It was my dear hubby’s birthday and, being the food lover that he is, I wanted to make him a great cake to top off an evening filled with his favorite foods (if you’re interested, his requested favorites included French Onion Soup and Spaghetti and Meatballs). This coconut vanilla cake turned out to be one of the best cakes I’ve ever made at that time, in how it looked, the texture and the flavor. I generally use vanilla extract because it is more economical, and only used vanilla beans sparingly when required. But a week before I made this cake, my hubby found a great place to purchase vanilla beans in bulk that cost 15-20 times less than it normally would. So this time, I didn’t need to skimp on the vanilla beans and I used all real vanilla beans in the recipe instead of extract and the difference was amazing. From now on, it’s all real vanilla beans!
12 tbsp cold butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 1/4 cup cake and pastry flour
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise and seeds reserved
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise and seeds reserved
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup Coconut Custard, cold
3/4 cup heavy cream, cold
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Coconut Custard
1 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
For Final Assembly
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
Preheat oven to 350oF. Butter and flour two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper (alternatively, you can also use cooking spray such as PAM butter). Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla seeds and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Then add the 12 tbsp butter one at a time with the mixer running at low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy (approx 1 1/2 minutes). Add the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture with the mixer on low speed. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the round cake pans and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 22 – 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes then run a small knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake and invert the cakes onto the rack. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely (approx 45 minutes).
Make the Coconut Custard: Combine the milk, coconut milk and vanilla bean and seeds in a nonreactive saucepan (for example stainless steel, ceramic, or Teflon coated). Bring to a simmer over low heat. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl and slowly whisk the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture. Return this mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking constantly until thickened. Scrape the mixture into another bowl, remove vanilla bean and whisk in the vanilla extract. Let the custard cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until cold (at least 2 hours).
Make the Coconut Filling: Combine 3/4 cup of the Coconut Custard with 3/4 cup cold heavy cream and whip until soft peaks form.
Make the Coconut Buttercream: Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy (approx 4 minutes). Add 3/4 cup of the Coconut Custard and salt then beat until smooth.
Make the Coconut Syrup: Combine 1 1/2 cups water and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium, stir in the coconut; remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes (but no more than 4 hours).
For Final Assembly: Slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers using a long serrated knife (a bread knife works well). Reserve one of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place a layer on a cardboard round cut-side up and brush with some Coconut Syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the Coconut Filling onto this layer and spread it into an even layer leaving a 1/2-inch border around its edge. Repeat these steps involving the Coconut Syrup and Coconut Filling for two more cake layers, stacking each one cut-side up. With the reserved cake layer, brush the cut-side with the remaining Coconut Syrup and stack it cut-side down on top. Frost the sides and top of the cake with Coconut Buttercream. Pat the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle some on top.