My first job out of culinary school was working as a line chef; it was a position for which I was vastly unqualified at the time. On my second day, I learned that they did not have a pastry chef. Although I was hired as a saucier (responsible for the meats, fishes and sauces) I was also the only woman in the kitchen. What this meant is that I was promptly “asked” to do both positions (for no additional pay). As a young, inexperienced cook starting out, the only response was, “Yes, Chef.”
I actually hated desserts and preferred cooking over baking. In fact, I generally favored eating savory foods over sweet ones. Truthfully, I simply did not notice desserts; I never had. In my young chef’s mind, desserts were boring and too exact; there was no wiggle room for imperfections and less room for creativity. There was no fixing, adjusting, or helping a recipe that was going sideways–just failure. I do not like failure.
With my A-type personality and slight OCD tendencies, I probably would seem like a perfect candidate for pastry. But honestly, I simply lack the required patience needed to do this art form successfully. I have since learned a lot about all the amazing pasty chefs out there, and the desserts they can create. The best pastry chefs are incredibly skilled, but in different ways from great sauciers. I still don’t have a fraction of the skills of a great pastry chef, but with substantial effort, I’m able to do pastry well enough to get by.
Now, post-children, I have found that I do like sweets, probably a bit too much for a woman in her mid-40’s, but somethings never change completely. My friends still make fun of me for ordering a cheese plate for dessert over a soufflé. This coconut cake is one of my very favorite cakes for two reasons. First, it has coconut in it. Second, it’s almost error-proof and easily adaptable. You don’t need to be a pasty chef (or fill-in-pasty chef) to make it. This cake looks great without much hassle and I have found, almost everyone loves it.
I have made this cake recipe “as is.” I have also made it as a three-layer cake (shown here), six-layer cake, mini cakes, and large sheet cakes. I even thought about making it into a giant bunny cake for a friends Easter party. My oldest son packed himself a slice in his lunch box just this morning. He, like me, is not really a sweet person, but if you like coconut, I can virtually guarantee that you’ll like this.
Dre's Coconut Cake
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Pinch of salt
- 4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch-high sides.
- Step 2 Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl to blend.
- Step 3 Using an electric mixer, such as a KitchenAid, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter, sugar and sweetened cream of coconut until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract.
- Step 4 On low-speed, beat in the dry ingredients and then buttermilk just until blended.
- Step 5 Place this batter in a separate large mixing bowl. Clean your mixer bowl and whisk attachment.
- Step 6 Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, but not dry.
- Step 7 Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
- Step 8 Divide the cake batter between the two prepared pans. Bake the cakes on the middle oven shelf until a tester inserted comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.
- Step 9 Cool the cakes in their pans on racks for 10 minutes.
- Step 10 Run a small knife around the pan sides to loosen cakes before turning them out onto the racks to cool completely.
- Step 11 Trim the cake layers before frosting and coating in coconut. Cake should be stored in the refrigerator.
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Step 1 Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy.
- Step 2 Add the butter and beat to blend, about 1 minute.
- Step 3 Add the powdered sugar, sweetened cream of coconut and vanilla extract and beat on medium until well blended and smooth.