Creamy, coconutty and delicious.
This recipe was originally created for our Series of Unfortunate Recipes, based on the book and Netflix series by Lemony Snicket.
Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch cake
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup canned Coco Lopez sweet cream of coconut (see notes)
4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
Pinch of salt
1 batch Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1. Butter and flour 2 cake pans that are 9 inches in diameter and 2 inches high. (If you have smaller pans, you'll need to cut baking time accordingly. This can be tricky, so watch during baking and begin testing for doneness as soon as they are golden brown on top).
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Combine sugar, butter and sweet cream of coconut in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the batter and mix to combine.
4. Add the flour mixture to the batter and incorporate gently by hand. Gently stir the buttermilk into the batter by hand.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle position. Combine the egg whites with a generous pinch of salt in a clean bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, whip the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.
6. Gently fold egg whites into batter with a silicone spatula, carefully combining them without deflating the egg whites. You may see a few very small pieces of egg white remaining visible, while the rest has been incorporated. (This will help make the finished cake light.)
7. Carefully pour an equal amount of batter into each pan. Use a large spoon or spatula to smooth the top of the batter a bit, so that it lays flat in the pan.
8. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cakes are done when tops are deep golden brown and a toothpick or tester inserted in the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs are fine, but there should be no uncooked batter).
9. Allow the cakes to cool for 10-15 minutes in the pans, preferably on a wire rack. Then use a table knife (not sharp) to run around the outside of each cake in its pan, being sure it is completely free of the pan on all sides. Lay a plate upside down on top of each cake and flip it upside down onto the plate. Knock lightly on the bottom of the pan to be sure the cake is released, then remove the pan and rest the cake on a rack. Repeat this procedure with the other cake, and let them cool completely before frosting (could take 2-4 hours).
10. Frost and finish the cake. Put one layer of the cake on a cake round or plate. Spread about a cup of the Cream Cheese Frosting on the top. Sprinkle about 3/4 of a cup of shredded coconut evenly over the frosting. Place the second layer of the cake on top of the first, and frost the top and sides. Sprinkle half the remaining coconut evenly over the top. With a spoon or the palm of your hand, carefully press the remaining coconut into the sides, working in small portions at a time as you go around the cake. (Much of the coconut will fall as you do this; work over a clean surface so you can recapture it and add it back to the cake.)
I experimented with using Coco Lopez and Coco Goya sweet cream of coconut, and of the two, I strongly recommend Coco Lopez. It's substantially thicker and creamier, with more sugar and fat, and more coconut (the first ingredient) than the Goya product (first ingredient is coconut water rather than coconut).
Both brands of cream of coconut contain some junky chemical ingredients that I normally don't like to cook with. Time didn't permit me to experiment with substitutes this week, but some combination of coconut oil, shredded coconut and sugar would surely work. If you have any success substituting these, please let me know in the comments!
Adapted from the recipe for Coconut Layer Cake, Bon Appetit, December 1999.