Ever since I watched the Coconut Cake episode on Throwdown with Bobby Flay a couple years ago, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a sky high fluffy coconut infused layer cake generously coated with sweetened flakes while it confidently rode the line of coconut overload (trick question: there is no such thing).
More recently, I went to a cafe in Gainesville that I had never been to for dessert with some friends. The game plan was to split three slices between the four of us. Two friends adamantly pushed for 2/3 of the slices to be coconut cake but I resisted for a more diverse portfolio of dessert. Rookie mistake. As soon as I took the first bite of the airy and sweet coconut cake, It was hard for me to look at the peanut butter cheesecake and chocolate overload slices with the same gusto for which I viewed their description on the menu. I openly admitted that 3/3 of the slices should have been coconut cake and was met with a blunt “I told you so”.
After this outing, I couldn’t get the coconut cake off my mind. Coconut is a flavor I never liked as a kid but somewhere along the way learned to love as I got older. Maybe a move to Florida and acquiring Cuban friends who stuffed me with their coconut pastries had something to do with it. Who knows. What I do know is I have been wanting to make coconut cake and that requires going all out with a full and towering layer cake. That is just what I did.
For the Cake
- 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup milk
- 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
For the frosting:
- 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans.
In the large bowl, 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 4 ounces of 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 45 to 55 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.
For the frosting, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners’ 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. Serve at room temperature.