Coconut Cake

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Published March 1, 2001.

Makes one 9-inch, 4-layer cake.



  •     1 large egg
  •     5 large egg whites
  •     3/4 cup cream of coconut
  •     1/4 cup water
  •     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •     1 teaspoon coconut extract
  •     2-1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
  •     1 cup granulated sugar
  •     1 tablespoon baking powder
  •     3/4 teaspoon table salt
  •     12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool
  •     2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut (about 8 ounces)
  •     1 recipe for Coconut Buttercream


Step 1: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with shortening and dust with flour.

Step 2: Beat egg whites and whole egg in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add cream of coconut, water, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

Step 3: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds.

Step 4: With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

Step 5: With mixer still running, add 1 cup liquid. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining 1 cup liquid in steady stream (this should take about 15 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)

Step 6: Divide batter between cake pans and level with offset or rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes (rotate cakes after about 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

Step 7: Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

Step 8: While cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Cool to room temperature.

Step 9: To Assemble the Cake: With a long serrated knife, cut both cakes in half horizontally so that each cake forms two layers.
Step 10:  Put a dab of icing on a cardboard round cut just larger than the cake. Center one cake layer on the round.
Step 11:  Place a large blob of icing in the center of the layer and spread it to the edges with an icing spatula.
Step 12: Hold the spatula at a 45-degree angle to the cake and drag it across the surface to level the icing.
Step 13: Repeat steps 3 and 4 with remaining cake layers.

Step 14: To ice the sides of the cake, scoop up a large dab of icing with the tip of the spatula and spread it on the sides with short side-to-side strokes. Sprinkle the top of the cake with coconut. Then press the coconut into the sides, letting the excess fall back onto a baking sheet.

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