Coconut Layer Cake

The classic yellow cake taken to a higher level.
TIME About 1 hour, plus time to cool
MAKES At least 10 servings
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans and paper
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1¼ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ teaspoons baking powder
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
1 recipe Vanilla Buttercream

1 Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans; cover the bottom with a circle of wax or parchment paper, grease the paper, and sift flour over the pans. Shake to distribute the flour evenly, turn the pans upside down, and tap over the sink to remove the excess flour.

2 Cream the 1¼ sticks butter with an electric mixer until smooth, then gradually add the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, 3 or 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, ½ cup of the coconut, and the salt; add to the egg mixture by hand, a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Stir after each addition just until smooth.

3 Pour the batter into the pans and smooth out the tops. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert the pans and slide the cakes onto a rack to finish cooling.

4 Fill, stack, and frost the layers directly on a large plate: Figure one third of the icing and ½ cup coconut for the middle, one-third of the icing for the top, and one-third of the icing for the sides. Press the remaining coconut into the icing all over the cake. Serve or store at room temperature, covered with a tent of foil, for a day or two.

  • Birthday Cake: Skip the coconut; bake the cakes and make the frosting. Tint ¾ cup of the frosting with a few drops food coloring and put it in a small zipper bag; use the rest of the frosting to ice the cake. Cut a small tip off one corner of the bag and squeeze out the tinted icing to write a message on top.

  • The ideal tool for frosting cakes is an offset spatula or straight blade (a long, narrow, flat spatula). If you don’t have either, just use a butter knife or rubber spatula. If you’re not topping with coconut, wiggle your hand a little as you’re frosting to create little peaks and swirls.
  • A 9 x 13-inch pan also works for this recipe—resulting in a small sheet cake. You’ll have a thick layer of icing and coconut on top.
  • If you want a cleaner look, you can transfer the frosted cake to a clean plate with 2 spatulas held at 90-degree angles—a risk sometimes worth taking. Or you can just wipe the rim of the cake plate with a damp clean towel.

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