Really Darn Good Coconut Cake {splurge}

Just over a year ago, my sister, Jackie, and I threw a surprise party for our mom in honor of her 60 years on earth (she loves when we tell people her age).  It was SUCH a fun and special night, albeit stressful.  We had the brilliant idea of hosting it at the guest of honor's home, which meant that we had to figure out a way to get her OUT of her own house for a majority of the day.  The plan was pretty straightforward: have our aunt ask her to go shopping in Orange County.  Luckily, she agreed and we officially had from 11:00 am (which was invariably delayed 30 minutes) to 6:00 pm of prep time.

Coconut Cake

It's a good thing that I'm a Personal Chef, because that was the excuse for making food non-stop for 3 days prior.  I admit the menu was pretty ambitious: 14 different small bites, all of her favorites including watermelon w/ goat cheese mousse & mint, thin crust margherita pizza, chicken skewers w/ peanut sauce, and coconut shrimp to name a few.

I recruited my sister to help with prep (since I still had work full time) and together we'd have to improvise lies to answer our nosey mom's questions.....The understandable who are you cooking for, what's the occasion, how many people, etc.  She'd frequently tiptoe over and analyze the ingredients, asking "what's that for?" only to respond with an enviable, "those are my faaaaavorite." 

Jackie and I would look at each other each time she'd turn away, dilating our eyes to signal a telepathic does she know??

Then, she saw the COCONUT CAKE....

Really Darn Good Coconut Cake

Jackie w/ Really Darn Good Coconut Cake

It was the morning of the party and at that point, we thought that she MUST know.  Coconut cake is her favorite- always has been, always will be.  But if she did, she played oblivious so we wouldn't feel bad.

Thirty minutes prior to her pickup, she was looking at the food as I abruptly gave Jackie HUGE telepathic eyes while silently flailing my arms, clearly signaling her to distract the birthday lady from looking out the window.  The same party rental place that I told (3 different times) NOT to deliver the dance floor before noon was parked right outside our house!  Before Jackie could even react, she had looked up at the window, "Oh!  Someone's having a party!"  

She MUST know.

I dropped the random non-related thing I was doing and bolted out to the front yard to find the party rental guy a mere 4.5 seconds away from ringing the doorbell.  I literally shooed him away with my hands as if I were trying to get a stray cat off our property.  He looked at me like I was a horrible person/psycho and went back to his truck and left.  My heart was thumping as I went to rip out some alibi parsley from the yard.  UGH!

Coconut Cake
Coconut Cake
Really Darn Good Coconut Cake
Really Darn Good Coconut Cake

This post just became much longer than intended- but needless to say, it all worked out perfectly!  It was one of the most fun nights our family has ever had and she claims to have been TRULY surprised.  But I’ll let you be the judge of that:

INGREDIENTS: (makes one 4 layer, 5” cake)

For the cake:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ # (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup cream of coconut
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 16 tbsp. (1½ sticks) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup cream of coconut
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Large unsweetened coconut flakes, to garnish

For the cake:

-Preheat oven to 325˚ F.  Generously spray a 13”x 9.5” quarter sheet tray with nonstick cooking spray.
-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
-Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until creamy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
-In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
-In a small bowl, combine the cream of coconut and vanilla extract; set aside.
-With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with the coconut mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Beat until just combined.
-Pour batter into the prepared sheet tray and bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
-Let cool completely, then use a 5” ring mold to cut out 4 rounds (there will be scraps).

For the frosting:

-Set up a saucepan with 1½ inches of simmering water.
-Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over the simmering water, whisking constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch (the sugar should be dissolved), about 2 minutes.
-Transfer bowl to the mixer set with the whisk attachment and beat whites on high speed until whites are glossy and sticking, about 7 minutes.
-Reduce speed to medium high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time.  Beat in cream of coconut and vanilla extract.
-Stop mixer and scrape down bottom and sides of bowl.  Continue beating at medium-high until well combined (the frosting may appear broken but just keep beating until it comes together- it may take a few minutes).

To finish:

-Ice the cake in between each layer and on top/ all around.  Cover entirely with the (untoasted) coconut flakes.