Light and Fluffy Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Filling and Coconut Buttercream
This coconut cake is light, tender, and exceptionally soft and fluffy. Filled with a super thick layer of coconut cream and covered in coconut buttercream, every bite is so rich and creamy it practically melts in your mouth.
For those of you who are new around here, my husband and I live in an RV. At the time I’m writing this, we are only about 5 months in to this new tiny-house-on-wheels nomadic lifestyle and still figuring everything out, but it overwhelmingly suits us. We are homebodies who love to travel so taking our home with us as we travel is pretty much perfect. We are always home AND always traveling. They say you can’t have it all, and I think that’s true. But, you can have more of what you want if you’re willing to give up the things less important to you.
That, my friends, is how I want to talk about this cake. If rich and creamy is what you’re craving, I feel you should go all in or not bother at all. This cake knows what it’s about. It’s so soft and tender, the layer of coconut cream so rich and thick, you might be better off eating it with a spoon.
Abandon all notions of thin, neat slices or the idea that you’ll just have a bite or two. That’s not how this cake works. This is the kind of cake you serve in generous portions on days when restraint is not the thing most important to you. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Why cake flour is essential to a super soft crumb
The main difference between cake flour, all-purpose flour, and bread flour is the percentage of protein it contains and how finely it’s milled. Cake flour is milled from soft wheat to have a fine consistency and a very low protein content – about 7-8%. To compare, bread flour contains around 13% protein, and all-purpose flour contains around 10% protein.
Why is this important? Because protein content is directly related to gluten formation. While strong gluten development is important to the texture of homemade bread, it’s the enemy of soft, fluffy, tender layers of cake. The less gluten formation you have in your cake batter, the softer and more tender the structure will be.
Cake Flour Substitution: While not quite the same, you can make a substitution for cake flour by replacing two tablespoons of each cup of all-purpose flour with two tablespoons cornstarch.
Why it’s important to use canned coconut milk and coconut cream in this recipe
Coconut milk and coconut cream are made by boiling coconut meat with water. Coconut milk is made by simmering one part shredded coconut in one part water and is the consistency of cow’s milk.
In most supermarkets, you’ll find both canned coconut milk and cartons of refrigerated coconut milk. The main difference between the two is how much water the coconut milk contains. Cartons of refrigerated coconut milk are much more diluted than what you’ll find in the can. In this recipe it’s important to use full fat coconut milk that comes in a can. Typically, you’ll find canned coconut milk in the Asian foods section of your supermarket, but you can also order it on Amazon.
Coconut cream is made by simmering four parts shredded coconut in one part water, making it thicker and richer than coconut milk. Cans of coconut cream can also usually be found in the Asian foods section of your supermarket, and can also be ordered on Amazon.
A word of caution: do NOT confuse Coconut Cream with Cream of Coconut. Cream of coconut is a sweetened version of coconut cream with a substantial amount of added sugar. Using it in this recipe will increase the amount of sugar in the cake, interfering with the cake’s overall texture, flavor, and structure.
My favorite part of this cake: the coconut cream filling
The coconut cream filling in this cake is simply my all-time favorite pastry cream flavored with a bit of coconut extract. The recipe is my favorite for good reason. It’s super simple, remarkably stable, and comes out perfect every time. It will hold its own at room temperature for hours without breaking down, and is so thick and rich that it will stay put between layers of cake without squishing out all over the place.
This pastry cream recipe requires 6 egg yolks. Save two of the egg whites to use in the coconut cake batter. If you are planning to frost your cake with Coconut Italian Meringue Buttercream, save the remaining four egg whites for that. If not, save them for another use or just discard them.
Pastry cream can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator in a covered container until you’re ready to use it. The biggest problem with this in my experience, is not eating it all, spoonful by delicious spoonful, before you’ve even had a chance to use it in your cake.
Not incidentally, this is the exact same filling I use in one of my all-time favorite pies – Extra Creamy Coconut Cream Pie. So, if you’re more in the mood for coconut pastry cream in a crispy almond crust, check out that recipe.
Three Buttercream Options
You have three excellent options for frosting your coconut cake: Italian Meringue Buttercream, American Buttercream, or Cream Cheese Buttercream. Whichever buttercream option you choose, simply beat in a couple teaspoons of coconut extract and you’re good to go.
- Italian Meringue Buttercream is the buttercream I make most often because it’s silky smooth, incredibly creamy, and absolutely gorgeous to work with. Even better is how good this buttercream tastes. After over 20 years of making this amazing meringue based buttercream, I’ve yet to have one person tell me they don’t love it. Even those people who normally don’t like frosting always LOVE Italian Meringue Buttercream. The downside of Italian Meringue Buttercream is that it takes some time to make and can be a bit tricky the first time you make it.
- American Style Buttercream has the advantage of being super quick and easy. My favorite recipe only takes a few minutes to make and is silky smooth and flavorful thanks to butter, heavy cream, vanilla and a touch of almond extract.
- Cream Cheese Buttercream is a gorgeous creamy blend of cream cheese and butter, sweetened with confectioners sugar, and flavored with vanilla and a touch of sour cream. Like American Buttercream, Cream Cheese Buttercream is super quick and easy to make. You basically dump all the ingredients into a bowl and beat them until smooth. Plus, I love the slight tang that cream cheese adds to this cake.
More popular cake recipes:
- Sinfully Rich Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake
- Intensely Flavorful, Super Moist Spice Cake
- Apple Cake with Cider Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache
- The Most Flavorful Vanilla Cake
- Funfetti Cake
- Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Ridiculously Good Carrot Cake with Caramel Rum Sauce
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
For the Coconut Cream Filling:
- 1 Recipe Pastry Cream (*See instructions and notes below)
- 2 tsp coconut extract
For the Coconut Cake:
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour (*see note)
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp table salt (1 1/2 tsp kosher salt)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature (How to quickly bring eggs to room temperature)
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature (How to bring butter to room temperature)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup canned full-fat unsweetened coconut cream (*See note below)
- 1 cup canned coconut milk (*See note below)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp coconut extract
Buttercream Options (choose one):
Make the Coconut Cream Filling:
- Follow the recipe instructions through step #8 to make a batch of Pastry Cream. Use only 1 tsp of vanilla extract, add 2 tsp coconut extract, and OMIT the heavy whipping cream.
- Refrigerate the pastry cream in a covered container for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
Make the Coconut Cake:
- Add the sweetened shredded coconut to a large skillet and set the skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequentluy, until about 50% of the coconut is golden brown. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. (If you try to continue cooking the coconut until all of it is toasted, you'll end up with burned coconut.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans, lining the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Here's how to grease and flour pans and line them with parchment paper so that the cakes will not stick to the pans.
- Add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt to a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to combine.
- Add the 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites to a bowl or large measuring cup and beat with a fork or wire whisk for 10 seconds or so to combine.
- Beat the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, until the mixture is fluffy and lightened in color.
- With the mixer running, add the beaten eggs to the butter-oil- sugar mixture slowly. Pour in the eggs bit by bit, beating continuously, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
- Add the coconut cream, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and coconut extract to a bowl or measuring cup and stir to combine.
- With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the coconut milk and flour mixtures to the batter in alternating additions: 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the coconut milk, 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the coconut milk, 1/3 of the flour. Mix just long enough to barely incorporate the ingredients. Do not over mix.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, gently spreading it out in the pans into an even layer.
- Bake the cakes in the center of the oven for 28-32 minutes. The cakes are done when they are just barely begining to pull away from the sides of the pan. If you insert a toothpick into the center of the cakes it should come out without any evidence of raw batter. This is a very moist cake, so the toothick will have crumbs clinging to it, it just shouldn't have raw batter on it.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes, then gently turn them out onto wire racks and allow them to cool completely before filling and frosting.
To fill and assemble the cake:
- Prepare a batch of your choice of buttercream: Italian Meringue Buttercream, American Buttercream, or Cream Cheese Buttercream. Once prepared, beat in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp coconut extract. Taste and add additional extract if you like.
- Remove the coconut cream from the refrigerator and stir in 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut.
- Lay one of the cake layers on a serving plate and spread the coconut cream over the top in an even layer. (*This recipe makes a generous amount of coconut cream; it will be a thick layer.)
- Top the coconut cream with the second layer of cake.
- Cover the top and sides of the cake with buttercream.
- Sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut over the top of the cake.
This cake's fluffy texture is best when served at room temperature. It is safe to store the filled and frosted cake at room temperature for up to 4 hours; any longer than that and it should be refrigerated. The filled and frosted cake can be made 1 - 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Allow the cake to sit out at room temperature for a couple of hours to bring it to room temperature before serving.
Individual cake layers do not need to be refrigerated. Store them, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 24 hours before filling and assembling the cake.
For the Coconut Cream Filling, follow the instructions for my all-time favorite pastry cream through step 8, using only 1 tsp of vanilla and omitting the heavy whipping cream.
- Pastry cream uses a total of 6 egg yolks. Save the 6 egg whites and use 2 of them in the cake batter. If you're making Coconut Italian Meringue Buttercream, reserve the remaining 4 egg whites for use in that recipe.
- If frosting this cake with American Buttercream or Cream Cheese Buttercream, reserve the remaining 4 egg whites for another use, or discard.
Cake flour is one of the reasons this cake is exceptionally light and fluffy. If you can't find cake flour, you can make substitution by mixing 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch. The brand I use is Swans Down Cake Flour which can be found at many supermarkets, or ordered on Amazon.
It's important to use canned full-fat coconut milk that's usually found in the Asian foods section, NOT coconut milk sold in cartons and found in the refrigerated section of most supermarkets. Coconut milk sold in cartons is much more diluted than the coconut milk sold in cans. Likewise, "light" coconut milk has a higher water content than what is optimal for this coconut cake recipe.
The difference between coconut milk and coconut cream: Coconut milk has a higher concentration of water than coconut cream. Coconut milk is the consistancy of cow's milk and coconut cream is thicker and richer.
Do not mistake Cream of Coconut for Coconut Cream. Cream of Coconut is a sweetened version of coconut cream with a considerable amount of added sugar.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 723Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 384mgCarbohydrates: 101gFiber: 3gSugar: 72gProtein: 6g