Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I’m calling this Coconut Cake a happy accident.  Although, in the moment there was very little I was happy about.  I started out to make a batch of Ina’s Coconut Cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday.  And I failed spectacularly.  Instead of the batter rising nicely to form perfect cupcake tops, it spread all over the top of the ungreased muffin tin.  The result of which was two dozen decapitated cupcakes.

It was not a pretty picture.

But it was a pretty funny picture and when I posted it on Twitter I got some great comments.  @breadandputter asked “who came along and chewed off all the tops?”  And @creativculinary said “Oh no…not Ina. Not coconut. Not cupcakes?”   She also suggested that I use a “high altitude” explanation to account for the carnage.  If my house even sat on top of a hill I’d run with that idea.  Sadly, the fault was squarely on me.

And I still had nothing to take to work for the birthday celebration.  Despite the fact that I was pretty steamed about the three sticks of butter that got sacrificed in the name of cupcake mutilation, I laid another two sticks out to soften while I washed the bowls and beaters and grody muffin tin with the caked on remnants of my failure.  By the time Coconut Cake was mixed, baked, and cooled I may have had a little bit of an attitude.

But there was still frosting to make.  In spite of my crankiness towards the cake, the frosting and I were on great terms.  It whipped up in no time and spread beautifully onto the layers.  Once the final bit of cream cheese goodness had been applied, I mentally moved on from Coconut Cake.  I even put the recipe in the recycling bin without transcribing it for the blog.  I was ambivalent about its very existence after a day that involved 6 sticks of butter, 10 eggs, and 5 cups of sugar.

At work the next day, we cut into Coconut Cake.  And I came home and dug that recipe out of the recycling.

The cake was moist without being wet or soggy.  And the coconut in the batter gave it an unexpected texture but didn’t overwhelm the cake with a coconutty flavor.  As a vehicle to move frosting into my mouth, it was excellent.  Once everything came up to room temperature after spending the night in the refrigerator, the frosting was smooth and creamy; not overly buttery and not overly cream cheesey.  There was the added bonus of apricot jam mixed into the frosting between the layers.  It worked perfectly with the rest of the flavors.

So yes, Coconut Cake was a happy accident.  Coworkers were happy.  I was happy.  The only person not happy in this whole thing was The Mistah.  He didn’t get to sample the cake.  But don’t feel sorry for him.  He’s got two dozen mangled coconut cupcake bottoms to tide him over until I pull the next treat out of the oven.

PS – Don’t be fooled by that less than sexy picture above.  That’s what happened when I didn’t get a shot of the cake at home and had to use the office’s aged digital camera to document its existence.

Coconut Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2011

BAH Note: Make sure you use a container that will hold at least two cups when you mix the baking soda into the buttermilk.  The buttermilk will react with the baking soda and the mixture will double in volume.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (vanilla salt if you have some)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 9″ round cake pans with parchment rounds and spray the prepared pans with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the flour and coconut in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk and baking soda.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar for approximately 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and beat to combine.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.  After the last of the flour is added, stop mixing once the batter is just combined.

In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.  Mix 1/3 of the whites into the batter and then fold in the remaining whites until just blended.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the cakes are set and a tested inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a crumb or two.  Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes before turning them out onto racks to cool completely.

{printable recipe}

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2011

BAH Note: My butter wasn’t exactly at room temperature when I made the frosting.  But after a few moments in the mixer, everything was just fine.  Be sure to start the mixer out on LOW speed or you will have powdered sugar all over your kitchen.

  • 3 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons jelly, jam, or preserves (optional)

Combine the sugar, butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sugar starts to work into the butter and cream cheese then increase the speed to medium high until completely smooth.

If adding a fruit filling in the frosting between the layers, transfer about 1 cup of the frosting into a separate bowl.  Mix in the fruit filling to taste before spreading it onto the top of the bottom cake layer.  Top this with the top cake layer and use the remaining plain frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.  Sprinkle coconut over the top of the cake and press some into the sides as well.

Let the frosted cake set in the refrigerator.  Allow it to come just to room temperature before serving and store leftovers in the fridge.

{printable recipe}