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Southern Coconut Cake


I am a big fan of coconut, but I try not to make too many coconut desserts because I know that many people hate it.  My mom made coconut cake all the time when I was growing up and it wasn’t until later when I realized that it was kind of a love or hate dessert.  I had never made coconut cake on my own before, and I decided to squeeze in the rare coconut dessert for our friends.  David’s parents gave me Sky High: Irrestible Triple Layer Cakes for Christmas and I was itching to make something from it.  I decided to start with their Southern Coconut Cake.  The aspect of this cake that stood out to me was the cream cheese buttercream, which I had never heard of.  I like cream cheese frosting, and I love buttercream frosting, so I figured this would be the best of both worlds!


The cake was very simple and came together easily.  The buttercream was easier than I anticipated.  I had the egg whites ready to go while I made the syrup and once the syrup reached the desired temperature, I poured it into the egg whites and watched them thicken to the right consistency fairly quickly.  I added the cream cheese mixture a little at a time, and soon, I had a very delicious frosting.  The recipe made a ton of frosting and I actually didn’t use all of it (I probably had about half of a cup left).  I usually like a lot of frosting on my cakes, but I was afraid the layers would slide with too much.  The only tricky part about assembling the cake was putting the coconut on the sides.  It got pretty messy, but I did manage to cover the side of the cake.


As I predicted, those who like coconut enjoyed this cake.  The cream cheese buttercream was a great variation and made for a fun cake.  There are still a few more variations of coconut cake I would like to try my hand out.  Some are more traditional recipes, and some have a lemon curd filling that I think sounds delicious.  This would make a great cake to serve at Easter dinner (or any spring event), so here’s an idea if you’re looking!

Southern Coconut Cake

Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake

For the cake:

5 large egg whites

½ cup of milk

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 cups of cake flour

2 and 1/3 cup sugar

4 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter (8oz.) at warm room temperature

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 ½ cups of sweetened flaked coconut for garnishing cake

1.      Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle.

2.      Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the ½ cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

3.      In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Add the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

4.      Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.

5.      Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake taster inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then turn the cakes out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

6.      To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on an 8-inch cake round. Cover this layer with 1 cup of the buttercream frosting. Spread it evenly all the way to edge of the cake. Then sprinkle ½ cup of shredded coconut on top. Add the second layer and repeat the process. Top with the final layer of cake and frost the top and sides of the cake.

7.      Place the remaining 1 ½ cups shredded coconut on a large baking tray. Pick up the cake and hold it on the palm of one hand over the tray. Using the other hand scoop up the coconut and press it to the sides of the cake. Continue with this process until the sides of the cake are covered. Set the cake on a serving plate and sprinkle any remaining coconut on top of cake. Chill cake for at least one hour to allow frosting to firm up a bit.

Cream cheese buttercream frosting

12 ounces of cream cheese slightly chilled

1 stick of butter plus 6 tablespoons of butter (7 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup of confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring

2 teaspoons of granulated sugar

¼ cup of water

3 egg whites

1.      Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set aside at room temperature while buttercream is made.

2.      Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the softball stage 228 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

3.      Meanwhile, place the egg whites in mixer bowl and have the mixer ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer on med-low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites taking care not to pour onto the beaters, it may splash. When all the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed on the mixer to med-high and beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled and stiff meringue forms.

4.      With the mixer on low, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Source: Sky High: Irrestible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman

18 Responses

  1. I think this looks great! I, for one, enjoy a delicious coconut dessert!

  2. The cake is beautiful! That book looks super fun, I totally need an excuse to buy (and bake from) it.

    You should check out Cook Illustrated’s coconut cake – it’s what convinced me to like coconut.

  3. We made this in the Cake Slice Bakers and it was delicious! Your cake looks stunning!!! Just beautiful. You were lucky to get this book – everything I’ve made, I’ve loved!!! – mary the food librarian

  4. What an elegant cake!! I love coconut, so I can’t wait to try this. Oh, and that cream cheese buttercream frosting sounds out-of-this-world good. Mmmmm, great job!

  5. Look great. I think I better stop looking at food websites.

  6. I love coconut cake and this looks amazing!!!

  7. This looks delicious!

  8. I also don’t know many who like coconut, this cake looks wonderful though!

  9. Oh yea, now were talking..I LOVe coconut and would eat this one in two seconds flat!

  10. Your pictures are amazing! The frosting sounds really interesting! I definitely wanna try it out! You should join The Cake Slice! We make cakes from that book every month. This month is my first time participating. I’m excited!

  11. Great looking cake. And nothing more southern. You should join Cake Slice. This is the book we use monthly and We just did this one.


    come and join us

  12. This looks absolutely beautiful. I bet it was delicious!! Glad I stumbled upon your blog.

  13. Swoon. I love coconut cake but only get it once a year at Easter….this makes me want Easter to be here tomorrow! Looks wonderful.

  14. I am a big fan of your blog and will try and make this cake at Easter.

  15. Yum, this looks great and you did a great job executing this layer cake. I actually just watched an episode of Good Eats about coconut cake and have been craving one since. A coconut cake is definitely in my near future.

  16. This cake looks amazing, your layers are perfect! I’ve never made coconut cake before, only the Barefoot Contessa’s coconut cupcakes.

  17. This cake is making my mouth water! Thanks for the cake & frosting recipe!

  18. Do you know how much I love coconut cake? These photos are so enticing! Beautiful cake!

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