In my debut novel The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, this recipe plays an important role in Lou’s journey. Perhaps this recipe was her grandmother’s way of guiding her granddaughter when she was no longer there to do it in person. Such is the power of a treasured family recipe.
Here it is in Lou’s words:
Though Harley says to weigh the ingredients, I’m giving the instructions the way Grandma Luella gave them to me. If you prefer to weigh, you can find nifty conversions on the internet. Make sure to bring all the ingredients to room temperature before mixing
5 large egg whites (save the yolks to make homemade pudding)
3/4 cup cream of coconut
1/4 cup coconut milk—make sure to stir the contents very well to recombine before measuring. Save leftovers for Thai food or your coffee
1 large egg
1 tsp. coconut extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract (I’ve been known to use more—make sure it’s REAL vanilla. I prefer Mexican vanilla, but use what you like)
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. table salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, cut into 12 pieces
1 recipe Coconut Frosting (see below)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush or rub melted butter onto two 9-inch cake pans (you can use cooking spray, but the butter will taste better), then line the pan bottoms with parchment paper (trust me, this makes cake removal so much easier).
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, cream of coconut, coconut milk, whole egg, and extracts together until combined and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With a mixer on low speed, beat in the butter, one piece at a time, until the mixture resembles course crumbs, 2 to 5 minutes (about two minutes for a stand mixer, closer to 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).
Increase the speed to medium-high and add 1 cup of the egg mixture. Beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds (a little longer with a hand mixer). Add the remaining egg mixture in a steady stream and continue to beat until the batter is combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and beaters as needed.
Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with a few crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. All ovens vary, so be careful not to over bake. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes on wire racks. Run a knife around the edge, then flip out onto the racks. Remove the parchment paper, flip the cakes upright, and let them cool completely before frosting.
You can toast the coconut however you like: oven, microwave, or stovetop. I like to do it in a non-stick skillet on medium-low, stirring every few minutes. Careful once it starts to brown as it can go from toasty goodness to burnt crud very quickly. I spread it out on paper towels to cool and save any leftovers to put on ice cream.
2 tbsp. coconut milk
1 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt
16 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream of coconut
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups toasted coconut
Stir the coconut milk, extracts, and salt together until the salt dissolves.
Beat the butter and cream of coconut in a large bowl at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth, about 2-5 minutes. Beat in the extract mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 to 8 minutes.
Set one layer of cake on a cake stand or plate; you can use a daub of frosting to keep it in place. Take one cup of frosting and spread over the bottom layer (an offset spatula works well for this). Sprinkle with toasted coconut. This gives a nice crunch in the middle of the cake.
Set the second layer on top of the first. Scoop out the remaining frosting onto the top of the cake. Spread the frosting to the edge of the cake, working it over the sides and down, spinning the stand or plate as needed to frost all sides of the cake. Don’t worry about making it too pretty, the toasted coconut will help hide the flaws.
Press the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake, and sprinkle it over the top.
Cut and hide a piece immediately because people will soon arrive to swipe your cake—I’m looking at you, Harley and Al.