This perfect coconut cake is insanely moist and tender! You will love it because it is soft and fluffy and full of coconut flavor.
I love coconut cake. My mom, husband and Big E love coconut cake. I feel a wee-bit boring, but this is my birthday request nine years out of ten. I’ve been tinkering with coconut cakes for many years now and I finally feel like I can share this perfect coconut cake!
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It’s no secret that I love coconut; oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies and chocolate coconut bites are two of my favorite recipes. I’m pretty sure my love came from my mom as she is a big coconut fan too. In fact, most of the photos in this post are the coconut cake I made for my mom’s birthday this past year.❤️
Ina Garten is one of my all-time food idols and the inspiration for this cake started with Ina’s coconut cake.
WHAT MAKES THIS THE PERFECT COCONUT CAKE?
- Cake flour is used to create a moist and soft crumb. You can find cake flour in the baking aisle. If you don’t have access to cake flour, you can make your own. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour, then remove 2 Tablespoons. Add in 2 Tablespoons of corn starch and sift together three times to evenly distribute the corn starch through the flour.
- A mixture of egg whites and whole eggs. The egg whites help keep the crumb soft and fluffy, while the egg yolks add fat and moisture.
- Sour cream adds additional moisture.
- Buttermilk helps to create a tender crumb. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can make it yourself. Pour 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a glass measuring cup, add milk to equal one cup and stir.
- Sweetened shredded coconut adds a little moisture and tons of flavor!
HOW TO MAKE COCONUT CAKE
For this recipe you want all your wet ingredients at room temperature. Plan to set your butter, eggs, sour cream and buttermilk out a minimum of 1 hour prior to starting; maybe longer depending on the temperature of your kitchen. We want room temperature ingredients because they emulsify together much better and help to ensure a moist, soft and fluffy cake.
Start by preparing your cake pans. I find I have the best results when I butter and then add a parchment round to the bottom of the pan. Butter the parchment paper and dust with flour. Set the pans aside while you prepare the batter.
Then whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
Creaming the butter and sugar together gives us the foundation for this cake batter. Let them beat together for about five minutes until light and fluffy.
Next, beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the egg whites. Mix until incorporated, then add the sour cream, vanilla and coconut extracts and mix well. The mixture may look curdled, but don’t let it concern you.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating additions, beginning and ending with the dry. I break mine into 1/2 dry, buttermilk, final 1/2 dry. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Be careful not to over mix your batter. Fold in the coconut with a spatula.
Finally, distribute the batter evenly between the three prepared baking pans. I always weigh each pan to make sure they are even. Then bake and fully cool prior to frosting.
WHAT FROSTING IS RIGHT FOR COCONUT CAKE?
Cream cheese frosting is often what people frost a coconut cake with. My favorites are either a coconut Swiss meringue buttercream or white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. I’m including the coconut buttercream recipe today. The key ingredient to getting a fabulous coconut flavor in buttercream is using coconut milk powder.
Coconut milk powder can be found at many grocery stores or you can order it from Amazon. I do find that the coconut milk powder can settle and get a little bit clumpy, so I recommend sifting it so you don’t end up with any clumps in the buttercream.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
- Once the cakes are cool, level with a large serrated knife or cake leveler, if needed.
- Place one layer on a serving plate, cake stand or a cardboard cake round, topside up. Spread with an even layer of buttercream. Gently place the second layer on top of the buttercream and spread with another even layer of buttercream. Gently place the third layer on top. If you wish to add jam or ganache; I suggest piping a dam of frosting around the outside of the cake layers and spreading the filling evenly on the cake. The dam is used to keep the filling from spilling out the sides of the cake.
- Lightly frost the cake to create a crumb coat. This does not have to be perfect, it is meant to lock all the crumbs into the thin layer of frosting. Chill cake for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat.
- Frost with remaining buttercream, smoothing evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with swirls of frosting around the top edge of cake, if desired. Wilton 1M is my favorite tip.
- You can also add some toasted coconut, if desired. Spread coconut in an even layer over a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Stop to stir every two minutes.
Decorating cakes has become a passion of mine over the last several years so my cakes have a more finished look to them. I consider myself more than a beginner, but still far from a professional. Cake decorating is extremely humbling for me and takes me a LONG time. This perfect coconut cake is so amazingly moist, soft and tender and no one is going to care what it looks like once they take a bite! Be kind to yourself and decorate to the best of your ability.
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- 3 cups cake flour, measured, then sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 10 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
COCONUT SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups butter (3/4 pound), room temperature
- 1/4 cup coconut milk powder, sifted
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans; butter the pans, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, butter again and dust lightly with flour. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sifted cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Scrape up and down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the egg whites. Mix until incorporated, then add the sour cream, vanilla and coconut extracts and mix well. The mixture may look curdled, but don't let it concern you.
- With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating additions, beginning and ending with the dry. I break mine into 1/2 dry, buttermilk, final 1/2 dry. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl, if needed. Be careful not to over mix your batter.
- Fold in the coconut with a spatula.
- Divide your batter equally between the three prepared pans and bake 35-45 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test, insert a toothpick or cake tester in the center of the cake; if it comes out clean, it is done. Cool cake in pans placed on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before turning them onto the wire rack to cool completely.
FOR THE COCONUT SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
1. Wipe the bowl and whisk of your stand mixer with vinegar or lemon juice to make sure it is grease free or your egg whites may not stiffen.
2. Whisk egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk and heat mixture over a saucepan of simmering water until hot to touch, sugar is fully dissolved (you should not feel any granules when rubbed between your fingers) and it’s a bit frothy, approximately 3 minutes.
3. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and wipe the bottom dry. Place on your stand mixer and whisk on medium-high (8 on a Kitchen Aid stand mixer) until the mixture is cool and the meringue holds a stiff peak (the bottom of your bowl should also be cooled), approximately 10-15 minutes.
4. Switch to the paddle attachment, reduce the speed to medium (4-6 on a Kitchen Aid stand mixer), and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, letting the butter fully incorporate before adding more. ** Once all butter is incorporated, scrape down sides of the bowl and add the coconut milk powder and whip on high (8-10 on a Kitchen Aid) until a thick, whipped consistency is reached, about 5 minutes.
* Your butter only needs about 1 hour of time (depending on temperature of your kitchen) to get to room temperature. You want the butter still slightly cool to the touch and not overly warm or soft.
** At some point your buttercream is going to be a sloppy mess. It may even look curdled. Do not fear, just keep whipping and it will magically come together into a beautiful whipped frosting. If you feel it is too soupy, place the mixture in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and then re-whip.
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Serving Size:1 2x2 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 305Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 288mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 0gSugar: 26gProtein: 3g
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