But when birthdays come around, there is no alternative. There must be birthday cake! For Chris's birthday, I was determined to bake a cake that was creamy and flavorful and not too sweet. This toasted coconut cream cake fit the bill. Baking it was a serious undertaking. I dirtied half the dishes in the kitchen: a baking sheet, a saucepan, three bowls (including the mixer), two cake pans. Not to mention it took me half a day to bake.
The effort was worthwhile and the cake was delicious. If you are a fan of coconut, this cake's for you. I followed the recipe exactly, with no modifications. If you're giving it a try, I have two suggestions:
1. Make the custard and simple syrup a day ahead to save yourself a lot of time.
2. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the buttercream frosting was a little too buttery and not quite sweet enough. I would increase the ratio of powdered sugar to butter if I made this again.
Here is Bobby Flay's recipe, unedited. It can be found at www.foodnetwork.com:
- 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
Coconut Simple Syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons coconut rum (recommended: Malibu)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above), cold
- 3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
- 3 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
- 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above) (cold)
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons softened butter, for pans
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold
For the toasted coconut:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring once, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the coconut sit in the oven until very dry and crunchy, about 15 minutes longer.
- For the simple syrup
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
For the custard:
Combine the milks and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.
For the filling:
Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.
For the buttercream:
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pan and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.
Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another layer on a cardboard round cut side up and brush with some of the coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. Place the layer cut side down on top of the cake.
Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.
Yup. That's a seriously long recipe. If you're brave and you try it, let me know how it turns out!