Coconut Cake – homemade coconut cake with creamy coconut milk, brushed with coconut syrup to keep it extra moist, and topped with vanilla bean buttercream frosting. A new layer cake recipe by our contributor, Tessa Huff.
It seems like spring is full of mini milestones leading up to summer. We’ve just had Day Light Savings, Pi(e) day and St. Patrick’s Day, and we now gearing up for Easter and Mother’s Day. Perhaps spring is packed with all of these holidays to help get us through the dreary weather and sporadic rain falls as we anticipate the sunny days of summer? I don’t know for sure, but I will take any reason (big or small) to celebrate and make cake, especially coconut cake.
Easter makes me think of fluffy white bunnies, cheery floral prints, and lots of pastel prettiness, and this Coconut Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream certainly fits the bill. I wanted to create a cake this year for Easter than was just as lovely as the day itself – something beautiful to represent renewal, love, hope, and growth. With a palette of pretty shades of pink, peach, and spring green, I adorned this simple yet delicious cake with a crescent of spirally rosettes, buttons, and white nonpareils.
What goes well with coconut? More coconut! I found that many coconut cake recipes are paired with lemon or vibrant tropical flavors. For this cake, I wanted to make sure that the coconut remained the star and wasn’t weighed down by other overly sweet or tart ingredients. The cake layers themselves are made with creamy coconut milk then brushed with coconut simple syrup. The coconut simple syrup adds great depth to the otherwise subtle cake layers without the use of coconut extract. Trust me, it tastes like heaven! I first considered a coconut cream cheese frosting, but a simple yet pure vanilla bean buttercream ended up being the perfect match.
For this cake in particular, I was less than generous with the buttercream filling and frosting because I knew I wanted to use a lot of it when it came to the decoration. Plus, I like the subtle mix of the pretty rosettes with the slightly rustic, semi-naked sides. If you’d prefer not to include the flowers on top, then simply use the buttercream to fully frost the sides of the cake.
Coconut Cake – homemade coconut cake with creamy coconut milk, brushed with coconut syrup to keep it extra moist, and topped with vanilla bean buttercream frosting.
- Yield: One 8" Round Cake (3 layers)
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: Cake
For the Coconut Cake:
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups coconut milk, stirred **
For the Coconut Simple Syrup:
- ¼ cup coconut milk solids **
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup shredded coconut
For the Vanilla Bean Buttercream:
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
For the Decoration:
Make the Coconut Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar and continue to mix until light and fluffy – 3 to 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on medium-low, add in the eggs, one at a time. Add in the vanilla extract. Stop the mixer and scrap down the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, carefully add in half of the dry ingredients. Once incorporated, slowly stream in the coconut milk. Add in the remaining dry ingredients. Once incorporated, mix the batter on medium speed for no more than about 30 seconds.
- Evenly divide the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. While the cakes are still warm, brush them with the coconut simple syrup.
Make the Coconut Simple Syrup:
- While the cakes are in the oven, start your simple syrup. Both the cakes and syrup should be slightly warm, so it is best to start making the syrup once the cakes go into the oven.
- Place the coconut milk solids, water, and sugar in small saucepan. Heat the mixture oven medium-high heat until everything melts together and the syrup begins to simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the shredded coconut. Simmer for about 10 minutes then remove from heat.
- Once the cakes have been removed from their pans, strain out the shredded coconut and generously brush the warm syrup over the tops of the cakes. Allow the syrup to sink into the cakes (about 20 minutes) before being wrapped plastic and chilled. Slightly chill the cakes in the refrigerator for easier assembly or store overnight.
Make the Vanilla Bean Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.
- Place bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl onto the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add cubed butter and mix until incorporated.
- Add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. Whip on medium-high until silky and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. The buttercream may look like it’s broken at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
Assemble the Cake:
- Place one layer of cake onto serving plate or cake stand and top with roughly ½ cup of vanilla buttercream.
- Repeat with second cake layer, more frosting and then last layer of cake. Lightly coat cake with a thin layer of frosting, letting some of the cake layers show through.
- Pipe pink and peach buttercream rosette using a 1M piping tip, creating a crescent shape around the top of the cake. Overlap a few to create some dimension.
- Fill in the gaps, by piping buttercream star buttons/kisses using both the 1M piping tip and 4B piping tip in peach and pale green.
- Finish with white nonpareils as desired.
- Most cans of full-fat coconut milk with separate into watery milk and solids. Save ¼ cup of the solid coconut milk for the coconut simple syrup. Be sure to thoroughly mix together the 1 ½ cups coconut milk for the cake batter.
- Store in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.