This is Februarys cake of choice for The Cake Slice Bakers and what an unbelievable cake it was. It looks quite unassuming, all elegantly white and rather like a giant snowball which was perfect considering the snowy weather we had earlier this month. Don’t let its snowball appearance fool you into thinking it’s a plain boring cake, for it contains a whole host of wonderful flavours and textures. The cake layers themselves are so soft and tender thanks to the addition of coconut milk into the batter which gives it a fantastic smooth and sort of creamy mouthfeel. It is also made using only egg whites which resulted in a wonderfully light texture. This is going to sound odd, but imagine the feel of silky soft cotton wool on your skin, well it’s a bit like that, soft and smooth in your mouth – (without the nasty woolliness) I know its sounds strange but that was honestly the first thought that came into my head when I ate it. It’s got quite a close texture with no large air holes and yet it’s so light, I’ve never had a cake like it before.
The frosting was a new revelation for me too. It’s your basic cream cheese frosting, but it then has Italian meringue whisked into it which made it much lighter and allowed it to sort of melt on your tongue. Creamy and slightly sweet but without being too rich. I added the grated zest of a lime to my frosting too, as I think coconut and lime complement each other so well. It wasn’t obviously limey but it just added a subtle zesty undertone while still allowing the coconut to be the prominent flavour. A word of advice though is to ensure you use an American cream cheese when making the frosting, such as Philadelphia, I don’t normally suggest brands but I used a UK own brand first time but it sort of collapsed into a wet mess and I ended up with an icing that was more like soup and had to start again – lesson learned. I also reduced the sugar to 400g for the cake without any ill effects.
Topped off with desiccated or flaked coconut for a nice contrasting texture this cake was a joy to eat. I’ll be making it again soon as I’m sure it will be a hit with my family back home. Click to see the other Cake Slice Bakers coconut cakes.
Southern Coconut Cake
(Recipe from Shy High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne)
For the cake
5 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
360g plain flour
475g caster sugar
4½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
220g butter at room temperature
225ml unsweetened coconut milk
250g desiccated or flaked coconut for decoration
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the base of three 8inch/20cm sandwich tins and set to one side.
Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk gently until slightly foamy but not so that they become white and fully aerated. Add the milk and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add the soft butter and coconut milk and beat with an electric whisk until combined. Increase the speed and whisk for 2 minutes until light and creamy.
Add the egg white mixture a third at a time, whisking well between each addition.
Divide the batter between the three tins and bake for 30 minutes until risen, springy when pressed and lightly golden in colour.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Cream cheese meringue buttercream frosting
(Use Philadelphia or other American brand of cream cheese – UK own brands for some reason collapse into a wet mess during this method)
350g cream cheese
200g butter at room temperature
125g icing sugar
2 tsp granulated or caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites
Beat the cream cheese and smooth and fluffy. Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, beating well until combined.
Sift over the icing sugar and add the vanilla and mix until well incorporated. (Add any additional flavouring you wish – I added the grated zest of 1 lime).
Mix the water and caster sugar in a small pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to bubble for 2-3 minutes until syrupy and measuring 112C on a sugar thermometer.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until foamy, then slowly drizzle in the sugar syrup while combining to whisk until the syrup is all incorporated. Continue to beat until the mixture cools and a stiff meringue has formed.
Continue to whisk the meringue and beat in the cream cheese mixture a tablespoon at a time, beating well until smooth and fluffy.
Place one cake layer on the serving plate and cover generously with the meringue buttercream. Top with another cake layer, more buttercream and the final cake layer.
Use the remaining buttecream to completely cover the top and sides of the cake.
Scatter the desiccated or shredded coconut over the top of the cake and press it onto the sides using a cupped hand (I sort of tossed mine at the sides and scooped up any bits that fell off).
Place the cake in the fridge to chill for at least an hour before serving to allow the buttercream to firm up.
Takes even better the next day when the flavours have melded together.
Serves 12 generously.