Friday, February 20, 2009

Southern Coconut Cake (The Cake Slice)

This month's installment of The Cake Slice features Southern Coconut Cake. So far, every recipe that I've made out of Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes has exceeded my expectations, and I highly recommend that you go out and treat yourself to this cookbook.

Impossibly moist white cake layers are subtly flavored with unsweetened coconut milk, enveloped by a cream cheese buttercream frosting (I gained 5 pounds just typing those words) and covered with sweetened flaked coconut (oops, another 5 pounds).

With all of the cake making happening in my kitchen this month, I cut the recipe in half and baked the cake layers in two 6" round pans. The instructions for the cake were pretty straightforward, and the layers were baked without a hitch.

The cream cheese buttercream frosting is a bit more involved to coordinate the whipping of the egg whites and heating of the sugar, but the efforts will be rewarded with a frosting that has all the flavor of your traditional cream cheese frosting but with a lighter, fluffier consistency. Good grief, I could have eaten an entire batch this frosting right out of the bowl!

The assembled cake is really beautiful, and I thought the coconut flavor in the cake was nice and subtle. Again, the frosting was out of this world delicious and it wasn't coyingly sweet or rich...perfect!!
This recipe is on my short list for my friends J&T. You see, they are getting married this September, and I've been honored with the responsibility for their wedding cupcakes and dessert display. Am I just a bit panicked? --- absolutely!!! Aside from the nervousness, I'm really excited about the opportunity to create something delicious for people that I adore. I'm going to try this recipe out in cupcake form and see how it turns out... wish me luck!

Southern Coconut Cake
Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake

For the cake:
5 large egg whites
½ cup of milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 cups of cake flour
2 and 1/3 cup sugar
4 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter (8oz.) at warm room temperature
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 ½ cups of sweetened flaked coconut for garnishing cake
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the ½ cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Add the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake taster inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then turn the cakes out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on an 8-inch cake round. Cover this layer with 1 cup of the buttercream frosting. Spread it evenly all the way to edge of the cake. Then sprinkle ½ cup of shredded coconut on top. Add the second layer and repeat the process. Top with the final layer of cake and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Place the remaining 1 ½ cups shredded coconut on a large baking tray. Pick up the cake and hold it on the palm of one hand over the tray. Using the other hand scoop up the coconut and press it to the sides of the cake. Continue with this process until the sides of the cake are covered. Set the cake on a serving plate and sprinkle any remaining coconut on top of cake. Chill cake for at least one hour to allow frosting to firm up a bit.

Cream cheese buttercream frosting

12 ounces of cream cheese, slightly chilled
1 stick of butter plus 6 tablespoons of butter (7 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup of confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup of water
3 egg whites
Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set aside at room temperature while buttercream is made.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the softball stage 228 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in mixer bowl and have the mixer ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer on med-low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites taking care not to pour onto the beaters, it may splash. When all the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed on the mixer to med-high and beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled and stiff meringue forms.

With the mixer on low, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy.


Gigi said...

STUNNING!What a beautiful cake! Yours came out picture perfect.

vibi said...

I'm sure this will be said many time in your coming comments... but wow! This cake could very well pass for a wedding one!

How elegant and classy...

Very, very nice Linda!

Jo said...

Beatifully done. Love the whiteness of the cake and the frosting and the layers looks so deliciously moist.

Natalie said...

This looks divine! I may have to turn it into a cupcake. :)

Anonymous said...

Your coconut cake looks wonderful! YUM!

The Food Librarian said...

So pretty Linda! And good luck with the cupcakes. I would love to see them!

Amy of Sing For Your Supper said...

Holy jeez- this is an absolutely gorgeous cake!! I'm seriously drooling and looking at my watch thinking, "hmm, I wonder if I have time to make this tonight?" YUM!!!! Absolutely stunning.


Risa said...

This looks amazing! I want a slice.

Cheri Sicard said...

What a gorgeous cake. Coconut cake is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Wow! It really does look incredibly moist. My mouth is watering. :)

Lindsay said...

You put an asterisk next to the cream cheese and the flour - were there special instructions?

Katie said...

Your cake looks beautiful! I know what you mean about the fluffy cake layers and the dreamy buttercreamm. Love your photos.

Linda said...

Lindsay - those asterisks were typos (no special notes/instructions). I'm not the best proofreader, so thanks for noting them! :)

test it comm said...

That cake looks amazing!

Mary Jo said...

love your pictures!!!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

now that's a cake! looks great on that cute cakestand, too. i agree about the frosting--way too good!

Lindsay said...

Oh cool, I want to make the cake but was worried I'd miss a crucial tip/step! I'm still working on my confidence as a baker :)
This looks delicious and your blog is wonderful! It's bookmarked for sure :)

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous looking cake!

I love coconut cake but haven't come across a recipe for it using coconut milk. It sounds like it would be delicious.

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Your cake looks spectacular!!! Wonderful photos.

That is awesome that you're making the desserts for your friends. I'll keep my fingers crossed that all goes well.

TeaLady said...

I like that you left the left the top plain. And four layers.... Beautiful!

Lulu the Baker said...

Your cake is gorgeous! And your photography is gorgeous too! Great job on your cake. I had some leftover batter and made cupcakes. They didn't have that nice domed top that box mix cupcakes have, but they tasted amazing, and no one would see the top underneath all the frosting and coconut anyway!

betty geek said...

Where have you been all my life?

You are so my blog friend.

Your baking pics are the bomb. I am so loving this cake.

Jaime said...

i love your cake plate!

Justine said...

although my cake looks nowhere near as pretty as yours, I also made it and it was amazing! you can see picture on my blog:

Ging said...

I am making this cake right now as we speak! The only thing that I have come across that is confusing is that in the frosting directions, you mention adding vanilla with the cream cheese, but you do not list that in the ingredients. So, do you put vanilla in there? I did just in case, there was no way I was going to mess this cake up! What's a little vanilla going to hurt anyway!

Lisa said...

I have a question regarding the process in which you assemble the cake batter. Its different from the standard procedure where you cream the butter and sugar together first, then add the dry and liquid - is there a reason for the way this batter is put together the way it is?

Anonymous said...

I have made this cake twice within a week and both times it got rave reviews. This is definitely the coconut cake recipe that I will be using from here on.

cc mac said...

since the icing has eggs in it...does it need to be refrigerated if one needs to prepare it a day in advance for next day serving

(meaning putting the entire cake with icing in the fridge...until next day?)

has anyone has problems...with the eggs cooking once you pour in the hot sugar mix?

Linda said...

CC mac -

If you heat the sugar to the approrpiate temperature and gradually incorporate it into the egg whites, the eggs should heat and you won't have to worry about raw eggs. As long as you add the sugar gradually while you're whipping the egg whites, you won't have scrambled eggs.

The frosting is a bit loose, thus needing the refridgeration to get a better texture to frost the cake. With that said, would definitely recommend storing the cake in the fridge (not necessarily overnite) before serving.

Hope this helps!

cc mac said...

thank you Linda.

I plan on baking the cake Saturday afternoon.....and then serving on Sunday...because there will be NO time on Sunday to make anything.

If I bake Saturday afternoon...I should put the cake in the refrigerator until Sunday afternoon....should that be okay? So it will be a little under 24 hours in the refrigerator.

(or maybe Sunday before we leave for Easter church...take it out of the fridge so it warms up before serving?)

But I should NOT...put the frosting in the fridge than ice later right?

I should ice the cake when the icing is made?

thanks for all your help!

Linda said...

cc mac -

The cake, whether it is in its separate components or assembled should do just fine in the fridge overnite. if you're just storing the cake layers, would recommend wrapping each layer in plastic wrap so the exterior doesn't dry out.

re: icing, I typically refrigerate the frosting a few hours THEN frost the cake, as this buttercream is a bit looser than others. IMHO chilling the frosting overnight shouldn't be an issue (can't say with certainty though, as I've not done that before)

You could actually assemble the cake and it should hold in the fridge overnight without a problem (that I've done without a hitch).

Good luck and please let me know how it turns out!


cc mac said...


My grandmother and great grandmother always made this cake for Easter.

I am making it for my in laws for the first time and my mother in law is a I need it to be perfect so she doesn't criticize me.

I plan on this....make the icing first....and put it in the refrigerator to chill for awhile....and then start making the layers.

I will ice the cake on Saturday...and keep it in the refrigerator assembled nothing dries out.

That way...I can just pull it out of the refrigerator Sunday to eat!

do you think I should take it out of the fridge so it has time to warm up for 3 hours or so?

or does it taste good cold?

Anonymous said...

I just tried to make the icing. The cream cheese mixture was no problem and so incredibly yummy and fluffy. The egg whites whipped up fine. But when I made the syrup, the sugar didn't dissolve all the way, it went hard on the side of the bowl...then when i added the cream cheese mixture to the otherwise fine and fluffy egg whites + syrup, the whole mixture collapsed and turned runny instead of fluffy. I am sure it is too loose to use on the cake and the amount seems less than the cream cheese mixture was originally. Can anyone help?

Anonymous said...

When you are heating the sugar and water, just as the mix starts to boil, use a basting brush and brush water just above the water line. This will keep the sugar from crystalizing along the edge. you can do this a few times, but once is usually enough. And do not stir! Did you be sure to add the cream cheese mix slowly? You can also try folding half the egg whites in the cream cheese mixture to lighten it up before folding the rest together. granted I haven't made this yet, these are just some typical fixes. Hope that helps! I can't wait to try this cake!

Priscilla Sherman said...

Did you ever make cupcakes with this recipe? I am trying to find a cupcakes recipe for my wedding. I'm making cupcakes in place of a cake. Thanks so much! =)

Linda said...

Hi Priscilla,
I ended up going with other recipes for my friend's wedding, so have yet to go the cupcake route for this recipe.

I would definitely recommend that you take this recipe for a test run in cupcake form, as some cake recipes can be a bit dry as cupcakes. As a full size cake, the layers are perfectly moist, so this recipe should translate well into cupcakes.

I hope this helps!


Pastry Ninja said...

I love it! The sponge itself is wonderful.
I ended hand folding the meringue into the cream cheese for the second batch I tried and it came out a bit fluffier than the first. I'm definitely gonna have to try the frosting again on a few other cakes! Beautiful Cake!


Baking is my Zen...sweet nibbles for the soul said...

I LOVE coconut. This looks wonderful.


Cecy said...

Hi Linda, thanks for the recipe looks delicious!
One question: the egg whites should be beaten until stiff before adding the syrup?

Linda said...

Hi Cecy,
I will start mixing the egg whites. When the whites get frothy (which won't take long at all), I will slowly drizzle in the syrup, then beat the mixture until it reaches stiff peaks.

Good luck!


Cecy said...

Thanks Linda:D
Hice el pastel el fin de semana y quedó delicioso!!!
Saludos desde México!!!

Abigail said...

Hi I baked this yesterday and it was yummy. One problem though is that the Cake did not come out firm.I ha hard time removing parchment paper on each layers it was stuck even if I greased it before and when I lift the cake it breaks. Would you happen to know what I did wrong? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

OMG! I stumbled upon this recipe, and I needed to make a show stopper, something so perfect it would leave people in silent bliss as they ate it, and this one did the trick. I made it, and it was perfection, the texture of the cake is so luxurious, and the frosting, only one words describes it, WOW. My grandma had some and she was a baker for 30+ years, she was amazed, and that isn't said lightly, we take our desserts very seriously, I converted former coconut haters today, and I thank you for the recipe. Now, I have to find that book you mentioned!

Anonymous said...

I'm making this now- i believe I've followed instructions very close but my frosting is more like a heavy glaze and I'm afraid it won't stick to the cake, I've added a bit of extra powdered sugar to help but no such luck. Any ideas???

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found your blog by coincidence(I'm from Germany). I tried to make this lovely cake yesterday and my big problem is the buttecream frosting. It doesn't get stiff! Maybe I translated something wrong or maybe I converted it wrong from cups/spoons to grams and ml?
My question is, did I get it right, that in the end you mix the buttercream-creamcheese mixture with the eggwhite-syrup mixture????? On your photo the cream around the cake and on top of the cake is so super white, is that the buttecream-creamcheese mixture with the eggwhite-syrup mixture together?
The buttercream makes it all a bit yellow, because of the butter and when I mix it with the eggwhite-syrup mixture it is not so super white, it is more yellow. So is this on top and around the cake only the eggwhite-syrup frosting, without the buttercream-creamcheese?
Thank you so much for this beautiful recipie. I hope I will get it right, because this cake is fantastic!!! I wish you HAPPY EASTER from Germany!

Anonymous said...

I have made this cake twice and am looking forward to another excuse to make it. I follow the recipe to a "T" and the cake sponge comes out absolutely perfect; so perfect that I have decided to use this sponge recipe when making wedding cakes from now on.. And the light & fluffy cream cheese frosting recipe is absolutely dreamy. One of my favorite and most flattering compliments came from a precious senior citizen, "This tastes just like mama's".

Azle, Texas

Anonymous said...

completely fell apart and there is no way you can hold this in your hand to flip over. it comepletely fell apart and I had to make something else. tasted ok, but too crumbly. 1 star for flavor.

Anonymous said...

I just tried this recipe. I've made the cake before in the past and it's pretty good. This was my first time making the frosting. I followed this recipe to a T and I must say it was a bust. At first I was excited because I hate buttercream. I can't stand the taste of powdered sugar and I hate how some recipes call for as much as 6 cups! Gross! I was pleased that this recipe only called for one cup of powdered sugar. I tasted the frosting before I had added the egg white/sugar mixture and I thought it was the perfect level of sweetness. I will say, however, I was disappointed at how lumpy it was. I blended it really well and I had a ton of little butter lumps that just would not break down. So I think that the butter should be creamed in the mixer first, THEN add the cream cheese. Not the other way around. I'd rather have lumps of cream cheese in my frosting than butter! At that point I was also concerned about the consistency. It was pretty thin. I'm glad that I purchased a stand mixer because beating the egg white/ sugar mixture took 10-15 minutes to get it to the right texture. The final consistency of this frosting was more like a glaze. I even added an extra cup of powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons of cornstarch to try and thicken up, but to no avail. I was pretty disappointed because the whole reason I baked a cake was because I wanted to decorate it with frosting. If you want to pipe frosting on a cake, this is not the recipe for the job! I will say the taste is good. Although it would have tasted better if I didn't have to add the extra cup of sugar. I would make the cake again, even though it's kind of time consuming. I think I would try and find a different frosting.

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