Coconut Cake

September 2, 2010

Coconut cake with coconut extract.  Filled with coconut custard with coconut rum.  Drizzled with coconut syrup with shredded coconut.  All with…chocolate frosting.

My sister’s birthday just passed, and just like every other year, she got to pick the cake she wants me to make for her big day.  There were several years of requesting boxed yellow cake mix with the chocolate frosting in the tub, another year when I went in a different direction and made orange cake with cream cheese frosting (the chocolate lover in her did not appreciate that one), one year with a caramel cake with chocolate frosting that ended up on the floor by mistake, and last year’s chocolate cake with raspberry filling.  This year, she took a chance with coconut.

Despite the lack of coconut in the frosting (though I doused it with coconut on the frosting), this cake was coconut heaven.  It seems that so many coconut cakes are just a white cake with coconut sprinkled on top.  That is certainly not enough coconut flavor for me.  Not only is every part of this cake flavored with coconut, the key is in the custard.  Oh my goodness, the custard.  Make it.  Eat a bowl of it.  You’ll see.  And then make it again and fill the cake with it.  The end result is so light and barely sweet that the coconut flavor shines through.  Beyond delicious.

Coconut Cake (adapted from Bobby Flay)

This cake takes quite a bit of time.  But seriously worth every minute!  Mostly because it tastes better after it sits for a while – gives time for the coconut custard and coconut syrup to seep through the cake for a bit.  I made the cake, filling and the syrup the day before.  And made the frosting did the assembling the day of.


Coconut Syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Coconut Filling

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablepoon coconut rum (recommended: Malibu)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup very cold heavy cream

Coconut Cake

  • 2 tablespoons softened butter, for pans
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold

For the Syrup:

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

For the Filling:

Combine the milks and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment paper.

Whisk together the coconut milk, egg whites, vanilla extract and coconut extract in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer.  Mix in the dessicated coconut.  Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pan and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring 1 cup of cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.  Add rest of the cream.  Using an electric mixer, whip until frosting-like consistency is achieved.

To Assemble:

Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another layer on a cardboard round cut side up and brush with some of the coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. Place the layer cut side down on top of the cake.

Frost the sides and top of the cake with the chocolate frosting.


7 Responses to “Coconut Cake”

  1. […] coconut rum or coconut custard.  And that’s just plain amazing – I say this from experience.  Coconut flour basically just tastes like dried up coconut, but looks like a flour and has […]

  2. […] a challenge for me to outdo whatever I created the year before.  And if last year’s was a monster, then this year’s was a beast.  If you consider beasts to be bigger than monsters, that […]

  3. […] like chocolate.  But…sparingly.  You know, in different types of cookies, or flavored with other things.  But a deep, dark, totally chocolate dessert?  I would likely pass for something else.  […]

  4. […] baking when I make cakes for other people.  You surely remember me getting all fancy with this coconut cake?  Or what about this beauty with the macaron layer in the middle?  Even these bars were for a […]

  5. […] you all already know, every year, I make a cake for my sister’s birthday.  It’s a must.  There are certain […]

  6. […] sisters birthday.  And, of course, she wanted a cake bigger and badder than the one from the year before.  The criteria, like always, was the same: must include chocolate but may not be a chocolate cake. […]

  7. […]  And after going back through the years, and realizing that I’ve already made cakes with a chocolate coconut combo, a chocolate orange combo, a chocolate chip cake, and a multi layered standard yellow cake with […]

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