Monday, April 5, 2010

coconut cake: i went back down south

What a perfect day. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping. I had my camera out and was surrounded by people I love. What could be better than a carefree and relaxing day? Easter is one of my favorite times of the year. This year especially because the weather decided to be un-seasonably and absolutely gorgeous! Aaah let the sun shine down! And Easter is so great because there’s always plenty of food, chocolate, games and…cake. This time: a delicious, white, grand and elegant coconut cake. I’ve had my eye on this cake for a while ever since my brother gave me Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for Christmas and I finally had the opportunity to make it. The texture was light, the frosting smooth but not too sweet and the slivers of fresh coconut gave it that wonderful added coconut kick.
(Cousins make sunny days so much better)

I loved making it. The batter, the frosting…everything. Except for the coconut curls. Oh how I hated making those curls. Sure it looks all beautiful and perfect in the book. But I should have known that Martha could make anything look simple and easy. So maybe it takes a bit of practice but my first crack at it (haha) wasn’t that pleasant. Those perfect slivers that Martha managed to make, well I only ended up getting about half of them out of the whole coconut. But it’s ok, I just used those and ate the rest! Coconuts are just wonderful. I love the taste, but especially the scent. It reminds me so much of summer and tropical islands. My trip to Barbados a couple of years ago was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on and every time I get a whiff of coconuts it just brings me right back.

This cake is moist, light and perfect for a sunny garden party. (Note to self: organize another garden party this summer!) The only thing I would have changed would have been to add more shredded coconut because I didn’t feel that the cake itself was coconutty enough. The recipe calls for 1 cup but I would have put at least 1 ½ maybe even 2 cups. OR add coconut extract to the frosting instead. Either way, it was still delicious. But whatever you do, don’t eat a whole bunch of cake and then a piece of brownie and tart. I couldn’t move after that! (But totally worth it.)

Coconut Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Ingredients for the cake

3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 large whole eggs
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup packed sweetened, shredded coconut (I would have preferred to use more, like 1 ½ cups)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Procedure for the cake

Preheat oven to 350oF and grease two 9-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, sift the flour and mix in the baking powder, salt and sweetened shredded coconut. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and sugar until lighter in colour and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the whole eggs one at a time and the egg whites, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add a bit of the flour mixture and alternate with the coconut milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for about 55 minutes or until golden brown, springy and a toothpick inserted comes out perfectly clean. When done, transfer to a cooling rack and only remove cakes when they have completely cooled down, about 30 minutes.

Ingredients for the frosting

1 ½ cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
6 large egg whites
¼ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract (or coconut extract if you want more of a coconut taste)

Procedure for the frosting

In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and egg whites and cook until the mixture is warm to the touch and reaches 70oC (160oF) on a candy thermometer. It’s good to invest in a good quality (but doesn’t have to cost a fortune) candy thermometer, because a lot of really good recipes like for caramel or Italian meringue buttercream require the syrup to reach a certain temperature and it’s hard to do that without one. Once you reach the temperature, beat the mixture with an electric mixer on high speed until you get glossy and stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. If you have an electric stand mixer, just use that bowl directly over the water-bath and transfer it to the mixer to beat. Beat in the vanilla at the end and use immediately. Careful not to overbeat the mixture otherwise the egg whites will dry up.

For the coconut curls

Buy 1 fresh coconut that is free of mold and when you shake it, you can hear the liquid sloshing around inside.

Preheat oven to 350oF. Using an ice pick or a screwdriver and a hammer, pierce two of the three eyes at the stem-end of the coconut to strain the liquid. Place the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the shell begins to crack. Set aside to cool.
Place the coconut on a clean towel and using a flat-head screwdriver, crack the shell off with a hammer. You’ll probably have to do this a couple of times since it won’t likely crack open in one shot. Remove the shell and use a potato peeler to peel off the dark outer skin that’s between the white part and the hard outer shell. Now here’s the part that I struggled with, peel off long, thick strips from the cut edges. I don’t know if it was just me, but I couldn’t really do it well. I also cut my fingers, so make sure you don’t do that! Anyway, once you’ve finished cursing and have your coconut curls, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge.


To assemble the cake, trim the tops of the cakes to make them level. Place one cake on a cake platter and spread a generous amount of frosting (about 1 ½ cups) on top using an off-set spatula. Place the other cake of top and spread the remaining frosting over the entire cake. The best way to do that is to start off with a small amount of frosting and make a “crumb-coat” to lock in the crumbs then spread the rest of the frosting in a swirly motion. Decorate with coconut curls. Keep refrigerated with a cake dome for up to 3 or 4 days.


  1. martha is a homemaking bitch

    ...whom i love.

  2. I am absolutely try this cake and frosting. Thanks for posting!


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