Coconut and lemon? You got me!
A while back I read a cute novel called, " The Coincidence of the Coconut Cake". You know, the kind of book your girl friends refer for a nice relaxing day at the beach. Nothing serious, heavy, or deep, just a fun light read. It’s a cross between You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake. It focuses on a talented chef named Lou and the critical food critic Al who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.
But what I remember most about this book besides the deliciously described coconut cake, was the character Lu (the chef) always dabbed a little vanilla behind her ears at the start of every day. As much as I love vanilla, why hadn’t I thought of this?! Don’t think I didn’t try it! A little bit of wonderfulness following you around all day? Yes, please!:).
Also, since this book’s main setting settles in a small French cafe, the descriptions will leave you hungry and searching for really good food and perfectly sweet confections!
Speaking of confections… If you love lemon and coconut, and I do… You gotta try this cake!
Just think... 3 layers of coconut cake from scratch, sweetened coconut flakes, coconut milk, cake flour for an unbelievably soft crumb, eggs for richness, and a ton of butter. The flavors and textures are the perfect companions. I love how detailed this recipe is. You just can’t go wrong!
- 3 cups sifted cake flour (300g) spooned and leveled
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (120ml) coconut milk, at room temperature*
- 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
- 1 and 1/2 cups (345g; 3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) VanillaPura Madagasgar extract
optional:1 teaspoon coconut extract (I prefer the cake without it, but it’s still tasty!)
- 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 loosely packed cups)
- 1 and 1.5 cups homemade lemon curd
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces (225g) full-fat brick style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) coconut milk or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon VanillaPura Madagascar vanilla extract
- pinch salt
Topping:toasted (or not!) sweetened shredded coconut and lemon slices for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray or lightly butter three 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine the coconut milk and buttermilk together in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
- With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and the coconut extract (if using). Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
- With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not over-mix. Use a whisk to rid any large lumps, if needed. The batter will be slightly thick. Finally, fold in the coconut. The batter will be lumpy. See photo above for a visual.
- Spoon/pour batter evenly into each cake pan. Bake for around 22-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. Remember to rotate the pans halfway through baking to ensure even baking. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, 1 Tablespoon coconut milk/cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of milk/cream to thin out, if desired.
Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with a thin layer of frosting, then half of the lemon curd. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with a thin layer of frosting, then the remaining lemon curd. Finish with the third cake layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Garnish the top with coconut and/or lemon slices. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.
- Slice, serve, enjoy!
Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Honestly, it tastes much better fresh.
Flour: Do NOT use all-purpose flour in this coconut cake. Your cake will be too-dense, solid, and heavy. Make sure you are sifting the cake flour before measuring to aerate it and rid lumps. I strongly encourage you to just buy cake flour, but as an alternative you can make a DIY cake flour. For every 1 cup of flour in this recipe, remove 2 Tablespoons of it and add 2 Tablespoons cornstarch in its place. Sift at least 3-4 times, then use in the recipe.
Milk: This recipe has been tested with equal parts coconut milk and buttermilk. If you can’t get ahold of coconut milk, you can use 1 cup of buttermilk instead. For a DIY version of buttermilk, add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a large liquid measuring cup. Then add enough regular room temperature milk (whole, skim, 1%, 2%) to make 1/2 cup total. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. This soured milk can be used in the recipe.
More Lemon Flavor: To increase the lemon flavor, feel free to add the zest of 1 lemon to the coconut cake batter. Keep in mind that this will take away from the cake’s coconut flavor. Also optional for more lemon flavor: beat zest from 1 lemon into the cream cheese frosting.
More Coconut Flavor: To increase the coconut flavor, feel free to use the optional coconut extract listed. And/or you can add 1/2 teaspoon of coconut extract to the frosting.
Sheet Cake: The batter makes a perfect sheet cake! Simply spread into a 12×17 inch half sheet/jelly roll pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. It also fits nicely into a 9×13 inch cake pan. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.
A big thank you to Sally’s baking addiction for sharing this recipe!