Ina Garten is one of the first people I turn to when I need a recipe. Not just any recipe, but a recipe that I know will turn out beautifully every time. Her attention to detail is impeccable, and I appreciate all of the knowledge she passes on. One of my favorite things about Ina is that she's not a trained chef. She's a home cook, just like most of us, and she's a really, really good one at that. This coconut cake recipe of hers has long been a favorite of mine. It's a perfect Spring and Summer cake recipe. I especially love it for Easter or Mother's Day. Even if you aren't the best at frosting a cake, there's plenty of coconut to hide your failure handiwork. Below I'll include her recipe with my notes of what I change, which is simply based on preference. I hope this becomes a favorite of yours too! Happy Baking!
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups of sugar (NOTE: I always halve the sugar in recipes. Despite the fact that baking is chemistry, this does not change the overall cake, and it's something I've always done. This cake, however, is not overly sweet so I only reduced the sugar by a half cup. I find the following frosting pretty sweet so it's a good balance. Do what you prefer.)
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons of good vanilla extract (NOTE: Don't you love when Martha Stewart and Ina Garten say "good" vanilla? It's one of my favorite things so please say this out loud to yourself as you measure your non-shitty vanilla.)
1 1/2 teaspoons of pure almond extract
3 cups of all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (NOTE: I've started using table salt as it contains iodine, and today with our love of kosher/sea salt, we generally are not getting enough iodine. Just a little heads up to you as I've learned that recently. Passing it on, in case that means anything to you.)
1 cup of milk (NOTE: I used whole milk for baking.)
4 ounces of sweetened shredded (desiccated) coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. I grease them with coconut oil (How appropriate, I know!) and then lightly dust them with flour. You're welcome to do the whole parchment paper lining bit but I can't be bothered.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. OR! Use your arms!
Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla extract (and almond extract, if using) and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Did you use iodized salt? Tell me! With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Or, like me, completely forget to do this part...
Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.
The Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (NOTE: This better be GOOD, okay??)
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound of confectioners' (icing) sugar, sifted (NOTE: I get that people want sifted things, but I think it's bullshit and I little to never do it. Do what you want but sometimes I feel "ain't nobody got time for that" but here I also am baking a cake from scratch so...)
6 ounces of sweetened shredded (desiccated) coconut
For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract (and almond, if using) on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!). I've been singing whip it real good despite the direction to not whip, so it's generally very confusing over here.
I did not take photos of me making frosting. I'm so so so sorry. Please forgive me. Or, just know how to make frosting. Am I being helpful here?
To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down...I trimmed my cakes a bit, here's an action shot.
...and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle (or glom! like I did. Is that a word?) the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. My "lightly press" was more "heavily press" but maybe I'm just overzealous. Serve at room temperature.
Voila! I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do!!! xx, Lee