Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

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I first posted this Coconut Cake recipe 6 years ago and have made it several times since. It is always a crowd pleaser, partly because of the meringue topping, all done up like curls that remind me of Phyllis Diller and because it is just delicious. Decadent pastry cream full of coconut layered between coconut cake. It just seems to have the right balance of whimsy and sophistication. Liz Banfield is a photographer I have long admired on Instagram and she came over to capture the making and baking of the cake. I have the honor of using Liz’s gorgeous photos for this post. I first became familiar with her work when I did a wedding cake she photographed for Martha Stewart. Her work is stunning and she is a delight. 

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Coconut Cream Cake inspired from fine cooking Zoë’s Devil’s Food recipe:

8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder (this is less than the original magazine article used, but when I baked it with more the layers collapsed and because dense).

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

6 large egg whites, at room temperature

Coconut Pastry Cream by Zoë

1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

pinch kosher salt

3 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup whipping cream

Swiss Meringue by Zoë

1 cup egg whites

2 cup sugar

pinch salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To bake the cake:

preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle of the oven.

Grease and line with parchment three 8×2″ Cake Pan.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Mix the coconut milk and vanilla, set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. (Scrape down the bowl if you don’t have one of these special Beater Blade, which is my favorite new kitchen tool!) Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add half the coconut milk and mix thoroughly. Continue to add the flour and coconut alternately, ending with flour. Add sour cream and mix until incorporated. Set aside in a large bowl if you don’t have a spare bowl for your mixer.

Beat the egg whites in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. (If you are using the same Bowl be sure it is VERY CLEAN or the whites will not whip up. Any fat on the bowl will prevent the whites from foaming.) Beat the whites on high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it forms soft peaks. Don’t over due it or the whites will get too stiff and not fold into the batter smoothly. Whites beaten without sugar will get too stiff quickly so check them after 2 minutes.

Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whites into the batter.

Divide evenly in the prepared pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Cool on rack in pan and then invert to use.

To make the coconut pastry cream:

Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.

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In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch.

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Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add a 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowing to the yolks, whisking as you add.

Pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes.

Pour into a shallow dish to cool. Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes.

Once it is cool. Stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks.

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Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.

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Spread some of the pastry cream over the first layer.

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and repeat with another layer and then top with the third. You may have extra pastry cream, which you can eat with a spoon. Make sure the layers are straight before you cover with the meringue.

To make the Swiss Meringue:

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Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Rest the bowl over a pot of simmering water to form a double boiler. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the sugar is off the sides of the bowl. Continue to stir the mixture until all the sugar is melted into the eggs and you no longer feel any graininess when rubbed between your fingers, about 3-5 minutes.

Place the bowl onto your mixer and whisk on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bowl is just warmer than room temperature, about 8 minutes.

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Using a Spatula spread a nice thick layer of the meringue over the cake, make sure you have at least a cup of meringue left. Don’t worry about how it looks, you will be making spikes over the surface in a minute.

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Take a glob, yes glob, of the meringue in your hand and press it against the meringue on the cake. (see my hand in the upper right hand corner of this picture.)

Pull that glob away from the cake…and it will break off in a wispy curl. The more of a glob you lay down as a foundation on the cake, the bigger your curls will be. This may take a few times to get the hang of it, but then you’ll be off and running.

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Once you have the cake fully set with curls you will need a Torchto toast the meringue. Hold the blow torch a ways from the cake and touch the flame down between the curls. The curls will set fire, not as scary as that sounds, and you need to blow them out as you go.

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The burnt tips are lovely contrast and add a wonderful flavor.

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This cake is amazing all on its own or served with coffee ice cream.

Thank you Liz for the beautiful photos and a lovely afternoon of baking!

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