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Milk Street Bowtie Coconut Layer Cake

Coconut Layer Cake

16 to 20 Servings
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Growing up in Los Angeles, Karen Clay lived around the corner from her grandmother, Margaret Newborn. Before and after school, when her parents were at work, she’d stay with Grandma Margaret—a born-and-raised Southerner and excellent cook who, as a mother of 10, was incredibly skilled at making a little go a long way. Clay treasures her memories of Grandma Margaret’s coconut cake: a beautiful, towering creation she describes simply as “dreamy.” It was always baked on a whim rather than for celebratory occasions, making the sumptuous treat seem especially magical. Newborn usually prepared the rich, moist cake and melt-in-your-mouth frosting without a recipe and entirely by hand, deeming most tools “too fancy.” Whenever possible, she used fresh coconut, which Clay recalls her teenaged uncle cracking open out in the garage. Now living in Atlanta with her husband and children, Clay has tried recreating the cake, but found her layers too dense, frosting too sweet and store-bought coconut lacking in flavor. To replicate Margaret’s impressive dessert, we’ve developed a tall, proud cake, featuring four fluffy layers and airy buttercream. Sweetened, shredded coconut works well, but for the best flavor, shred raw coconut on the small holes of a box grater; you will need about 150 grams (2 cups), the yield of roughly half a coconut. Though Newborn probably did not use coconut milk in her frosting, we found that mixing just a little into the buttercream not only makes for a perfectly spreadable consistency, it also brings more coconutty goodness along with depth of flavor; half-and-half, if that’s what you have on hand, yields a delicious result, too. The cake can be served right away or kept at room temperature for up to two hours before serving. Covered loosely with plastic wrap, the cake can be refrigerated for up to three days; just bring to room temperature before serving.

16 to 20

Servings

330 grams (2¾ cups) cake flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
283 grams (20 tablespoons/2½ sticks) salted butter, room temperature
482 grams (2¼ cups) white sugar
678 grams (48 tablespoons/6 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
744 grams (6 cups) powdered sugar
½ cup half-and-half or coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
140 grams (2 cups) sweetened shredded coconut or 150 grams (2 cups) grated fresh coconut
For the Cake:
  • 330

    grams (2¾ cups) cake flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1

    teaspoon baking powder

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼

    teaspoon table salt

  • 5

    large eggs, room temperature

  • ¾

    cup buttermilk, room temperature

  • 1

    teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 283

    grams (20 tablespoons/2½ sticks) salted butter, room temperature

  • 482

    grams (2¼ cups) white sugar

For The Frosting and Assembly:
  • 678

    grams (48 tablespoons/6 sticks) salted butter, room temperature

  • 744

    grams (6 cups) powdered sugar

  • ½

    cup half-and-half or coconut milk

  • 2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 140

    grams (2 cups) sweetened shredded coconut or 150 grams (2 cups) grated fresh coconut

Directions

Coconut Layer Cake

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Reviews
Jenna S.
November 20, 2022
Nice cake
Moist and tasty cake but the frosting is pretty sweet and heavy.