Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

I first posted this Coconut Cream 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 cream 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 coconut cream 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. 

Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

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.

Zoë François whisking eggs and cornstarch for a coconut cream cake.

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

Zoë François whisking cream and egg yolks.

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.

Zoë François using her homemade vanilla in a Coconut Cream Cake

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

Zoë François assembling a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

Spread some of the pastry cream over the first layer.

Zoë François assembling a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

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:

Zoë François Swiss Meringue for a Coconut Cream Cake recipe

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.

Zoë François assembling a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

Zoë François assembling a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

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.

Zoë François assembling a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

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.

Zoë François assembling a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

Zoë François torching a coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

Once you have the coconut cream cake fully set with curls you will need a Torch to 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.

Zoë François coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

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

Zoë François coconut cream cake with toasted meringue frosting

This coconut cream 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!

125 thoughts to “Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting”

  1. This cake is just….arresting. I loaded the page and actually said, “Oh, wow!” out load to myself. I can almost taste it, and I wish I could.

  2. I’m so glad my neighbor became a fan of your site on facebook and I checked it out. I’m not a blog reader, but read yours and love it. Am very excited to try your baking recipes– a million thanks from an amateur baker!

  3. Zoe, this is the most wonderful cake I’ve seen in my entire life! I even dreamt about it last night, really! I will be making it this weekend and can’t wait to see you and Jeff at Les Gourmettes on February 2nd… until then….yum!

  4. Hi Zoe. Great cake! (Of course, all your cakes are great! Your devil’s food with the mocha buttercream frosting gets rave reviews every time I make it.) I’m wondering about the pan size on this one, though. Do you use the 3″ tall pans for many other things? I have lots of cake pans of different diameters but they’re all 2″ high. Don’t mind buying another set — was just wondering how much use I’ll get out of them. Thanks!

  5. This is the most AWESOME cake I have ever seen! Please, if it’s not there already, get this on foodgawker for the world to enjoy. Can you do this with bread? 😉

  6. Wow, thank you for the wonderful comments about the cake!

    Hi Emilie,

    I do tend to use the 3″ cake pans a lot. I find they are more versatile (I like a high sided cake, as apposed to a flat wide one.) The only cakes I have not risked it with are genoise, they have to fight to rise.

    Thanks, Zoë

  7. That was again a brillaint tutorial…

    Just a doubt Zoe, how long will the Swiss Meringue decorated on the cake last in room temperature(if you are not using a blow torch)..just want to know if it will rum out on standing, thanks.

  8. That’s it, my creme brulee torch isn’t big enough… I need the real deal!! And I definitely need to order that beater blade too!

    I was drawn to this cake in FC too, just couldn’t think of an occasion to make it for!

    I love your pictoral lesson on globbing the meringue on. It sounds like it’s fun to make!

  9. Hi Sharon,

    The Swiss meringue holds up really well, about 2 days or 3-4 in the refrigerator. Both Swiss and Italian meringue will last that long, but French is only good for a few hours.

    Toasting the meringue creates a crust on it that may also extend the life?

    Enjoy! Zoë

  10. Hi Lori,

    You can use the little creme brulee torch, but I think it takes too long!

    I LOVE the beater blade, it is right up there with the silpat and micro-zester as great must have new inventions!

    Cheers, Zoë

  11. One more doubt Zoe, must we add cream of Tartar to the Swiss Meringue?

    Will it dry out or something…does it add to the mouthfeel or softness of the meringue to add the cream of Tartar? Thanks again.

  12. Hi Sharon,

    I never use cream of tartar in a Swiss meringue, but many people do claiming that it will prolong the life of the meringue. I’ve never had this difficulty of my Swiss meringue separating, but if you have then add 1/4 teaspoon to the recipe.

    Great question!

    Thanks, Zoë

  13. Hi Zoe. Beautiful cake and amazing meringue! One question since I don’t have a torch; could I toast the meringue in the oven? My mother does this, but I’m not sure exactly how. Thanks!

  14. Hi Lorna,

    The folks that tried this with the lemon meringue pie had problems with it “weeping” and deflating. It may also do odd things to the cake and pastry cream?

    You may want to put some of the meringue on a cookie sheet and try toasting it under your broiler.

    Thanks, Zoë

  15. Almost too pretty to eat!! I would love to make a cake like this and bring it to work. How long will a cake like this keep for? Would I be able to make it a day ahead?

  16. Hi Shirls,

    Yes, it will hold up beautifully for a day or so. You can refrigerate it, not covered and just let it get to room temp before serving. make sure there are not cut onions or fish sharing space in the fridge! 😉

    Enjoy, Zoë

  17. Definitely a “kick ass” cake! Gorgeous. I actually have a sponge cake layered with lemon curd (the result of dropping my grocery bag full of eggs and having to think of something quick) in my refrigerator. Tomorrow it will be covered in meringue and torched. Can’t wait!

  18. Just wondering, if you make the chocolate version do you still do the coconut pastry cream, or just a plain version? Sorry if I missed that!

  19. That cake is a stunner! Wish I went to your post before making the meringue on my key lime pie. I had a hard time making it look decent with the peaks.

  20. Hi Julie,

    What a mystery. Does the meringue ever get fluffy when you are whisking it in the mixer? Or does it just stay runny?

    If it never gets fluffy and glossy it could be that there is some oil on your bowl or yolks in the whites when you start. Any kind of fat will prevent the whites from foaming.

    Let me know and we can take it from there.

    Thanks, Zoë

  21. Hi Zoe-
    I made this yesterday for dinner with my best friends, and it was great. It didn’t look quite as spectacular as yours, but was still stunning. On issue I had, though, was that the cake fell shortly after I took it out of the oven. It still tasted good, but the texture was denser than I wanted. Any idea what I might have done wrong?

    1. I’ve had the same problem each time I make it. Bought fresh baking powder. Not that. Checked oven temp for calibration. Not that. Could it be the pans? Dark non-stick Oneida. They look great coming out of the oven, test done, but within 10 minutes they’ve fallen and the cake is too dense. Help, please? The coconut custard is always perfect! And my meringue comes out well, nicer each time. But the cake… oy vey! I make cakes for fundraiser auctions, and this one always brings a good number of pennies for the kids. I just hate knowing that when they cut into it, they will be disappointed.

  22. Thanks Zoe! I’m posting about it right now. It was DELICIOUS!

    The meringue DID get glossy and thickER, but never thick enough to stand in curls. My mom thinks it’s because I was using a hand mixer. I beat for longer than the 8 minutes, but she still thinks this might be it. You think?

    I also thought it might be the humidity — I made the first batch above my steamy dishwasher — but I tried again yesterday with no steam and still didn’t get the right texture. I’m betting on the mixer.

    Thanks for your response! We loved the cake despite my admittedly less amazing presentation 🙂 Must master the meringue!

  23. All posted 🙂 I affectionately dubbed my version “Ugly as Sin Coconut Cake,” but linked to your lovely version for an example of what it was *supposed* to look like!

    Next time I’ll lug my mother’s KitchenAid over here to give it a try. We’ll definitely be making the cake again.

  24. I just wanted to let you know, I made this very cake for my Grans 75th birthday last weekend. It was my first time making meringue frosting, and when it worked I was over joyed! Everyone at my Grans party loved the cake. It was divine! One gentleman said it was the best cake he’d ever eaten and in 70 odd years, I’d say he’d definitely had his fair share. Thank you for posting such a gorgeous recipe. PS – This weekend I’m doing your Devils food cupcakes with the meringue frosting again to take to work to because the boys there love it when I bake.

  25. I think that is one of the most beautiful cakes I have EVER seen. Wow. I just made chocolate cupcakes with a meringue frosting – it is an inspired combination. I love your books. Just made bialys tonight – incredible!

  26. Zoe, is a frosting that can be refrigerated? Covered? I was thinking the meringue would slide etc.
    Advice? I have not much experience with swiss meringue.

  27. This is a fantastic cake. My meringue held up in the Darwin humidity. I have posted on my blog a photo. Thanks for sharing a great recipe that does indeed kick ass!

  28. Just made your BEAUTIFUL cake. It tastes as good as it looks. It was a success in every way. Thanks so much for the recipe and inspiration.

  29. Hi Zoe – I’m going to make this for my daughter’s birthday on Tuesday. How much can I make ahead? I’m hoping I can do the cakes on Sunday (which I would, presumably, freeze), and maybe even the pastry cream. Any suggestions? I’m excited and nervous! Amy

    1. Hi Amy,

      You can certainly make the cake ahead and freeze the layers after cooling and wrapping very well. The pastry cream you can do a day or two ahead and keep it well chilled. The meringue is the only thing you have to do the day of the party, but it goes together very quickly. The assembled cake can sit for a few hours, so you don’t have to do it immediately before serving.

      Have fun! She will love the cake! Zoë

  30. Thank you so much!!!! I saw something similar on foodnetwork and have been trying to figure out how to do the meringue frosting and brulee it. 🙂 beautiful pictures!

  31. I plan to use this recipe for my niece wedding cake, how long can i keep the cake out, i ‘m making a 3 teir

    1. Hi Carmen,

      How exciting about the wedding! How long you leave the cake out will depend on the weather and where the wedding is. If it has to be outside on a hot day it will not last as long. Inside it should last quite a while. Be sure to have lots of support under each layer. http://zoebakes.com/?p=800

      Thanks, Zoë

  32. Dear Zoe,

    If one does not possess a torch is it possible to put in the oven for the meringue to brown? If yes at what temperature and for how long?

    Thanks
    Gauri

    1. Hi Gauri,

      You can, but be very careful not to leave it in too long or it will compromise the structure of the cake! Try it for 30 seconds and turn the cake. If it is taking more than a minute or two you may want to give it a rest.

      Thanks! Zoë

  33. OMGOSH!!! I have found my next cake recipe for sure. This looks delicious and I looove coconut! Hopefully I can make the cake batter gluten free and it will still hold.
    Can’t wait to try it!!!

  34. Wow. My two favorite things in one place – meringue and coconut. It’s like my mom’s coconut cake with seven minute frosting as imagined by an impressionist painter. Cannot wait to make this!

  35. Greetings Zoe,

    I am a new, new, new, new baker and I can’t wait to make this cake! One question for you, which I’m a little embarrassed to ask….when you say grease and line the cake pans with parchment, does this mean I need to cut a strip of parchment to go along the sides of the cake pan? Also, do I use flour after I grease in case some of the cake leaks through the cracks of the parchment? I learned the hard way about not using flour in a greased cake pan!

    I’ll report back on my experience. (I can’t wait to use the torch!)

    Many thanks,
    Juliana

    1. Hi Juliana,

      I grease the pan and then line the bottom with a parchment round, that fits the bottom perfectly. I do this by laying the cake pan on the parchment and tracing the size, then cutting it out. You can buy precut parchment rounds as well, if you start baking lots of cakes.

      If a recipe calls for butter and flour lined cake pans, you want to coat the pan with butter, then flour it, then tap the pan gently upside down over the sink to get rid of the excess flour.

      Thanks! Zoë

  36. Zoe–Your cake looks beautiful! I made my attempt at it today as my husband is a big fan of anything coconut and hoped to have beautiful meringue curls like yours. Fast forward. The cake and filling came out wonderfully…the meringue, not so much. It never made peaks while I was whisking it, so I couldn’t glob it to make peaks on the cake. I used egg whites from a carton so I don’t think that yokes were a problem. The eggs did get glossy and thick, but never the thickness I thought it should be. I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the whip attachment. I tried 8 minutes at first (after heating the egg mixture), but the egg mixture was still rather runny. I whipped them for an additional 10 minutes and the mixture got thicker, but no peaks. Any suggestions for when I try this again in the future?

    Thanks!

    Kimberly

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      It can only be two things, fat on the bowl, maybe a little oil or butter was still clinging to the sides. But, I recommend you try this again with egg whites from whole eggs. Unfortunately, the proteins in the egg whites from the carton seem to have broken down, and are not nearly as strong, which means they can’t hold the air you need them to. You could try adding a bit of acid, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, but I don’t think it is going to make enough difference to make you happy.

      Hope this helps! Zoë

  37. A bride came into our bakery with a photo of a wedding cake done with toasted marshmallow meringue. I used your recipe to create her wedding cake and it was SO beautiful. The mother of the bride came into our bakery the very next day to RAVE about how much the cake was enjoyed by everyone in attendance! I cannot thank you enough for posting your marvelous creation and easy to follow step by step guide! I will keep torching cakes….thanks!

    1. Wow, Stephanie,

      That is a fantastic story, thank you for letting me know! I would LOVE to see a picture of your creation, it must have been stunning!

      Cheers, Zoe

  38. Hi Zoe,

    Well, I finally made the cake! Turns out my oven needed to be calibrated so the cakes didn’t rise correctly and were a little on the dense side, but still tasty. The filling was delish! I too had trouble with the meringue. I used a hand beater and figured that was my problem. I borrowed my girlfriend’s stand mixer and wow, what a difference! I beat it for 8 minutes at high speed (#10) and it was almost like taffy, very sticky. My globs weren’t pretty so I tried another batch and beat it for less time, around 5 minutes. It was still pretty sticky and my globs still didn’t look anything like yours. Are there any other tips you can give your meringue challenged bakers?

    Thanks!
    Juliana

    PS I’ve had my ovens calibrated and will be testing out a cake recipe this weekend to see how they work. Both were off by 25 degrees. I never realized you might have to calibrate an oven.

    1. Hi Juliana,

      I once had my oven calibrated and it will 80° off. I was too embarrassed to tell the repair person what I did for a living! 😉

      If you are having trouble getting the meringue to make nice peaks, you can use a spatula to smooth it out or try using a spoon to make swirls. I will try to do a video of this.

      Thanks, Zoë

  39. Hey and thanks for the tips! Can you tell me, if I prepare my swiss meringue before my company arrives and spread it on the cake, can it sit out or in the fridge for a couple of hours until we torch it? Better in the fridge or sitting out? Just hoped to make the torching a family affair….bad idea?

    1. Hi Terri,

      The Swiss Meringue will hold up quite nicely, as long as it is stored in a cool spot. If it is too warm, it will lose its peaks.

      Thanks and enjoy! Zoë

  40. Wow Zoe this cake is absolutely gorgeous! I came across your blog a few days ago and now I am addicted. I can’t wait to make it for my mom (who loves coconut) this weekend.

    I, however, do not own a torch (and it’ll be such a rush to invest in one at this point). I am wondering if there are alternatives to browning the meringue? I’ve heard to browning in the oven by placing the cake on the top shelf of the oven…. would that work?

    Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Tina,

      You can try it, but you need to go quickly so that the cake itself doesn’t warm up too much. Also, be sure to have it on a serving platter that can tollerate the heat.

      Thanks for visiting! Zoë

  41. Zoe, I plan on making all of these deserts for Thanksgiving. Can you provide a schedule of what can be made in advance to manage my time since all need to be completed the day before.

  42. hi! this cake looks amazing! do you think i could half the recipe? like only doing two layers instead of four? and would i need to half the meringue topping too? i’ve never made a fancy cake like this before! :-/

    1. Hi Angie,

      Yes, you can certainly make a smaller version of the cake. Don’t skimp too much on the meringue or you won’t be able to make the dramatic spikes. I’d go with a 3/4 batch, instead of 1/2. It is quite inexpensive to make, so it isn’t too tragic to discard any you don’t use.

      Thanks, Zoë

  43. Zoe! I baked your cake after stumbling onto it when learning about icing. It was for my besties Aussie citizenship ceremony. It was humid and the beaks weren’t as large but it came out perfectly. The flavour of the cake and coconut cream interior set it off. But when in transit the too three layers crashed into my arm and chest! I was crushed. I should have put it in the fridge. It’s probably a cake suited for cooler weather. I’m going to try your chocolate version next winter. Thanks heaps!

  44. Beautifully done! I have this actual Fine Cooking magazine with this cake and about 3 or 4 others that were featured that month. :)…The magazine had a blue cover. I will be making this cake…I just haven’t gotten around to buying that blow torch just yet….thanks for the inspiration!! 🙂

    1. I’ve made this cake several times for auction for my friend’s Camp Milt, a free camp for kids with cancer and autism. It makes a compelling presentation and brings a good dollar for the kids! Thanks do much for sharing this with your public! (This year I spent the $$ for a butane torch. ❤️ Years past, my son would get his propane torch and help me! Awkward, and took two people, but did the job.)

      1. Hi Jo,

        That is fantastic! I put this cake up for auction last year too and it was a big hit and raised lots of money for hungry kids!!!

        Cheers, Zoë

  45. Hi Zoe,

    I love your website and have enjoyed making many of your recipes. I really appreciate the great photos. I would like to make this cake for an outdoor event (it’ll be warm) and I do not have a kitchen torch so I would like to use a topping other than the meringue. What would you suggest? Thank you very much!

  46. This cake was delicious and beautiful. Instead of using whipped cream to mix into the coconut pastry cream, I mixed in whipped coconut cream. This is definitely a do again cake to bake!

  47. Hi Zoe, in the photos of you folding in the whipped cream into the coconut pastry cream, you’re pouring something out from a bottle, what is that.

  48. the cake sounds amazing. I would like to make it for a potluck we are having this week for a coworker who is retiring. He loves coconut. I would have to make a rectangle/square cake to be able to cut into small slices. Not sure if he likes meringue, is there another frosting I could make that would go with the cake?

  49. Just made it, and it is soooo spectacular!! I think we’ll almost hate to cut into it! I found that it did take a little bit to get the hang of making the spikes, there is definitely a push-then-pull to it, and I used a butter knife to clear my hand in between each spike, which helped. Thank you, Zoe, for this recipe.

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