Classic Coconut Layer Cake
If you love simple old-fashioned, bakery-style cakes, you will swoon for this fluffy and moist classic coconut layer cake. This cake is rich, decadent and has the perfect amount of coconut flavor. Kids love it!
Cake layers can be made in advance and frozen, unfrosted, for up to 1 month. Thaw and frost before serving.
3 ¾ cup cake flour
½ tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp coconut extract, or to taste
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
For the cream:
2 cups plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
10 large egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar
5 sticks (2 ½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ to ¾ tsp coconut extract, or to taste
1 tsp salt
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes for topping
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2, 9 inch cake pans. Cover bottoms with a round of parchment to fit. Grease again. Coat pans in flour, tapping out excess.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Add butter and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat over medium speed for about 5-7 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually pour in melted coconut oil while blending until emulsified. Transfer to another large bowl, if needed to whip egg whites.
Whip egg whites: add egg whites to a clean bowl of the standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip over medium high speed for 5-7 minutes or until stiff peaks form.
While egg whites whip, combine milks and extracts in a bowl. Starting with the flour mixture, alternate adding 1/3 of dry followed by 1/3 of wet ingredients to butter and sugar mixture until fully combined. Do not over mix. If desired, start with ¼ tsp of coconut extract and add more to taste.
Add 1/3 of egg whites to cake batter and stir to combine. Gently fold in remaining whites.
Separate batter evenly among prepared pans, using a scale, if desired. Tap on counter top a number of times to flatten top of batter and knock out any large air bubbles. I suggest baking cakes on sheet trays for easier transport. Depending on how your oven heats, you can bake both cakes on the center rack and rotate more than halfway through once cakes begin to set up. Alternatively (this worked better for my oven), you can bake the cakes in the center of the oven with racks positioned in the upper and lower 3rds, rotating after cakes begin to set up. If you move cakes too early, they may collapse. Bake for a total of 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove cooked cakes from oven and cool over a wire rack. After 15 minutes, use a small offset spatula to loosen sides of cake. Position rack on top of cake and invert onto rack. Peel off parchment and cool completely.
Now let's make the buttercream. Combine egg whites and granulated sugar in bowl of standing mixer. Bring one inch of water to a simmer in a pot which the bowl can sit on top of without touching the water. Whisk egg whites and sugar constantly over simmering water for about 4-6 minutes or until sugar dissolves and mixture reaches 115°F.
Transfer bowl to mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whip over medium-high speed for about 5 minutes or until stiff, glossy peaks form. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in powdered sugar. Continue to mix until cooled to room temperature.
Gradually add softened butter, 1 teaspoon at a time, while mixing over medium speed until fully incorporated. Continue to beat even if mixture appears liquidy or chunky, as it will eventually come together. Stir in extracts and salt. The buttercream may be refrigerated up to three days if not using immediately. After refrigeration, bring buttercream to room temperature and whip in standing mixer with a paddle attachment until original texture is regained.
When cakes cool completely, slice in half horizontally using a large serrated cake knife. To do this, I placed the cake on a cardboard cake round on top of a rotating cake stand. Place a damp paper towel underneath of the cardboard to keep it in place.
Decorate: spread one cup of frosting over the bottom layer of the cake until evenly distributed. Top with second layer of cake and repeat. Repeat third layer. Trim top or sides of cake to even out, if needed. Frost top and sides of cake with a thin layer of buttercream for the crumb coat. Refrigerate cake about 30-60 minutes, leaving remaining frosting at room temperature. Remove from fridge and continue to frost, starting on the top and then working on the sides. Lightly pat on coconut flakes to top and sides of cake.
Serve cake at room temperature. Slice and enjoy.