Coconut layer cakes are often towering white pastries, generously coated with shredded coconut so that they resemble an earth-bound cloud. The filling between the cake layers is usually lemon, and the frosting is a fluffy vanilla-tinged affair. Classic coconut cakes are delicious, but limiting. Coconut is an ingredient that pairs well with so many flavors that there is no reason not to divert from this traditional flavor construction once in a while.
This coconut layer cake has two fluffy layers of cake that are made with coconut milk, which infuses a subtle coconut flavor into them and adds a nice richness, as coconut milk is relatively high in fat (low fat/light coconut milk is fine for this recipe). I separated the eggs and beat the whites to soft peaks before folding them into the rest of the cake batter, giving the cake a slightly more airy texture than it might otherwise have had. It’s soft and fluffy, not dense. In between the two cake layers, I put a layer of coconut filling that I borrowed from one of Paula Deen’s recipes. Made with sour cream, it is creamy and delicious (I wanted to eat it on its own!), with a fantastic coconut flavor to it. It isn’t too thick and, as the cake sits, it infuses some additional moisture into the cake. This helps keep the cake tasting fresh a little longer.
Chocolate is a great match for coconut and so I topped this coconut layer cake with a coconut-infused chocolate frosting. I used coconut milk in the frosting, which again provides a subtle coconut flavor, and opted to use shredded coconut as a garnish. If you really want to go coconut crazy, you can try finely chopping some and mixing it into the frosting, but be warned that the added texture may make it difficult to spread onto the cake.
Coconut Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut milk
4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans and like with parchment paper, lightly greasing the top of the parchment, as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Alternating wet and dry ingredients, add in the coconut milk and flour mixture in 3-4 additions, ending with a final addition of the flour mixture.
In another medium bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks with an electric mixer (make sure the beaters are very clean before beginning, especially if you used the mixer to make the rest of the batter). Using the mixer at low speed, stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the rest of the cake batter. This lightens up the relatively stiff batter and makes it easier to work in the rest of the egg whites. Fold in the remaining whites, working in two or three additions, with a spatula. Make sure no streaks of egg white remain visible. Divide cake batter evenly into prepared round cake pans.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Turn cakes out onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper, allowing them cool completely before frosting.
Cakes may be made a day in advance and stored, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
Once the cakes have cooled, place one of the layers on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with coconut filling (recipe below) and place second cake layer top-side-down (so that the flattest part of the cake is on the top) on the layer of filling. Press down gently. Use an offset spatula to frost sides and top of cake with chocolate coconut frosting. Sprinkle top of cake with a handful of shredded coconut to finish.
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)
In a small bowl, beat together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Coconut Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
5 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
sweetened shredded coconut (for garnish)
In a small, microwave safe bowl, melt together butter and unsweetened chocolate. Heat in 30-45 second intervals, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth. Cool for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is at room temperature.
Transfer butter mixture to a larger bowl. Beat in cocoa powder, 2 cups confectioners sugar, coconut milk, vanilla and salt, beating until frosting is smooth and slightly fluffy. Add additional confectioners’ sugar to thicken, if needed (depending on the weather, you may need more one day and less another). Frosting should be at room temperature before using.