Last week was a big day for Miss Fats’ better half: J rang in her 30th year and a whole new decade of food adventures to be had. Though she looks nowhere near her age, and is infinitely more exciting than any young person Miss Fats has ever encountered, J opted for a less rowdy, more intimate birthday celebration. However just because J was being an adult, didn’t mean M needed to be. Hence the craziest coconut cake ever. This cake is a bit of a beast: not for casual or impatient baker. However it really pays off in the end for those who love coconut more than life itself (which J does).
Since the gathering was a small group of six, Miss Fats opted for a minicake. Now mini doesn’t mean less intense or less epic. Instead she packed all the crazy times of a giant cake monstrosity into a nondescript mini version (she likes to think this intensifies the effect). The cake features 4 moist layers of coconut cake with coconut pastry cream and strawberries. The whole deal is then frosted with swiss buttercream and flaked coconut for good measure. Lots of steps, but really worth it: both in looks and taste.
The cake has been adapted from several recipes that have been altered and cut in half to make up for the mini form. She assumes that any of these recipes below can be doubled for a large cake option. Ultimately, you end up with a 6 inch stacked mini cake and a substantial bowl of extra coconut pastry filling (like you can’t figure out what to do with that). Miss Fats went for strawberry filling to help balance the creamy coconuttiness, but any berry or tart option would do just fine. Or if berries are out of season, just opt out. For this filling, Miss Fats created a half-cooked, half fresh filling so as to preserve the tart flavors of those fresh berries, while still holding it all together with some cooked jam-y fruit action. Miss Fats is going to take you through the steps carefully, but be warned that this cake is really more of a two-day process that requires periods of waiting and careful cake assembly work. Plan ahead.
intensely coconut mini cake:
makes 1 4-layer 6 inch mini cake
cake adapted from What’s for Dinner?’s Truly Awesome Coconut Cake
coconut pastry cream adapted from coconut swiss buttercream adapted from Willow Bird Baking’s Ultimate Moist, Fluffy Coconut Cake
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
coconut pastry cream:
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
good pinch of salt
1 1/2 egg yolks
1 tbs corn starch
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup flaked, sweetened coconut
1 pint of strawberries diced, divided
1/2 packet of unflavored gelatin
1 tbs sugar
1/4 cup water
coconut swiss buttercream:
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
good pinch of salt
1-2 cups of sweetened, flaked coconut
1. day 1, make the cake: Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 six-inch cake pans. Beat butter and sugar on high in a large bowl or stand mixer until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each. Add coconut extract. On low-speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and coconut milk. Increase speed to medium high and beat until combined (5-10 seconds). Pour into pans and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.
2. day 1, step 1 of the pastry cream: in a sauce pan, over medium, heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and coconut extracts. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and egg yolks until well combined. Once the cream is hot, temper the yolks by carefully adding 1/4 cup of the milk to the bowl, whisking constantly. Add the yolk mixture back to the sauce pan, whisking constantly. Continue to mix over medium high heat for 3 minutes (for the FULL 3 minutes!). Add the butter and coconut flake and mix. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (make sure you press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream to prevent skin-formation). Store in fridge until cake assembly or until fully cooled.
3. day 2, step 2 of the pastry cream: beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold into the chilled cream and set aside until assembly.
4. day 2, strawberry filling: in a sauce pan, melt the sugar, and gelatin in water over medium heat. Add half of the pint of chopped strawberries and cook for 5 minutes, mashing the berries with your spoon. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in the remaining berries. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you make the frosting.
5. day 2, swiss buttercream: In a stand mixer, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. While the eggs are beating, heat water and sugar in small sauce pan over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then stop. Bring the mixture to 240 degrees. Reducing the mixer speed to medium, carefully stream the hot sugar mixture into the whites, avoiding pouring onto the whisk. Increase speed to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until fully incorporated. If buttercream appears curtled at any point, increase speed to high and beat until smooth. Beat in extract until fluffy and smooth.
6. day 2, cake assembly: carefully cut each of your cake layers in half. Lay down the first layer and pipe a ring of the buttercream around the edge of the cake to prevent the cream from oozing out. Spread approximately 1/3 cup of the pastry cream onto the first layer. Top with second layer. Carefully spoon the strawberry filling on top, doing your best to create a thick, even layer. Top with third layer. Repeat the steps for a second layer of pastry cream. Top with final layer. Frost the outside of the cake with swiss buttercream (this doesn’t need to be pretty). Using your hands, carefully pack the flaked coconut onto the sides and top of the cake.
phew. Miss Fats is exhausted. However the cake is not complete just yet (or technically it is, but not up to Miss Fats’ standards). Top off that insane cake with a cat face crafted of strawberries (see above). Now you have the perfect coconut cat cake.
Miss Fats likes to think that this is truly a celebration cake. All the hard work and multiple steps are worth it for that perfectly layered slice of cake on a special day. Sure, modifications can easily be made to make this thing easier (omit the berry filling in favor of more cream, and whip up your favorite simple buttercream recipe instead of the crazy swiss version), but she likes to think that the amount of work involved in the cake directly correlates to how important and wonderful the person you’re making it for is. So break this recipe out for your next coconut-obsessed bff, lover or cat. Or just spend a fun day making this crazy cake for yourself and then please eat it while rubbing an overweight cat’s round belly (careful not to get fur into that slice).