Last weekend my hubby and I had a few close friends over for ‘One Last Summer Feast Food Fest’. We put out an incredible spread of rotisserie chickens, my award winning chipotle ribs, an assortment of veg & dips, smoked salmon crostinis, grilled zucchini roll-ups stuffed with basil and goat cheese, coleslaw, and an assortment of salads. How does one complete an epic indulgent meal such as this?? Two words: Coconut. Cake.
I admit that coconut is pretty excellent 365 days of the year, but with those tropical ties I deemed it the most appropriate ingredient to feature as we say farewell to long sunny days and hello to stews & sweaters. From underneath the patio umbrella, I watched my party peeps lick their plates clean and make them glisten in the sunlight. This moist white cake with rich coconut flavour, topped with sweet, coconut-flavoured cream cheese frosting, was the perfect dessert to wrap an excellent summer season with. I’m finally willing to move on and accept that winter is coming. My sweater is on, bring on stews…
This recipe is originally from Taste of Home. The amazing Ina Garten offers another excellent coconut cake recipe, one that I have used for years. The differences between her recipe and this one are subtle, and the icings are nearly identical. Personally, I like the use of coconut extract, rather than almond extract, cake flour, cream of tartar and the technique of whipping the egg whites to increase the cakes stability and volume in this recipe. Both approaches are excellent and it really comes down to how stocked your pantry is on the day you’re in need of a homemade coconut cake.
- 5 farm fresh eggs, separated and at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup canola or veg oil
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 pound (1 package) of cream cheese, softened
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar (a little more if necessary)
- 11/4 teaspoons coconut extract
- 2 cups flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease two 9" round cake pans. Separate your eggs into small bowls.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat sugar, butter and oil until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each, then add the extracts.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Stir in coconut and transfer to another large clean bowl. Set aside.
- Add cream of tartar to your egg whites; with clean beaters and a clean mixer bowl, beat on medium until stiff peaks form. Fold the beaten egg whites into your cake batter.
- Transfer your batter into the greased 9" round baking pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
- For frosting, with clean beaters and clean mixer bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and extract; beat until smooth.
- Add a dollop of frosting to the centre of your cake serving plate to keep the cake in place. Center one cake layer on the plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting and sprinkle with 1/3 cup coconut. Repeat. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake; decorate the sides with remaining coconut as you please (see below). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting.
Let me answer a few questions that may come to mind while you’re prepping your own cake:
What’s the Difference Between Sweetened and Unsweetened Coconut?
Sweetened coconut has sugar added to it before drying, so it tends to be a bit sweeter and brings out the flavour of the coconut a little more. How the two behave in a recipe is almost identical so (most times) either will work. With much sweetness from the granulated sugars and confectioner’s sugar in this recipe, I tend to use a combination of sweetened and unsweetened coconut. Whichever you can get your hands on will work.
Why Buttermilk? Can I substitute for regular milk?
Absolutely. 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice works as a buttermilk substitute for me — although I often stock buttermilk in my fridge ready to grab for cakes, biscuits, marinades and Saturday morning pancakes. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide, making for a lighter, stable crumb.
You have two options when decorating a traditional coconut cake:
- Cover the frosted cake with long strands of shredded coconut.
- Toast some of that shredded coconut in the oven (5 minutes at 275°F – watch it carefully, it will burn quickly) and dress the bottom edge of the cake for another dimension of colour and flavour.
As you can see, I went with #2 this time. (My five year old would be cracking up if she read that.)
What I’m Drinking: French pressed coffee. As an obsessive coffee drinker, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to explore the world of the French press. I feel like I’ve opened a brand new door to bean exploration.
What I’m Listening to: New Vampire Weekend album, Modern Vampires of the City. The lyrics to this album are smart and poetic, yet the tone of it is all fun. It’s quickly become the new soundtrack to my family pre-dinner dance parties.