Harold Moore's Coconut Cakes Help Kids
How the head chef for Charlie Palmer Collective started baking cakes to help Make-a-Wish
It all started with one cake, says Harold Moore.
Harold Moore — you might know him from his former NYC restaurants Commerce or Bistro Pierre Lapin — considered himself as lucky as one person could be during the COVID pandemic. As the chief culinary officer for the Charlie Palmer Collective, he was still working alongside his staff and he and his family were healthy.
Something was missing, though. “We usually do a lot of events for local organizations. There’s always City Harvest, Share Our Strength, and others — someone always has a need or a want and we make it happen,” he says. But most fundraising events were canceled during the pandemic and Moore was missing them. He shared that he and his team pivoted to feeding first responders and others who needed a meal through Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, but admits that was also a way of keeping people he worked with employed during the lockdown. What was missing was a direct connection to helping people. “You do your bit, but you don’t see the result. There’s no end-user.”
One day, he got a request from a woman who wanted to purchase one of his coconut cakes. The cake, originally on the menu at Moore’s restaurant, Commerce, went with the chef to Charlie Palmer. But, by then, Moore had passed the recipe on to his team of pastry chefs. “I stopped making the cake after a while and just sorta delegated it to other people. But then the world changed and there was no longer access to it when the restaurants were closed.”
Moore decided to bake the cake for the woman, provided she make a check out to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation of New York. Moore then posted the cake on Instagram with the idea that if he sold a few cakes, he could help Make-A-Wish. “I figured I would pay for the ingredients, and if I sold like 20 cakes it’s not a big deal to make.”
Then, something magical happened. “It started to pick up momentum and I sold like 50 cakes.” Celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli purchase a cake and shared it on her Instagram and it resonated with people.
Moore says that he’s up to about 130 cakes, with orders coming in all across the country —including Texas and Florida. For shipping, Moore freezes the cake and packs it in dry ice. “The cakes freeze remarkably well,” he adds.
The cake, by the way, is made with a sour cream-based cake with pudding between the layers. It’s then finished with cream cheese frosting and a dusting of toasted coconut. Moore says the recipe resonates with people who grew up with their moms making Duncan Hines cakes. “It’s a straightforward American recipe with a little technique,” he says.
The cakes sell for $100, with 100 percent of proceeds donated to Make-A-Wish. Moore says that he’s lucky to work for Charlie Palmer, which lets him use the kitchen to make the cakes. His fellow kitchen staff pitch in to help. “I’m fortunate to work with people who are generous with their time,” he says. Moore pays for the ingredients to make the cake — which he feels is a necessary contribution.
The satisfaction in making the cakes more than makes up for the cost. “I’m just happy and grateful. The cause is good, and we’re just trying to do good things.”
To order a cake, visit Moore’s Instagram page @haroldmoore.