Cakes & Cookies

Jamaican Toto – coconut cake (Vegan, whole wheat version)

Jamaican toto coconut cake

I participated in The Green Bazaar organised in Chennai this Sunday past. The bazaar promotes sustainable living, displaying products and organising workshops with the green tag. Lotsa Lavender (that’s my home bakery business) was invited by Sharan India, an NGO that promotes Vegan eating for health, to display and sell vegan baked goodies at their stall. We’d put up bread loaves, stuffed buns, many varieties of cookies and even a vegan cheesecake! It was a great experience.

More than anything else, being at the same stall as a vegan NGO really changed a few things for me. I have vegan clients for whom I keep trying to convert regular baked goods into vegan ones. In fact it was thanks to one such client that I totally shifted over to using only whole grains and cutting out fined ingredients totally from baking and to a large extent at home for everyday cooking too. It was one thing to listen to her talk embracing a vegan lifestyle every now and then, but an altogether different experience listening to the ladies from Sharan talk about Why Vegan. I came home with a peanut curd starter from the stall and am trying to set peanut curd myself at home.

Some of my friends and cousins are vegan and I have seen videos of how the dairy industry functions in India. But one part of me totally doesn’t even want to try giving up milk or curd (honey, silk and leather come later!). But that Sunday at the stall changed my perspective to some extent. So much so, when I set out to make this Jamaican Toto cake yesterday, I replaced the milk with coconut milk and the butter with coconut oil! Since it was a coconut cake, the substitutions worked very well and complemented the cake. I used wholly organic ingredients and felt even better. I don’t know how far this vegan leaning is going to last, but I hope it is for good!

Jamaican coconut cake

Wiki tells me that the Toto is served as a dessert or snack in Jamaica during family gatherings. I also read that this dish came about during thedays when slavery was still around. At night, the underfed, hungry slaves would prepare totos with flour, molasses and coconut using the traditional method – placing the pan on top of fire, covering it with a metal lid and placing hot coals on top. This is also from where the term “hell a tap an hell a battam” comes about, a term that is also used to refer to the Jamaican sweet potato pudding that uses the same traditional method for baking.

The cake I had in hand after baking was a nice soft coconut with a wonderful crumbly texture and a resounding coconut flavour that worked bigtime for me. I all coconut lovers will love this cake, as did my son, hubby and mother-in-law. The recipe I’m giving below is my vegan version, with the original in Notes wherever I’ve changed it. The original recipe is baked in a 13 inch by 9 inch pan. I made a third of the recipe and distributed the batter between a 5 inch by 3 inch loaf (that I gave away to a friend), a small 4 inch by 2 inch loaf and 2 small cupcakes.


Jamaican Toto (Coconut Cake) – vegan & whole grain

(Makes a small 5”x5” cake or one 5”x3” loaf plus 3 cupcakes)


Organic whole wheat flour – 1 cup (recipe calls for APF/maida)

Organic jaggery powder – ½ cup

Fresh grated coconut – ½ cup

Baking powder –  1 tsp

Baking soda – heaping ¼ tsp

Allspice – ¼ tsp

Ground ginger – ¼ tsp

Cardamom powder* – ¼ tsp (recipe uses nutmeg, but I replaced it with cardamom and cinnamon)

Cinnamon powder – ¼ tsp

Salt – a pinch

Flax powder – 1 tbsp

Coconut milk – ½ cup + 2 tbsp (See how you could make it yourself at home)

Organic coconut oil – 3 tbsp (recipe calls for butter)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Mix together all dry ingredients

Mix the flax seed powder with 2 tbsp of water and beat well

Add the flax paste and oil to milk

Add above liquid mix to the dry mix and stir until blended. Do not over mix.

Place batter in a greased 5 inch by 5 inch cake pan and bake for 30 minutes (It took me 25 minutes for the 5 by 3 loaf, and 20 minutes for the cupcakes)

Remove from pan after 15 minutes and cool on a rack. Dig in!


To Make coconut milk at home:

Grind fresh grated coconut with coconut water or regular water to make a coarse paste. Put the paste in a piece of cotton cloth and twist it around itself. Squeeze out all the milk and discard the dry coconut part. If the grated coconut still seems somewhat moist, grind it again with some more water and strain through the cloth. You’ll get thinner milk in the second round. One small coconut gave me about 1 cup of thick coconut milk

Notes: I’ve made the following substitutions to the original recipe to veganise it

Whole wheat flour in place of maida

Jaggery powder in place of brown sugar

Cardamom and cinnamon in place of nutmeg (I ran out of nutmeg and I love the cardamom-coconut combination)

Oil in place of butter


This is my post for alphabet J for the blogging event titled Around the World in 30 Days , a special bi-annual version of the  Blogging Marathon hosted by Srivalli.

For more recipes from countries starting with the letter J, please check this link:

17 thoughts on “Jamaican Toto – coconut cake (Vegan, whole wheat version)

  1. I know the condition of cattle in dairy industry, but not having milk or curd is one option that I’m not ready to take at this point of life. Hopefully I’ll wise up some time soon and take the leap.
    That coconut cake looks flavorful and amazing.

  2. Glad that substitutions worked for you.
    We feel the same way as Pavani. For a while we shifted to almond / soy milk too after seeing the plight of cattle in a documentary video. Some how couldn’t do without dairy products yet.

  3. Agree with you totally nandhini, a part of me too want to shun milk products but i m not sure will i ever be able to survive without milk, favorite curd, more, thachi mammu!!! But wherever it calls we can try to substitute it well with other options available!! Cake looks yum!!

  4. I was surprised to see that you discard the coconut, jamaican toto is made with the milk and trash of the coconut that is the uniqueness or it.If the trash or coconut itself is not in it then sorry to say it’s not jamaican toto.

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