A couple of weeks ago it was my niece’s birthday and she requested either a coconut cake or a coconut cream pie as her birthday cake – too many episodes of Gilligan’s Island I think! I dismissed the idea of a coconut cream pie although that does sound rather delish and opted for the coconut cake because I knew the doyenne of all things baked, Ina Garten, has a wonderful coconut cake recipe which she adapted from her famous and very popular coconut cupcakes. The amount of butter, eggs and sugar in the recipe is a little daunting but a cake of this size will feed at least 12, that’s how I’m justifying it anyway! I must say though that for once I found the quantities in Ina’s recipe a little off. The recipe yields 2 x 9 inch cakes and yet only 1 teaspoon of baking powder is used. I got very little rise in the cakes and will definitely double the amount of baking powder the next time. I also found that the icing recipe yielded far too much icing for the cake and I ended up having to throw a lot of it out. Granted I could perhaps have been a little more generous with the amount I applied (according to my niece anyway) but even so there would’ve been a lot left over. Despite the heft of the ingredients this cake is actually not too sweet or heavy and with the white on white topping of icing and coconut shreds makes for a stunning celebration cake.
Ingredients – Serves 12 Adapted from Ina Garten
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder – I would double this amount next time as my cakes didn’t rise enough
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup full fat milk
120g shredded coconut – not desiccated coconut
500g cream cheese, at room temperature
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
500g icing sugar, sifted
180g shredded coconut – not desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line the bottom with parchment paper and dust the sides lightly with flour. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don’t be concerned. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the coconut with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling. The cakes can be made a few days ahead of time – just keep them well wrapped until ready to frost.
For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the icing sugar and mix until just smooth (don’t whip!). To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. In order for the serving plate to remain clean during the decorating process I find it helps to place strips of baking paper just under the cake, going all the way around and then pulling these out once the cake has finished being decorated. Serve at room temperature.