Before this cake, I’d never really thought to combine lemon and coconut. The flavors are vastly different, and don’t necessarily seem like they’d play nice when combined in a dish. That said, a couple of weekends ago I was asked to make a really decadent, luscious dessert, and immediately I thought to make something with lemon and coconut. When I started doing a bit of recipe research, I realized the flavor combo is actually a popular one, so I decided to go with it. I found several recipes that looked good, and ended up taking components from a few different places to make one incredible cake.
I only had a couple of hours to make the cake and all of it’s components, so I found a simple recipe that was easy to get together and into the oven, and wouldn’t take much fussing once it was finished. For the cake layers, I chose a coconut cake, flavored only with toasted flaked coconut. I’d found some recipes that called for coconut extract, which I didn’t have on hand, so I was glad to be able to achieve a nice coconut flavor without it. The cake layers were absolutely wonderful – ever so slightly dense and firm but still fluffy, with a comforting hint of coconut and warm vanilla flavors.
For the filling, I made a basic lemon curd recipe, using a method I’d never tried before but that worked out well. I used a recipe from Beantown Baker, and made the lemon curd in a food processor – it was quick and easy. I used meyer lemons because we had them around and they needed to be used, and I loved the flavor! The texture seemed slightly different to me than the lemon curds I’ve made in the past – ever so slightly less silky smooth, but I think for the cake it was just right.
I made a meyer lemon frosting as well, similar to a buttercream but a bit lighter and softer, thanks to the addition of heavy cream. It was really flavorful and not too sweet, with a fun cloud-like texture. I topped the cake with some extra toasted coconut, and we were good to go!
This cake was such a lovely surprise. Given the limited time I had to put it together, and the approach of throwing a bunch of separate recipes together, it really didn’t have to work out for me but it did, and beautifully! All of the flavors and textures were so fantastic together – the toasted coconut especially added a fun crunch. If you’re looking for something simple, delicious, and pretty – make this! Please! It looks beautiful and tastes divine – a serious winner.
(Please excuse the awful night-time photo, I just wanted to show what it looked like in one piece!)
*Baking note: I made a half recipe of the cake layers, and it worked perfectly in two 8-inch round cake pans!
Coconut Buttermilk Cake
adapted from Simply Sifted
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted (I used sweetened coconut and it worked great)
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) Toast the coconut in an ungreased pan at medium heat. It will probably take about 4 minutes. As soon as any of the coconut starts to brown immediately remove from the heat. Continue to stir until the coconut stops browning.
2) Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line the bottoms of three 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray.
3) Put the eggs and the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl, add the vanilla and 1/4 up of the buttermilk. Whisk to blend.
4) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl; whisk to blend. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup buttermilk to these dry ingredients and with the mixer on low, blend together. Add the coconut. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
5) Add the egg mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing only until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
6) Bake the cake layers for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan. Let layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
7) To assemble the cake: Place one layer flat side up. Brush with coconut milk. Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting over the layer to the edge. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and and use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Don’t worry about it looking neat: to finish the cake cover the entire thing with coconut chips.
Note: When I assembled my cake I only used two layers. I sliced each layer in half and ended up with a four layer cake. I used the remaining layer and one cup of reserved frosting to make Coconut Cake Truffles. The cake truffles (I’ll post the recipe later this week) are one of the most popular things I’ve ever brought into work so if you have some time you might want to reserve a layer to make a batch.
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1) Remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
2) Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice, salt and cornstarch. Mix until combined.
3) Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.
adapted from Food and Wine
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk (optional)
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1) In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and egg yolk (if using) at medium-high speed until light and creamy. Beat in the sugar at low speed, adding a bit at a time until it is completely incorporated. Beat in the cream, vanilla and salt, then turn up the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, 3 minutes longer. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.
2) Spread 1 cup of frosting over a cake layer and top with the second layer; frost the top and sides.