A tender and delicious white butter cake enhanced with thick, unsweetened coconut milk best describes these fragrant layers. Using a good quality, unsalted butter (I love Plugra) and a bit of pure vanilla & almond extracts, helps round out the flavors of my recipe. Stiffly beaten egg whites lighten up the batter and give it volume, while keeping the cake as white as snow after baking.
My Coconut Cake Layers can be iced with an array of frostings & be sandwiched with your choice of fillings. Imagine using a traditional crème pâtissière in between the cakes and covering them in a rich buttercream. Perhaps you enjoy the flavors of coconut and chocolate. In that case try enrobing the layers in a delicious chocolate frosting while filling them with a simple, but delicious whipped cream flavored with a bit of Kahlua. If you want to keep it simple, however, a homey seven minute frosting sprinkled with coconut is the way to go. Whatever you decide to use, I can almost guarantee that you're going to fall in love with this recipe. Although the cake I baked is long gone, I still dream of these layers. I hope you make them soon!
Fragrant Coconut Cake Layers.
- 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups + 1/4 cup granulated sugar (keep the measurements divided)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 6 large egg whites, room temperature
Baking Pans: two 8x2" round cake pans, buttered & floured and lined with parchment.
With racks centered, preheat the oven to 350° F.
In a medium sized bowl, sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder & salt; keep this ready. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the 2 sticks of unsalted butter for one minute, on medium speed, until lightened. I always like creaming & making my butter malleable before adding the sugar. Stop the mixer & scrape down the bowl with a silicone spatula.
Gradually add the 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar on medium speed until incorporated. Beat the mixture until very light & creamy, a good 5 minutes. It's very important to cream this well, for this amount of time, because you want to give the layers a light, tender crumb. Stop the mixer at least once or twice to scrape down the bowl during this process.
On low speed alternately add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, along with the unsweetened coconut milk in 2 batches; begin and end with the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla extract & almond extract. Mix the batter just until combined. Stop your machine and set the batter aside.
In a clean bowl, add the egg whites and begin whipping them with a whisk attachment on medium speed.
Beating on medium speed will allow the eggs whites to break down slowly. Let the eggs get foamy before adding the 1/4 cup reserved sugar.
As soon as the whites are foamy, raise the speed to high & begin adding the sugar in a steady stream. You don't want to overwhelm the egg whites, so do this gradually and let them trap as much air as possible. Having your egg whites at room temperature will also allow them to whip to their fullest. Beat to stiff, glossy peaks. Be careful (!), this should only take about 2 minutes.
With a large spatula, fold in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Again you don't want to overwhelm the butter mixture or deflate the egg whites too much, so add them in stages. Place a large dollop of egg whites into the bowl & cut them into the batter from the middle. Take the spatula and scoop the batter to the left & around the entire bowl, while giving the entire bowl a 1/4 turn. Repeat this process until only a few streaks of egg whites are visible.
Do you see how the batter has lightened in texture, while remaining voluminous? This is good folding. Continue folding the remainder of the egg whites in the same manner. Do this in 3 more batches. Mix just until the egg whites get incorporated into the batter.
The finished cake batter will be light & perfectly smooth. Folding the egg whites carefully keeps them from breaking down too much. This is what's going to give your cake layers lift & structure as they bake.
Without a moment to lose, quickly divide the batter among the 2 prepared pans and smooth out the tops with your spatula. Promptly place the pans into the preheated oven.
Bake the layers for approximately 27-30 minutes.
The layers will take on just a bit of color on top, they won't get golden. A fully baked layer will be springy & spongy in the middle (there should be no wobbling). If inserting a bamboo skewer or cake tester, it should come out clean. Another indicator of doneness is having the layers pull away from the sides of the pan (picture above). Leave the cakes in their pans to cool over racks for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, flip the pans & remove the layers. Peel away the parchment paper and reinvert the layers onto another rack. Let cool completely. Fill & frost as desired.