My husband requested that I make him a coconut cake this year for his birthday. He and I both love all things coconut, but I was a bit surprised by his slightly strange/random cake choice. He usually requests my chocolate chip pound cake, but this year he decided he needed a cake that was close to his heart. His mother used to make him a coconut cake every year for his birthday when he was growing up. After just spending a lot of time with his mother a couple of months ago, I'm not surprised my husband was feeling a little nostalgic. I would be worried if he wasn't. So, I found this AWESOME recipe from King Arthur Flour and it was SO good. The cake is so coconut-y, sweet, soft, moist, and delicious. My husband loved it and declared that this cake was exactly what he was wishing for.
(recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)
For the cake:
3 cups cake flour (I used Queen Quinevere cake flour from KAF)
2/3 cup coconut milk powder (found at KAF or fine whole food stores)
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large egg whites (the equivalent in packaged egg whites is ok)
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 drops or 1/4-1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
For the frosting*:
1- 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
5 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 tsp salt
3 to 4 drops or 1/2 tsp coconut flavoring (or can use 1 tsp vanilla if you don't want the coconut flavor too strong)
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
*I recommend starting the frosting before you make the cake.
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8 or 9 inch round or square baking pans with nonstick baking spray; set aside. If using cake strips, soak them.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the cake flour, coconut milk powder, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is extremely light and fluff, for two minutes. Then scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat for at least three minutes more. Add 1/4 of the dry ingredients, mix until combined, and scrape the mixing bowl.
Combine the egg whites, milk, and coconut flavoring in a small bowl. Add 1/3 of the egg mixture to the butter mixture, mix until just combined. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients by turns, until all are incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix for one more minute.
Divide the batter between the two pans, and wrap the outsides with the soaked cake strips. If you don’t have cake strips, place the pans in larger pans and fill the water halfway up the sides of the pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, and when a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a wire rack. Remove the cake strips or take the pans out of the water. Let the cakes cool for 20 minutes, then turn out of the pan and return to the wire rack to finish cooling completely before filling and frosting.
To make the frosting:
Set a fine-mesh strainer or colander over a bowl or large measuring cup and line it with a clean linen towel or cheesecloth. Pour the coconut milk into the lined strainer and let the coconut water drain for up to 2 hours (it only took about an hour when I did it). After draining you should have a thick lump of cream left.
Once the coconut milk has drained, cream the butter with 2 cups confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl using an electric or hand mixer. Beat in the salt and coconut flavoring (or vanilla) until the mixture is smooth. Add the coconut cream and mix, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar and mix until the frosting is smooth and spreadable (if frosting seems to be too thin, add a little more confectioners' sugar until desired consistency is achieved). Cover and hold at room temperature until ready to use (I did place my frosting in the fridge for about 20 minutes because it was very soft).
When the cakes are cool, cut each in half horizontally, creating four layers. Place one layer on serving plate and cover with 1/4 of the frosting. Place another layer on top and cover with 1/4 more of the frosting. Repeat until all the layers are frosted (including the sides).
To garnish cake: sprinkle sweetened coconut flakes all over the top and sides of cake.
I recommend storing the cake in the refrigerator, loosely covered. Take the cake out about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!