Creamy Coconut Cake

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Makes 1 4-layer cake 9-inch round cake
Originally from August 2014 on my old blog

Being able to cook is probably the best skill anyone can acquire, for many reasons. Especially because, when a birthday or holiday comes around, instead of having to go through the struggle to ask what someone wants, go to the mall, search and search and search, then drain your wallet on something completely material and impersonal, you can just give them something homemade that shows you care. And, if you’re like me, you enjoy the process of making it, too, so it’s a win-win situation.

I made this cake for my mom’s birthday. She probably would not want me to publish her age to the internet, which I will never understand. What’s the shame in your age? So, maybe you’re not young anymore, but that’s obviously not your fault, and doesn’t mean anything, and… I don’t know. Maybe I’ll understand when I’m her age.

I don’t really bake very much; I’d much rather cook dinners. Partially because, when I bake, I spend the entire time scooping up spoonfuls of frosting and batter, so much that, by the time the finished product is on the table, I’ve had more than my fill of sweets, and can’t handle more than a few bites.

To be honest, this cake is a little more work than your average cake. That’s because you have to make a coconut-infused milk, then use it to create a custard, and the custard goes into both the filling, and the icing. But trust me, it’s so, so worth it. I love it when cakes have a custard filling that’s separate from the icing because, personally, I find icing too sweet and overwhelming, but custard is more creamy and less sweet, so it gives you a break from the sweetness on top. Just talking about it makes me want some cake.

Ingredients:

For the cake-

  • 2 ½ cups cake flour, plus more for flouring pans, sifted (if you only have all-purpose: http://joythebaker.com/2009/09/how-to-make-cake-flour/
  • 2 sticks (1 cup; 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-a-quick-easy-buttermilk-substitute-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-185757)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, for garnish

For the coconut custard:

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Malibu coconut rum or dark rum (optional; I didn’t use it)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the coconut cream filling:

  • 2 cups coconut custard (above)
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

For the coconut buttercream:

  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups; 24 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup coconut custard
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the cake:

Heat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with a paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternatively add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed and beat together until smooth, about 5 seconds.

Divide batter between prepared pans, smooth over the top with an offset rubber spatula, drop the pans lightly on the counter to expel air bubbles, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for about 20 minutes, then invert onto wire racks, and let cool. Using a serrated knife, halve each cake horizontally, creating four even cake layers. Set aside.

For the custard:

Combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the milk is just under a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to steep (uncovered) for one hour.

After an hour, drain the milk through a sieve, pressing down the coconut with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.

Return the coconut-infused milk to the saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil, Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about 2/3 cup of the hot milk liquid into the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and whisk until smooth. Quickly strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. whisk in the rum and vanilla extract.

Set the bowl containing the coconut mixture in a larger bowl filled about one third of the way up with ice water (be careful that the ice water doesn’t spill into the coconut mixture). Stir the custard frequently until it is slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.

For the filling:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the 2 cups of the coconut custard with the heavy cream at high speed until the mixture is light and forms soft peaks. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the buttercream:

In a clean mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioner’s sugar at high speed until very light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the cup of coconut custard, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat at medium speed until blended and smooth.

For assembly:

Place the first of four cake layers on the plate you wish to serve the final product on, as there is no moving the cake to a different plate once it’s assembled. Spoon one-third of the filling onto the first layer and spread evenly across the top. Carefully place the second layer on top of the first and cover with another third of the filling. Place the third layer on top of the second and cover with the remaining third of the filling. Place the final layer on top, and then frost the top and sides of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut flakes on all sides, and the top, of the cake to cover it.

You can store this cake in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for up to three days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Happy dining!!

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