Made with chopped cashews and graham cracker crumbs, with an intense mouthfeel reminiscent of carrot cake, this tart is amazingly unique and one of my favorites, especially for celebrating Easter and welcoming spring.
The funny thing is, I never knew what exactly made this dessert tart—not when I first tried it and not even once I started making it on a regular basis over fifteen years ago after eating it at a get-together with my husband’s family in Monteagle, Tennessee. I don’t think many of the people I’ve served over the years have known exactly what made it so sweet either, judging by their responses when tasting it. “What is it called again?”
But one thing is for sure: people love it.
Before falling in love with this tart, my only experiences with tart were in restaurants. Not only did I know what a torta was, but I also wasn’t sure if it was “tor-tah” or “shortening” the way it’s spelled. You just got over it.
Let me humbly tell you everything I now know only about what makes a tart a tart: it is a type of cake made without flour (although not necessarily gluten-free), usually dense and layered, made of crumbs or crushed nuts with cream Or jam or fruit. It is of European origin, denser than cake and more often than not made in a springform pan. It is commonly pronounced as “tort” all over America and “tor-tah” elsewhere.
Despite asking for it several times a year, no one in my family ever referred to this dessert by its name. My husband asks when I’m going to make “this thing that tastes like carrot cake—just not sweet—that I love so much.” My good friend, who now makes this every year as part of her family’s Easter brunch, generally tells me she makes “your own funky coconut pie.”
I feel like I’m painting each and every one of us—my family, my friends, and me—as ignorant gems, but I don’t think we are. None of us grew up with torture. They were not in any of our mothers’ repertoire. And the tart just didn’t get off our tongues. It seems like a difficult thing to make and probably tastes too good for the kids at the table.
However, the coconut tart is plain and simple. The flavor is unmistakably coconut, hence the name, but the other ingredients mesh nicely.
The base consists of egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks, topped with chopped cashews, graham cracker crumbs and coconut. Bake low and slow, given time to cool, then topped with freshly whipped cream sweetened with coconut and lemon zest. It’s amazingly delicious. I actually make my own graham crackers for the crumbs. (You certainly don’t have to, but I’ll tell you: It’s really easy.)
I know you will love this coconut tart. Everyone does!
1 cup of graham crackers
3/4 cup “snowflake” coconut (either sweetened or unsweetened), divided
1/2 cup dry roasted and salted cashews
a pinch of salt
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of grated lemon peel
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix and set aside the graham crackers, 1/2 cup coconut, and cashews.
- With a pinch of salt, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, gradually add the sugar and beat again until stiff peaks form.
- Add the vanilla, then fold into the graham cracker mix
- Pour into a 9-inch skillet or use a springform pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Totally cool.
- Whisk the cream, adding the powdered sugar, lemon zest and the rest of the coconut. Spread on the tart.
- Cut into pie slices to serve.