you turn it in your hand. A couple rounds of firm blows will crack open the coconut.

3 Extract the flesh from the coconut: Using the hammer, break the opened coconut into smaller pieces, making it easier and safer to handle. Carefully insert the tip of the paring knife between the coconut’s inner shell and the coconut meat and separate them. What you are going for is the white meat of the coconut with its brown lining. Using a vegetable peeler, pare away all the brown lining from the flesh.

4 Using a box grater, grate the coconut meat through the large holes, or you can use a food processor with the grater attachment. At this point, the grated coconut can be stored in a zip-top plastic bag in the freezer for up to three months.