My mother loved to make coconut cake from scratch. Not only was it one of her most favorite desserts, but I also love anything with coconut in it. She often made this cake for my spring-time birthday, and I also vividly remember her making one to celebrate my first full day of school in the first grade. I walked home from our neighborhood school and when I opened the front door, I could see a coconut cake sitting on the dining room table with a sign commemorating my special day.
This year was my first birthday without my thoughtful mom, so I thought I would share this special recipe with all of you. Take the time soon to make a cake from scratch and celebrate someone you love before they are no longer here.
Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 ½ cup cake flour (*NOTE: You may also use 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour along with 1/3 cup cornstarch instead of the cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup real butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon real vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon real almond extract
5 egg whites from large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup whole buttermilk (not low-fat buttermilk)
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
½ cup finely chopped pecans, optional
½ cup real butter, at room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar (or slightly more)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon real vanilla
2 ¼ cups shredded, sweetened coconut
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to cream butter and sugar until well blended and slightly fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Blend in vanilla and almond extracts. Add in dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until combined. DO NOT OVER-MIX.
In a small bowl, use a whisk to slightly froth the egg whites for 1-2 minutes. Add the buttermilk and whisk just enough to fully combine. Add egg white mixture to the batter and beat for 3-4 minutes on low speed. Gently fold in coconut—and pecans if you are including them—by hand.
Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans or spray with a baking spray that has flour in it such as Baker’s Joy. Pour batter into pans and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. DO NOT OVER-BAKE. (Start checking visually, without opening the oven door, at 25 minutes. If it doesn’t look done, wait another 2 to 3 minutes and check again. Ovens vary and it could only take 25 minutes to bake the cakes or it could take upwards of 30 minutes or even slightly longer. Go by the cake tester.) Cool pans on a wire rack or trivets while making the frosting.
Using an electric mixer, beat softened butter and cream cheese until fluffy, about three minutes. Slowly add in powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla, alternating between the three. Beat about five minutes longer until well-blended.
To assemble, flip one cake onto a cake stand or plate. Spread about ¾ cup of frosting on top and sprinkle with about ¼ cup of the coconut. Flip the second cake on top of the first. With the remaining frosting, frost the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle coconut on top of the cake and, using clean hands, press some around the sides of the cake, sticking it to the frosting. Clean up excess coconut from the cake stand. Cover with the cake stand cover until ready to serve. Serves 12-16. (We cut it in 12 if it is the only dessert or into 16 if there are other desserts also being served.)