Why It Works
- Coconut oil is solid but pliable at cool room temperature, ideal for creaming with butter and sugar.
- Virgin coconut oil infuses the cake with a powerful flavor and aroma.
- Coconut flour is flavorful on its own, but also reduces the need for all-purpose flour, while increasing the need for flavorful coconut milk.
- Baking in tall, straight-sided aluminum pans will encourage a level rise, with a pale and tender crust.
This riff on the Southern classic incorporates coconut in every form, giving the cake an all-natural flavor and super-moist crumb. While it can be paired with whatever icing you prefer, I like it best with my Creamy Coconut Frosting, which is light and easy to handle. The caramelized white chocolate coconut ganache is an optional extravagance, but don't skimp on the toasted coconut!
- For the Cake:
- 16 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 2 1/4 cups; 455g)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (9g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 4 ounces unsalted butter (8 tablespoons; 115g), soft but cool, about 60°F (16°C)
- 4 ounces virgin coconut oil (about 2/3 cup; 115g), such as Vita Coco, creamy and soft, about 72°F (22°C)
- 3 large eggs, brought to about 65°F (18°C)
- 1/2 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 tablespoon; 15g); Tahitian works particularly well
- 12 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 2/3 cups, spooned; 340g) (see note)
- 2 ounces coconut flour (about 2/3 cup, spooned; 55g), such as Bob's Red Mill
- 18 ounces unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk (about 2 1/4 cups; 510g), well stirred, leftovers reserved for ganache
- To Finish:
- 1 recipe Creamy Coconut Frosting
- 1 recipe Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache, made with coconut milk
- 7 ounces (195g) sweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease three 8-inch anodized aluminum cake pans and line with parchment (explanation and tutorial here). If you don’t have three pans, it’s okay to bake the cakes in stages; the batter will keep at room temperature until it's needed.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, and virgin coconut oil. Mix on low speed to roughly incorporate, then increase to medium and beat until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Halfway through, pause to scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula.
With the mixer still running, add eggs one at a time, letting each fully incorporate before adding the next, then dribble in vanilla. Pause mixing and sift together the all-purpose and coconut flours, then resume mixing on low. Sprinkle in about 1/3 of flour mixture, then drizzle in 1/3 of coconut milk. Repeat with remaining flour and coconut milk, working in thirds as before.
Scrape bowl and beater with a flexible spatula and resume mixing on medium speed for about 3 seconds to ensure everything is well combined. The batter should look creamy and thick, registering between 65 and 68°F (18 and 20°C) on a digital thermometer. (Significant deviation indicates ingredients were too warm or too cold, which can lead to textural problems with the cake.)
Using a flexible spatula, fold batter once or twice from the bottom up, then divide evenly between prepared cake pans (about 20 ounces or 565g each, if you have a scale). Stagger pans together on oven rack and bake until puffed, firm, and pale gold, about 35 minutes. If your oven heats very unevenly, pause to rotate the pans after about 20 minutes. Alternatively, bake 2 layers at once and finish the third when they’re done.
Cool cakes directly in their pans for 1 hour, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off parchment, and return cakes right side up. (Covered in plastic, the cakes can be left at room temperature for a few hours.) Prepare the frosting.
For the Crumb Coat: Level cakes with a serrated knife (full directions here) and set scraps aside for snacking. Place 1 layer on a heavy cast iron turntable. If you like, a waxed cardboard cake round can first be placed underneath, secured to the turntable with a scrap of damp paper towel. Top cake layer with exactly 1 cup frosting, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly from edge to edge. Repeat with second and third layers, then cover sides of cake with another cup of frosting, spreading it as smoothly as you can (tutorial here). Refrigerate cake until frosting hardens, about 30 minutes, and repeat if desired for a thicker coat. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache as directed.
To Finish: Place the chilled and crumb-coated cake on a wire rack nested in a half sheet pan. Pour lukewarm ganache over the top, working from the center out to ensure even coverage. If needed, use a clean offset spatula to nudge the ganache along, or rap the pan against the countertop to create vibrations that will level the ganache. Once ganache has stopped flowing, cover top and sides of cake with toasted coconut flakes.
To Serve: Let cake sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving, or until it reaches an internal temperature of about 72°F (22°C). Cut with a chef’s knife to serve and cover the exposed edges with leftover buttercream to keep the cake moist. Under a cake dome, the cake will keep for 3 days at room temperature.
Stand mixer, three 8-inch anodized-aluminum cake pans (preferably 3 inches deep), digital thermometer, serrated knife, cast iron turntable (optional), 7-inch offset spatula, wire rack, half sheet pan
Problems such as doming, cracking, shrinking, heavy crust development, and a coarse or wet crumb stem from excessive gluten formation due to the use of high-protein flour. Cakes in particular benefit from all-purpose flours made from a blend of red and white wheat, such as bleached Gold Medal or Pillsbury.