Coconut Cake

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Coconut is the doyenne of Southern layer cakes, a masterpiece of home cookery that has crowned dining room sideboards for more than a hundred years. Purists sing the praises of simple but divine, opting for coconut water-doused cake layers and dreamy swirls of meringue. With this latest creation, we opted for a thick and rich filling. 



  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Shortening
  • 1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 (6-oz.) package frozen grated coconut, thawed
  • 1 1/2 (4-oz.) white chocolate baking bars, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

How to Make It

Step 1

Prepare Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together sifted cake flour and next 3 ingredients in bowl of an electric stand mixer. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and 3/4 cup water. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth.

Step 2

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of egg whites into batter; fold remaining whites into batter. Spoon batter into 4 greased (with shortening) and floured 8-inch round shiny cake pans (about 2 cups batter in each pan).

Step 3

Bake at 350° for 12 to 14 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Do not overbake—cakes will be a very pale golden color.) Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Step 4

Prepare Filling: Stir together mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla in a large bowl just until blended.

Step 5

Beat 3/4 cup cream at low speed with an electric mixer until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until well blended. Add thawed grated coconut, and stir just until blended. Spread mixture between cake layers (about 1 1/3 cups per layer). Cover with plastic wrap, and chill 12 hours.

Step 6

Prepare White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: Microwave chopped white chocolate and 2 Tbsp. whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Cool completely (about 20 minutes).

Step 7

Beat 1 cup softened butter and 2 cups powdered sugar at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add white chocolate mixture, 2 tsp. vanilla, and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, and beat at high speed 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Cover top and sides of cake with 3 cups flaked coconut, gently pressing coconut into frosting.

Step 8

Test Kitchen Tip: Be sure to measure flour after sifting. (If you measure before sifting, you’ll end up with too much flour and a dry cake.) Check for doneness at the minimum bake time—even 1 or 2 minutes of extra baking can also create a dry cake.

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