18 April 2012

Colossal Coconut Cake!

Just over a week ago, my checked suitcase was detained by TSA for a ‘suspicious item’ (according to DFW staff) which turned out to be my 12” offset spatula, or perhaps my tart pan. Of course I was not concerned with whether or not I’d have to sleep in my contacts or wear my airplane pants for another day, but if I would have to rethink my cake and tart plans. 

At any rate, I had looked forward to channeling my grandmother’s infamous coconut cake by baking one of my own.  The recipe was quite a bit different from hers, as I didn’t want it to be a comparison – just an inspiration.  The offset spatula belonged to my grandmother, as well as the cake plate on which it was served.  The cake server belonged to her mother, and it all was prepared in my mother’s farmhouse kitchen.  In some way, four generations were involved in this cake.  Family and friends gathered that weekend and many enjoyed this moist, delicious and decadent cake.  I don’t generally have a sweet tooth, yet somehow I managed to indulge in this little ditty more than once before we departed the land of Texas Bluebonnets.

Tip:  try splitting individual cakes in half using a simple piece of dental floss or heavy thread.  Instantly three cakes become six, delicate layers.  Superb!

Coconut Refrigerator Cake

Adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen


Butter or Crisco (for greasing the pan)

Flour (for dusting the pan)

1 package (18.25 oz) plain white cake mix (my favorite is Duncan Hines)

1 cup milk

½ cup cream of coconut*, plus more cream of coconut for brushing the baked layers 

3 large eggs


2 cups sour cream

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 container (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed (Cool Whip – Extra Creamy)

3 ½ to 4 cups sweetened flaked coconut (frozen*, preferred)

*Note: canned Cream of Coconut can be found in the baking section of your market. Frozen coconut will taste much fresher than the dried variety, and will chill nicely with the Cool Whip.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°. Cut parchment paper to line three 9-inch round cake pans. Lightly butter the pans, then dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, milk, ½ cup cream of coconut, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 1 ½ minutes longer, scraping down the sides of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look well blended. Divide the cake batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans, about 1 ½ cups batter per pan, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on the center rack, place to pans on that rack and one in the center of the rack above. Bake the cake until layers are light brown and the tops spring back with lightly pressed with a finger, 18 to 23 minutes. The cake layer on the higher rack may bake faster, so test it for doneness first.

While the cakes bake, make the frosting! Place the sour cream and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 ½ minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes longer. Add the whipped topping and beat on low speed until well blended. Stir in 3 cups of coconut and beat on low speed until mixed. Place the frosting in the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes.

Transfer the cake pans to wire racks, with paper towels or parchment paper beneath, and let the cake layers cool for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each cake layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen the cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, and then invert again so they are right side up. While the cakes cool, use a small brush to gently brush the tops of the cake with the remaining cream of coconut (now you see the need for the parchment paper or paper towels beneath, eh?). Let the cakes cool completely, 15 minutes longer.

When the cakes are cool, split the layers horizontally to make 6 layers. Either pull a piece of dental floss (or heavy thread) horizontally through the middle of the layer – moving the floss in a back-and-forth motion. Conversely, you could mark middle points around the side of each layer using toothpicks. Using picks as a guide, cut through the layers with a long, serrated knife.

To assemble the cake, transfer one layer, cut side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with a heaping 2/3 cup frosting. Place another layer, cut side up, on top of the first layer and frost with 2/3 cup frosting. Repeat this process with the remaining layers and frost the top and sides of cake. Sprinkle ½ to 1 cup coconut on top of the cake for garnish.

This cake should be chilled at least 24 hours before serving, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Best coconut cake ever!