October 18, 2011

Quadruple Coconut Layer Cake

Doesn't this coconut cake look absolutely delicious?  Trust me when I say it tastes even better than it looks.  Why the "quadruple" in its moniker?  Because every component of this cake is infused with coconut: the cake, the filling, the frosting and of course the outside coating.  

If you're a coconut lover you definitely need to make this cake.  In the span of one week alone I made two of them, one to celebrate my Mom's birthday and another for my friend Angel's birthday. Admittedly you'll need to dedicate some time to the process - it's not something you can throw together in two hours - but the finished product is really worth the investment.

This cake actually combines elements from two sources: Bobby Flay and Cook's Illustrated.  I've made each recipe separately but then thought marrying the two would result in the ultimate cake...I wasn't wrong! 

Halloween Giveaway Winner

The winner of the McCormicks kit is Comment #22 from Jess, who's favorite Halloween candy is Milky Ways.  Thanks to everyone who entered!

Quadruple Coconut Layer Cake

Coconut Pastry Cream (adapted from Bobby Flay)

3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 cup cold heavy cream

Combine the milks and vanilla bean paste in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the vanilla and coconut extracts.  Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

When ready to assemble the cake, place cold pastry cream in to a large mixing bowl.  Add cold heavy cream and beat using a handheld mixer until cream is whipped and fluffy.

Coconut Simple Syrup (adapted from Bobby Flay)

1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Coconut Cake (adapted from Cook's Illustrated) 

1 large egg
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut (the kind you use for pina coladas)
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool   
2 cups packed sweetened flaked coconut (about 8 ounces)

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with shortening and dust with flour.

Beat egg whites and whole egg in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add cream of coconut, water, and coconut extract and beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

With mixer still running, add 1 cup liquid. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining 1 cup liquid in steady stream (this should take about 15 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)
Divide batter between cake pans and level with offset or rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes (rotate cakes after about 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.  

While cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Cool to room temperature.

Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks) , cut in to 8 pieces, softened but still cool
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract

Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2-inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.

Transfer bowl to mixer and beat whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (about 80 degrees) and whites are glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut  extract. Stop mixer and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute.

Assembling the Quadruple Coconut Layer Cake

With a long serrated knife, cut both coconut cakes in half horizontally so that each cake forms two layers.  You'll have a total of four cake layers.

Put a dab of icing on a cardboard round cut just larger than the cake. Center one cake layer on the round.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the cake surface with the coconut simple syrup just to moisten it.   You don't want to put so much that you'll get the entire cake layer soaked.   

Take a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip and fill with about a cup of the swiss meringue buttercream.  Pipe a buttercream border around the perimeter of the cake layer.  This will create a dam so that the pastry cream won't leak out of the layers.  Take 1/3 of the pastry cream and spread evenly over the simple syrup moistened cake layer using an offset spatula.  Repeat with the next two cake layers: cake layer moistened with simple syrup, then a buttercream dam, then filled with 1/3 of the pastry cream. 

Place the final cake layer on top and frost the entire cake with the remaining buttercream.  Try to frost as evenly as possible. 

Sprinkle the top of the cake with the toasted coconut flakes. Then press the coconut into the sides, letting the excess fall back onto a baking sheet.  To help the toasted coconut flakes stick to the cake I like to apply a little pressure.

Chill cake in the fridge for about 2 hours so that layers and buttercream sets.  Take the cake out about 30 minutes prior to serving.


  1. Lovely! The exotic flavor of coconut! What a real treat! I couldn't care less if it is a little big on the preparation...If it tastes heaven, it's definitely worth it! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ooooh, I love coconut cake! This looks so tasty! Gorgeous cake. :)

  3. I have been on the lookout for the Bobby Flay coconut cake since having it at his restaraunt in Atlantis. Could this be it? Maybe better? I'm excited to try it out!

  4. Anonymous10/19/2011

    I have been in love with coconut cake since I was a kid... my family went to Hawaii when I was six and my favourite part was the Hopia Cake (coconut cake)... this looks like it!! I must try.

  5. I'm so happy to have found your blog! I love it.

  6. Whaaaaat?!

    Coconut is one of my favorite ingredients...ever.
    Coconut cupcakes rank highly on my list of favorite baked goods.
    When I have time to make this...I'm positive it will be joining that list.

  7. Gorgeous! I love all things coconut and this looks like quadruple heaven.

  8. Awesome looking cake!

  9. Hi Truc, Your Quadruple Coconut Layer Cake recipe has been selected to be featured in a Recipe Guessing Game. Please share the following link with your friends and fans. To play, go here: http://knapkins.com/guess_games/150?source=blog Congrats again!! :)

  10. Kate K5/08/2012

    wow this looks amazing, can't wait to try it for Mother's day!

  11. Anonymous1/25/2013

    I made this cake today and the cake itself did not rise and was basically a hockey puck :( and i used 3 tablespoons of cornstarch instead of 4 and it still had a powdery texture. Is that a typo? should it be teaspoons?

    1. So sorry to hear this! You may have mixed up the recipes for the cake and pastry cream filling. The cake uses baking powder as the leavener. The cornstarch is used in the pastry cream filling.

  12. This cake looks amazing! Since we had a coconut layer cake at Smith & Wolenski that's all my husband wants for his birthday! This looks pretty close......gonna give it a try!

  13. I made the coconut layer cake from Baking Illustrated. When I made the buttercream frosting (which is the same as your swiss meringue buttercream) it did not work at all. In the end the butter was separated from the egg whites which did not seem meringuey at all. I followed the recipe as it says. Do you have any idea what I could have done wrong?

  14. Anonymous7/05/2016

    Way too complicated for me but looks wonderful!

  15. Anonymous4/14/2019

    Bit of a hockey puck, pastry cream and meringue with simple syrup was awesome. not enough meringue, didn't cover the whole cake, need to double up on your ingredients


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