I have something really special for my coconut lovers out there: Coconut Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This cake is rich, decadent and has the perfect amount of coconut flavor.
Is this an Easter thing?
Now, it seems like there are always a bunch of coconut cakes on the blogs in the weeks preceding Easter. My theory is those bunny shaped cakes decorated with coconut on the outside that I grew up on became so popular that coconut cake for Easter is now a thing. Does that make sense? I mean everyone knows carrot cake is associated with Easter, but I feel coconut cake is right on up there. Let me know your theories.
Coconut, coconut, coconut
Anyway, lets talk about this coconut layer cake. The cake itself gets coconut flavor from three different elements. First is coconut oil. I use a mixture of coconut oil and butter in this cake, because they add great flavor and the oil helps keep things moister than using butter alone.
Second is coconut milk. I also use buttermilk in this cake for some tangy flavor balance. Both ingredients keep the cake super moist.
Lastly is coconut extract. Originally, I tested a cake with coconut flakes in it and no extract, and I felt like it had enough coconut flavor on its on. The coconut flakes, however, made the cake denser and less fluffy, so I decided to leave them out. Without the flakes, I needed a little more coconut flavor. I don’t love using artificial extracts in general, but a little goes a long way. I advise to add a small amount at a time at the end and taste the batter in case your preference or strength of coconut extract is different than mine.
Keep things light
Coconut cakes can tend to get a little heavy between the coconut milk and perhaps coconut flakes in the batter. As I said, I opted out of the flakes in this recipe. I also decided to use whipped egg whites rather than whole eggs for lightness and volume. Another important ingredient is cake flour. This cake is moist and rich, and yet light and fluffy at the same time.
Doing it Swiss style
I actually made Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time while testing this recipe. I slightly tweaked a recipe I found on Bon Appetit. It has such a lovely fluffy, silky texture and just a touch of coconut flavor. I mean what could be wrong about adding tons of butter to meringue. It’s so good and a really great base for different versions of meringue buttercream.
I think the whole cutting this cake into four layers scenario make this coconut layer cake sound a bit intimidating. This recipe probably isn’t for a novice baker, but I feel like it’s really good practice for building up those skills if you’re into baking. Also, I’m not the most advanced baker, so I’m sure this would be a piece of cake for a lot of you. Yes, pun was obviously intended.
If you have three cake pans, you can divide this between recipe between the three pans to avoid cutting the cake. If you’re aiming for 3 layers, you could also cut this recipe by ¾ for both the cake and frosting. The math isn’t that bad.Print
I have something special for my coconut lovers out there: Coconut Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s rich, decadent and perfectly coconuty.
- 3 ¾ cup cake flour
- ½ tbsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt (about 1 tsp of finer 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
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoon 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 teaspoon coconut extract, or to taste
- 1 tsp kosher salt (½ to ¾ teaspoon finer salt)
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, for topping
1. Heat oven and prep pans: 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.
2. Mix dry ingredients: In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Beat fats and sugar: 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.
4. 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.
5. Mix wet and dry ingredients: 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 teaspoon of coconut extract and add more to taste.
6. Fold in whites: Add 1/3 of egg whites to cake batter and stir to combine. Gently fold in remaining whites.
7. Bake: 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 half way 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.
8. Cool: 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.
9. Start 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.
10. Whip: 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.
11. Add butter: 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.
12. Cut cakes: 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.
13. 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 again with 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.
14. Serve: Serve cake at room temperature. Slice and enjoy.
The buttercream is adapted from Bon Appetit.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American, Swiss
- Serving Size: 1/20 of cake
- Calories: 750
- Sugar: 56g
- Sodium: 270mg
- Fat: 46g
- Saturated Fat: 30g
- Carbohydrates: 78g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 9g
Keywords: cake, coconut, layer, meringue, buttercream