It’s a shame that Coconut Cream Pie is so much more well-known (and loved) than it’s close cousin, the Coconut Cream Cake. It’s easy enough to spike a regular white or yellow cake batter and/or frosting with coconut extract in place of the vanilla – coconut milk is common in coconut cakes and not a bad idea per se, but gets lost, I think, and is ultimately a waste of coconut milk that could be put to better use elsewhere (curry!), especially considering the high quantity of saturated fat it contains. I really want my coconut milk to count for its fat expenditure.
Boost flavour by using 2 tsp. of extract in place of 1 tsp. vanilla – or try some of each. To make cupcakes, divide the batter between paper-lined tins and bake for 25 minutes, until pale golden and springy to the touch. The toasted coconut sprinkle is the best part – I overdid mine a bit, but I love the crisp crunch it adds to the soft, buttery cake. If you like, press soft (untoasted) shredded coconut over the sides of the freshly-spread icing and sprinkle it on top – if you toss it about with some green food colouring, you’ll have a grassy cake on which to set plastic animals, golf guys or anything else one might find on a lawn.
Dreamy Coconut Cake
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour¨
2 tsp. baking powder¨
1/4 tsp. salt¨
1/3 cup butter, softened
¨1 1/2 cups sugar¨
2 Tbsp. canola oil
¨3 large eggs
¨2 tsp. coconut extract
¨1 1/4 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8″ or 9″ round cake pans or one 9″x 13″ pan with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a larger bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for about half a minute, until it’s pale and creamy. Pour in the sugar (and oil if you’re using it) and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each, and adding the coconut extract somewhere along the way. Scrape down the sides of the bowl whenever it needs it.
Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir it in by hand or with the electric mixer on low speed, just until it’s combined. Add about half the milk in the same manner, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour, mixing just until the batter is blended.
Divide the batter between the greased cake pans and tap the bottoms a few times on the countertop to remove any air bubbles. To prevent a domed top, spread the top of the batter with a spatula, creating a slight dent in the middle and a raised edge. This compensates for the way a cake tends to rise higher in the middle.
Bake for 30-35 minutes for round layers or 40-45 minutes for a 9-x 13-inch cake, until golden, the edges are pulling away from the sides of the pan, and the tops are springy to the touch. Let them cool for about 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the pans and inverting them onto a wire rack. Cool completely before you frost them.
1/2 cup butter, softened
¨1 tsp. coconut or vanilla extract¨
3 cups icing sugar¨
1/4-1/3 cup milk, or as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and extract with an electric mixer until creamy. Add about a third each of the icing sugar and milk; beat and continue to add each until you have a spreadable frosting. Makes enough for 1 cake or a batch of cupcakes.