It may not officially be spring yet, but we honestly didn’t have much of a winter here in California. That’s why I usually don’t feel wacky making certain foods that can seem “out of season” at times. For example, I made tomato basil soup for a dinner gathering last Friday night, and in most parts of the country, I think finding local tomatoes right now is a rarity. Tomato season tends to be July through October, but the tomato bush in my garden is continuously producing plump, red tomatoes so I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do, which is make tomato soup (and homemade marinara). All this talk of my experience with unchanging seasons and plentiful tomatoes is to say that eating a slice of coconut cake (a dessert often associated with spring and Easter) during winter seems completely normal. It’s 76 degrees out and the flowers are already blooming here so, to me, the coconut is fair game. The best part is that even if you don’t live in California, shredded coconut is a pantry item that’s readily available in grocery stores across the U.S. all year round. And thankfully so, as this coconut cake is positively luscious with the sweet taste vanilla, almond, and coconut united together.
This cake is made simply enough, like most vanilla cake batters. The butter and sugar are creamed together, eggs are added in one at a time, then the dry ingredients and milk are added in batches starting and ending with the dry ingredients. What makes this cake particularly different than a standard vanilla cake is the inclusion of almond extract (in addition to the usual vanilla), and a handful of shredded coconut mixed into the batter itself. The cake is then frosted with a velvety smooth cream cheese frosting (sooo good), before being packed with shredded coconut along its top and sides. Adding the shredded coconut can be a little messy since you can’t really push the shredded coconut into the frosting for the sake of keeping the frosting neat-looking and smooth. But any coconut that ends up on the counter can just be scooped up and packed onto the cake again. What I love about this cake is that it doesn’t require any fancy decorating skills, which makes it a really great cake for beginner bakers or someone who just doesn’t have a ton of time on their hands to devote to intricate cake decorating. Any frosting imperfections or slight crumbs that make their way through will most likely be covered by the coconut. That’s what I call a convenient and delicious solution to cake decorating.
for the cake
- 3/4 lb . unsalted butter, 3 sticks, at room temperature
- 2 c sugar
- 5 extra-large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 3 c all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 c milk
- 4 oz sweetened shredded coconut
for the frosting
- 16 oz cream cheese, 2 pkgs, room temperature
- 1/2 lb . unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1 lb . confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 6 oz sweetened shredded coconut
- 2 - 3 tsp milk, optional
- To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until each is incorporated. Add the extracts in and give the batter a quick mix. The batter will look clumpy, and that's okay. Don't overmix it!
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. With the mixer on low speed, alternate between adding these dry ingredients and the milk to the cake batter, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Use a large spoon or spatula to stir in the 4 oz of shredded coconut until incorporated. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides of the pans. Divide the batter equally among the two pans before baking at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (or with only a couple of crumbs).
- Let the cakes slightly cool in their pans before flipping them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once they're completely cool, frost with cream cheese frosting. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until they're combined and smooth. Add in the extracts and the powdered sugar. Beat the frosting just until the powdered sugar is blended in. It should be thick and smooth. If it seems too stiff, stream in a couple teaspoons of milk to loosen it up.
- To assemble, simply place your first layer of cake onto your serving platter and apply frosting on its top. Add the second layer of cake and repeat. Then frost the sides before taking a small handful of shredded coconut and very gently patting it into the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the coconut all over the top as well.
The photos in this blog post represent a smaller version of this recipe in which I made one 6-inch version of this cake.
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa