Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coconut - love it or hate it

Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The funny thing about coconut is people either really love it or really hate it. I don't meet many people who are indifferent to it or can take it or leave it. I'm one of those people who really love it. Love the taste, love the texture, love everything about it. The only thing I don't like is coconut extract. Tastes weird when I bake with it. But coconut itself - ah. My favorite coconut cake recipe is from Mrs. Fields' Great American Desserts. Like the carrot cake recipe, I discovered this one early on and it's so good that I don't try a lot of different recipes just because I think this is the best. I've had people who don't like coconut try this cake and love it. It's moist, it's flavorful and it's just good. Also like with the carrot cake, coconut cake is fabulous with cream cheese frosting. I know there are some recipes that make it with fluffy, boiled icing but that always seems too much like whipped egg whites and why would I want to eat that? I don't make this often because it's so good I would eat too much of it.

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted until golden
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted until golden

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter and lightly flour 3 9-inch cake pans.
2. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream together until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes, using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl.
3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat for 45 seconds after each addition and begin and end with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl. Add the coconut and beat on low speed.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy using the electric mixer on high speed. Add the cream of tartar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the beaten whites into the batter until no white streaks remain. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans and smooth the top of each.
5. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Invert the pans onto the racks and let cool to room temperature.
Make the frosting:
6. Put the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat until smooth using the electric mixer on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until creamy and smooth. Scrape down the bowl. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the toasted coconut and combine well.
Assemble the cake:
7. Place a cake layer on a serving plate with strips of wax paper under the edges and spread the top of it with frosting. Add the second layer and frost the top. Place the remaining layer on top. Frost the sides of the cake, then the top. Garnish by pressing the toasted coconut gently over the top and sides. If desired, place large flakes of coconut over the top. Remove the wax paper.


  1. What colour is this cake inside? I have been trying to recreate my wedding cake from in the Caribbean. It has a yellow cake inside and what tasted like a little fluffy cream cheese icing.

    1. Hi - the yellow comes from the egg yolks but it's lightened by the whipped egg whites so at best it's a pale yellow. If yours was a deeper yellow, they might have combined the eggs whole, i.e. not separated and the egg whites whipped separately. Then the texture would be heavier.

    2. Mine was a deeper yellow. I have a picture but, it won't allow me to "paste" it into the response.

  2. It seems to be a similar colour to the picture in this blog

    This is the recipe I tried on our first year anniversary. It definitely wasn't right. I noticed the recipes you tried have buttermilk, mine used coconut milk. Mine also used coconut oil and not vanilla extract. I haven't figured out what ingredient does what to the cake yet. :-)

    Do you have any tips or ideas for decreasing the amount of powdered sugar in the frosting and still getting a good one?

    1. I forgot to add the recipe link.

    2. Hi Sabrina, if you want a frosting that's less sweet, you probably need something more like a whipped cream frosting. The structure of the frosting will come more from whipping the cream rather than stiffening it with additional sugar. Coconut oil will definitely give you more of a coconut flavor. My recipe gets the coconut flavor from the actual coconut itself. I haven't made a lot of different coconut cakes because I like the one I use so much but one key component is really using fresh coconut. That'll bring a flavor you just can't get from packaged or canned coconut. Did you use fresh coconut?