the most gorgeous coconut cake
Perhaps you've seen the posts of this gorgeous cake of mine. I mean......the cake that is to date the very best cake I have ever baked and I don't think it's just because I served it on a sunny winter morning at the beach with champagne and raspberries although those are a fantastically good circumstances. Cheers to one of my best swimming friends, Dee and to her husband Peter's brilliant suggestion of a coconut cake with some fruit flavor for her birthday celebration. The big day is also World Ocean Day which brings the whole thing rather full circle.
I have never baked a coconut cake, but have tried many so I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea I'd pull it off on my first attempt. I combined at least three recipes for this one. The cake batter was fairly easy and would be good on it's own or with some other icing arrangement. The lemon curd is standard and easy as long as you do not get distracted (you can focus on one thing for 10 minutes, I assure you, or you'll have to zest and juice again plus who keeps that many lemons around unless you have a tree like many people do here and I am jealous). The real buttercream is worth the effort and a little counterintuitive. More butter than sugar unlike quick buttercream with powdered/confectioner's/icing sugar, but here it is absolutely a good measure of the success of this recipe. I did bake this cake and make the curd in the afternoon and then returned to the buttercream and assembly in the evening post pre-birthday bubbles and it still turned out beautifully. Allow a good 40 minutes or so for the buttercream making and cake assembly, you may not need it but not being rushed would help.
Since I baked this on a dreary day and finished it at night in my already dark kitchen, there are no process photos. I could bake another one this week just for the pictures, and I might. But we are just one week past a huge storm that left the ocean unfit for swimming and if I'm not swimming a mile every day, I possibly do not need a gorgeous cake in the house. Possibly. It's very chilly here this morning so there is a high probability that baking will happen if for no other reason than to warm up the house. Or I will do what I'm doing now, snuggled up to an outdoor heater at my cafe home writing and not being cold. Such a different life I have right now. Kind of like it if you haven't heard.
6 egg whites at room temperature (reserve two of the egg yolks for the lemon curd)
1 1/3 C coconut milk (basically a can's measure)
2 tsp vanilla
4 C flour (all purpose is fine, cake flour works too)
2 C sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
16 T (228g) unsalted butter, room temperature
Sweetened flake coconut to decorate (at least 2 cups)
Preheat oven to 350F or 180C. Prepare two round cake pans (8 or 9-inch, whatever you have) lining the bottoms with parchment and then spraying bottom and sides with non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl whisk together the egg whites, coconut milk and vanilla until combined. Set aside. In a stand mixer (oh, how I miss my KitchenAid) or in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer (current state of affairs), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt at low speed. Add in the butter at low speed increasing to medium. Note: this did not work for me with my hand mixer, but maybe my butter was too cold so I had to add a little of the liquid mixture to get everything working. Add in the liquid mixture in three parts, scraping down sides and beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake cakes for 30-40 minutes or until a tester in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto baking racks to cool completely.
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 C sugar (caster sugar in Australian terms)
1/3 C (80g) cold unsalted butter
zest and juice of 2 lemons
Whisk eggs, yolk and sugar in a small saucepan until smooth then turn the heat to low. Add in the butter, juice and zest and stir to melt butter. Keep whisking continuously over low heat until thickened, maybe 5-10 minutes. Curd will thicken a bit more upon chilling but get it good and thick over the heat first. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or jar. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
1 1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1 1/2 C milk (I used skim because that is what I had)
1/3 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C (340g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and sugar. Add the milk and cream and whisk frequently over medium heat until mixture comes to boil and thickens or about 10 minutes. Transfer the hot mixture to a stand mixer bowl (or mixing bowl with hand mixer) and beat on high until cool, about 8-10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add in the butter a few pieces at a time until fully incorporated. Add in vanilla. Turn up the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy. Note: I actually had to add in 1/2 C or powdered sugar to get the consistency I wanted but that could have just been me and my hand mixer problems.
Place one cake layer on serving plate. Thickly cover with lemon curd stopping before the edges to allow for the second layer to spread the curd a bit. Top with the second layer. Frost with buttercream and a spreader thickly coating the top and sides of the cake. Press on coconut. This is messy business, keep at it and clean up the cake plate at the very end. Keep refrigerated.