As long as I can remember, we’ve celebrated Easter at Eo’s house. For the first many years of my life, Eo’s house was actually a gorgeous apartment not far from where I live now, and “celebrating Easter” meant a few things to me, but most specifically plastic grass in a basket that I dug through to find the magical delicious speckled malt ball eggs that only appeared around Easter time. They always tasted better than the giant chocolate ones, and the speckled outsides made them that much more special.
I thought that only Eo could find the magic speckled malt ball eggs, until one year my mom decided to make a coconut cake. She decorated it with adorable little bunnies and the speckled egg-shaped malt balls. To be honest, that was my first memory of a coconut cake as well.
It was just so tall, and perfectly pristinely white, and covered top to bottom in shredded coconut.
For Easter this year, our family coined the term “Passereasterover” in which we would celebrate both Passover and Easter in one glorious food-centric get-together. We all fed off our memories to create and bring our favorites from holidays passed… we had gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, charoset, a seder plate, and Easter favorites including Eo’s bourbon salmon.
In a sort of coconut cake tag-team, I took my memory of my mom’s beautiful coconut cake and enlisted the help of my favorite Southern baking goddess. No, not Paula Deen, but rather Julie from Willow Bird Baking. We both made varieties of a coconut cake for different celebrations, and figured we’d show the world the differences in our interpretation.
Through a couple of Facebook conversations, Julie gave me all sorts of encouragement that I could indeed create a full-sized cake without a problem. She also said, “I know we’ll frost/decorate differently…” and she couldn’t have been more right!
See, this is not any ordinary coconut cake. Not only is it a delicious cake filled with coconut pastry cream, and covered in Swiss meringue and flaked coconut. Oh no. This coconut cake represents a few of the “Ten Plagues”, a big part of the Passover story. We have frogs here, my favorite of the plagues (if you can have a favorite plague.)
We also added bigger frogs, and bugs to represent the locusts and the lice. Yes, we’re a strange group. The meal was fantastic, and the company even better. There’s something about the light during the meal, the gorgeous flowers at the center of the table, and the Easter bunnies everywhere that made it seem like Spring is actually going to come someday soon!
The cake sat and waited patiently while we finished our meal, and the resident 7-year-old determined that it was time for dessert. I asked my sister to cut the cake; I was far too nervous. A sharp knife and some warm water and the first perfect slice was served.
I put a layer of raspberry jam in between the middle layers to represent the “blood” plague. I know it sounds disgusting, but trust me, it was not disgusting.
The consensus was that this was a truly delicious and perfectly coconutty coconut cake. The sweet icing was perfect with the not-so sweet cake, and the deliciously rich coconut pastry cream. Some said it tasted like a gourmet Sno-Ball (R.I.P Hostess), and others had their mouths too full of coconut cake to even say anything.
Truly Awesome Coconut Cake
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert coconut Easter cake spring
Ingredients (8-10 slices)
Adapted from Saveur
FOR THE CAKE:
- 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pans, sifted
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 eggs
FOR THE FROSTING:
- 4 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
FOR THE FILLING (from Zoe Bakes
- 1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
FOR THE CAKE
Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans,set aside.
Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Mix together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches.
Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. Divide the batter between the two cake pans, and tap the pans on the counter to remove air bubbles. Then smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks, and let cool. (Julie tip here: freeze the layers before dividing into layers!)
Using a serrated knife, halve each cake horizontally, producing four layers; set aside.
FOR THE FROSTING
Mix together the white sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water in a saucepan.
Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and heat the sugar mixture to a boil, and then boil rapidly until the thermometer reads 246* Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks and set aside.
When the sugar has reached the appropriate temperature, slowly pour the sugar into the egg whites while whipping them at a high speed.
Add the vanilla.
Continue whipping the egg white mixture until it is completely cooled.
FOR THE PASTRY CREAM
Heat the coconut milk, vanilla, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until warm.
Whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch.
Add 1/2 cup of the warm coconut milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
Add the egg yolk/coconut mixture back to the saucepan.
Raise the heat to medium high, and while whisking constantly, simmer until thick.
Add the coconut.
Refrigerate at least an hour.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
Stir in half of the whipped cream into the coconut mixture.
Lightly fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Lay one half layer on a cake plate.
Brush the top of the layer with coconut milk.
Spread a generous amount of coconut pastry cream, and top with another layer.
Repeat, ending with a cake layer.
Frost with the Swiss meringue, then carefully coat the entire cake with coconut.