Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lemon Coconut Cake

Sugar High Friday has long been a favorite food blogging event of mine.  If you haven't heard of it, it was an event started by Jennifer of Domestic Goddess.  I always enjoy seeing everyone's variations on the given theme.  The recipes are so tempting and I have found myself bookmarking a ton of them.  When I saw that Allison of Zucchero Dolce had selected layer cakes as this months sugar high, I was excited.  It was no problem in my mind that there was no real world event calling for a layer cake of any kind, I wasn't going to miss my opportunity to participate for the first time.

Normally when I make a cake it is for a birthday.  For such events I choose something that falls within the parameters of the guest of honor's preference.  If they have no special request or if there is no guest of honor, then I just pick something that I feel will appeal to the largest portion of the attendees, taking into consideration such things as known aversions, seasonal flavors, etc.  While this is no hardship, a good cake is a good cake, I am sometimes itching to try something that wouldn't necessarily appeal to my typical audience or to just experiment with a flavor combination.  This was the perfect opportunity to pick whatever happened to appeal to me at the moment.

As I searched through my layer cake recipes there were only two requirements, the first was that it be a cake I felt like eating, the second requirement was that I needed to have all the ingredients.  I wasn't about to pack two kids in the store to pick up stray ingredients for a just-because cake.  Seeing that I did not want to make a cake that only I will eat, after selecting a few cakes that fit the bill I asked Hey, Babe which of them he'd like to try.  He selected a recipe for Coconut-Lime Cake.

Anyone catch that? Lime? Not the lemon given in the title?  Yeah, the lime that I thought I had was apparently an ex-lime.  Easy enough to sub in lemon zest instead, (all citrus fruits are interchangeable, right?).  So much for making sure I had all the ingredients.  My kitchen was rather chilly kitchen so I had to beat the butter-sugar mixture much longer than the recipe stated before it became fluffy, but other than those two changes, I stuck to the original recipe, aren't you proud of me?

The cake was delicious, nice and moist and lemony, but the frosting, oh yes, the frosting.  That is where I was most pleased with my efforts.  Recently, and from two separate sources, I have come across a recipe for making a flour based frosting.  Both sources praised the results of such a frosting.  Being intrigued, I decided to swap out the called for 7 Minute Frosting and try the flour based frosting.  Argh! Another deviation from the recipe!  Still, I wanted to see how it compared to my Swiss Meringue Buttercream which is my current favorite, so yes, I made another change.

Flavor-wise it would be a tough call to decide which method tastes better.  They are both awesome so I'm not going to split hairs over it.  Instead I'll just point out some pros and cons about this one.  While this frosting is super easy to make it does take time to cool completely between the first and second part of the recipe.  In fact, you should actually start the frosting before the cake to save time just waiting for it to cool.  It whips up very light and fluffy, but it does spread on smooth, hence the very rustic and homey look to this cake.  If you don't want to fuss with temperatures and egg whites, and don't need a smooth polished appearance, this frosting fits the bill.  It is creamy, and buttery and not overly sweet, and don't worry, no one would ever guess that flour was the secret ingredient.  I will be using this method quite often, I am sure.  I especially see it on future batches of cupcakes, where the spread of the frosting is not usually so demanding.

All in all, a wonderful success for a spur of the moment, just-because cake.  Please be sure to check out Allison's round up of all the other submissions for this months Sugar High Friday on the 30th, and thank you Allison for this months theme!

Lemon (or Lime!) Coconut Cake
adapted from Williams Sonoma
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups milk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 Tbs. finely chopped lemon zest (or lime)
4 eggs
1 recipe Boiled Milk Frosting (or your favorite vanilla frosting)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (optional, for decorating)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans; tap out excess flour.  Bring all ingredients to room temperature.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a separate bowl, stir together the milk and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle to whip the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar and lime zest and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Be sure to occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture.  You should both begin as well as end with the flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. To make sure I didn't over beat the batter, I stirred in the last addition of flour by hand, just until it was incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, spreading the batter evenly.  I weighed mine because I'm obsessive, but you can just eye it.  Instead of trying to spread the batter out with a spatula, I carefully gave each cake pan a quick spin to use centrifugal force to even out the batter.  The bonus to doing it this way is that it actually spreads the batter slightly higher around the edges than in the center which can help make your cake bake up more evenly.  Bake until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto the rack and let cool completely.

For assembly:
Using a rubber spatula, fold into 2 cups of frosting the 1 cup of coconut just until incorporated.  Place one cake layer, top side down, on a serving plate. Using an icing spatula or a knife, spread half of the frosting mixed with coconut evenly on top. Place a second layer, top side down, on the first layer and spread the remainder of the coconut frosting evenly on top. Place the remaining layer, top side down, on the second layer. Spread the reserved plain frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Press the remaining coconut onto the top and sides if desired. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes before serving to set the frosting.

Yields: 12 Servings

Boiled Milk Frosting
Adapted From Cooks Country and The Pioneer Woman

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk (whole milk will make it richer than low fat milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
24 tablespoons unsalted butter softened (3 sticks), cut into 24 pieces

1. Mix together sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt into a medium saucepan. Be sure to mix it well to prevent lumpy frosting.  Slowly pour in milk, whisking quickly until very smooth (again, you don't want lumps).  Over a medium flame whisk constantly until mixture boils and is very thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape mixture into a clean bowl and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.  (Here is where you should start making your cake)

2. Using a stand mixer (a hand mixer was not recommended as they said this mixture would be too thick) whisk cooled milk mixture together with vanilla on low speed until combined. Begin adding butter 1 piece at a time, and beat until they are all incorporated, about 2 minutes. Increase your speed to medium-high and whip until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Let it sit at room temperature until stiff, about 1 hour.

This frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 week. When you are ready to use it, let it stand at room temperature about 2 hours or until softened.  Re whip it on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. 

for chocolate frosting, add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. 
for coffee frosting, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder to the dry ingredients.
for cream cheese frosting (oh goodness!) replace 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter with 8 oz of softened cream cheese (and then eat it all with a spoon because, hello, this is cream cheese heaven!)

Makes about 4 cups (enough for two 9-inch cake layers)


  1. Lemon and coconut are always a perfect pair. I love how fluffy your cake looks and that frosting is a dream. Good job.

  2. Thank you! I've been sneaking spoonfuls of leftover frosting from the fridge, lol. I still can't believe it is flour based!


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