Springtime is in full bloom around here, and with it comes sunshine-filled days, cheerful flowers, garden projects and playful bumble bees that our springer spaniel, Hannah, just loves to chase around the back yard. Thankfully, they are just a little too fast for her, and they cleverly stay just out of her reach. It's fun to watch the little game they play, though.
The spring season of course also brings Easter each year, and I hope that you all had a blessed Easter holiday last weekend. This year, I was in charge of making dessert for Easter lunch. I knew that I wanted to make some sort of layered cake...perhaps a carrot cake. However, in the midst of my Easter brain-storming session it hit me - A coconut cake! But not just any coconut cake, see. In the latest issue of Saveur magazine, they did a feature on layered Southern cakes. The photo of the Coconut Cake practically had me drooling, so the decision was an easy one. Plus, this is a recipe handed down from Saveur Associate Food Editor Ben Mims' grandmother, Jane Newson.
The frosting for this cake is what is so special. It's not the normal, sugary concoction. Instead, it's almost like coconutty marshmallow fluff...Oh yes, my friends! You start off by beating a flurry of egg whites into frothy goodness. Then, you heat a mixture of sugar, light corn syrup and water to a very high temp of 250 degrees F, using a candy thermometer and slowly drizzle it into the egg whites. It becomes this amazing consistency that goes onto the cake like velvet. The cake layers also have such a wonderful texture and taste.
I searched for fresh coconut at our local grocery store, but alas...it was nowhere to be found. As a result, I did have to use packaged shredded coconut, so I also did not have the fresh coconut water to drizzle over the cake layers. To help make up for that, I substituted the vanilla extract in both the cake layers and frosting with coconut extract. While that did help a little, fresh coconut would have really pushed this cake over the top. It was still quite delicious, though.
Decorating this cake was lots of fun. I simply colored the shredded coconut green to resemble grass (see my notes below about how to do this), and topped it with Cadbury Mini Eggs.
Bon Appetit, my friends!
Frosting...ooey, gooey, fluffy goodness!
One more layer to go...
Ready for the frosting!
Adapted from Saveur magazine
FOR THE CAKE:
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pans, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
FOR THE FROSTING:
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh coconut water
3 cups freshly grated coconut
Instructions1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans, and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth top with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks, and let cool. Using a serrated knife, halve each cake horizontally, producing four layers; set aside.
2. Make the frosting: Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form; turn mixer off. Bring sugar, syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup tap water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan, and cook, without stirring, until thermometer reads 250°, 4–5 minutes. Turn mixer to medium speed, and very slowly drizzle hot syrup into beating egg whites. Add vanilla, and increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks and is slightly warm to the touch, about 3 minutes.
3. To assemble, place one layer on a cake stand, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated coconut; top with another cake, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut. Place another cake over frosting, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 12 cup coconut; top with remaining cake and drizzle with remaining coconut water. Cover top and sides with remaining frosting, and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing it lightly to adhere; chill cake to firm frosting. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
HOW TO COLOR THE COCONUT GREEN:
This step is very easy! Simply put the desired amount of shredded coconut into the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment. Add 2 drops of green food coloring, and mix on medium speed to evenly distribute the food coloring. Add more food coloring, one drop at a time, until the desired shade of green is reached, mixing on medium after each addition.
If you don't have a stand mixer, you can also color the coconut using a large Ziploc bag. With this method, place the shredded coconut into the bag, along with a few drops of food coloring. Seal the bag and shake to evenly distribute the food coloring. Repeat until the desired shade of green is reached.