Cookbook author Patty Pinner says, "In my family, bringing out a beautiful coconut cake when company arrived was a way to say 'welcome,' because it was the cream of the crop of cake desserts."
- For the cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the frosting
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut, for garnish
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with lightly buttered parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at time, incorporating after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and incorporating after each addition, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Use a spatula to stir in the coconut and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl on high speed, beat the egg whites for several minutes, until they form stiff peaks. In two or three additions, carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the cake batter. Divide the batter among the 3 pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each layer comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, then unmold the layers onto the racks to cool completely, discarding the parchment paper liners.
For the frosting: In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, syrup and boiling water. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture thickens somewhat and registers 242 degrees on a candy thermometer (just beyond what is called the "soft ball" stage; syrup dropped into a glass of cool water will form threads or a firm ball).
In a separate bowl, using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, beating constantly to create a firm, fluffy frosting. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to add the vanilla extract, then let the frosting cool to room temperature before finishing the cake.
To assemble: Transfer one cake layer to a serving platter and use an offset spatula to cover with 1/3 of the frosting, spreading it to the edges. Sprinkle 1/3 of the coconut on top. Repeat with the second layer. Place the third layer on top and spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Gently press coconut into the sides of the cake, and sprinkle the remaining coconut on top.
*NOTE: Raw eggs carry a risk of salmonella bacteria. Either refrain from serving to very young, immuno-compromised or elderly people, or use pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized egg whites might not yield the volume of beaten egg white needed for this recipe.
Adapted from Patty Pinner's "Sweets" (Ten Speed Press, 2006).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.