Coconut Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling
Coconut Cake is one of my favorite Southern desserts! I had it for the first time in Gainesville, FL and it quickly became one of those desserts I couldn’t pass up whenever it appeared on a menu. It is usually a layer cake with a decadent appearance (per most Southern desserts) but I’m always surprised how light each bite is. This recipe’s lightness comes particularly from the cake flour, egg whites, and lemony brightness. The sweetened shredded coconut couldn’t be an easier decoration, but still makes the cake look impressive and adds texture too!
For the Cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 + 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons coconut extract
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 + 1/2 cups coconut milk (CANNED)
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
3 cups cake flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Lemon Curd:
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tablesoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1/8 (a pinch!) of Kosher salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 recipe for vanilla buttercream
1 bag sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar + water heated until sugar dissolves)
Do Ahead: Make the lemon curd and refrigerate. Fill a sauce pan with 1” of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and keep the water at a simmer. Place a heat-proof bowl on top of the sauce pan (this is a DIY double-broiler). Place the yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt into the bowl. Whisk until completely blended and continue to whisk as the curd cookies. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. If curd isn’t thickening, turn up the heat and constantly whisk. Remove bowl from heat. Cut the butter into 6 separate pieces, then whisk into the curd. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top so it is touching the top of the curd. This prevents a skin from forming on top. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Once cool, the plastic wrap can be removed.
Make the Cake: Grease three 9” cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, oil, and sugar together until smooth. Switch to the whisk attachment and beat in the coconut extract and egg whites until fuffy - about 2 minutes. Beat in the coconut milk and sour cream until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cake flour, coconut flour, baking powder and salt, then add the dry ingredients to the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (I got about 550g each) and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Let the cakes sit in the pans for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before layering and frosting. If your cake tops are domed, while the cakes are still warm cut with a serrated knife so they are flat.
Assembly: Place the first layer of coconut cake on a serving dish. Brush the top with simple syrup. This is called a cake soak and locks in moisture and crumbs. Place the lemon curd and butter cream in their own pastry bags. In a bullseye design, with buttercream on the outer-rim, do circles of alternating butter cream & lemon curd. Take an offset spatula and smooth the rings together so there is no cake showing through. Repeat with the next layer of cake, soak, and bullseye curd/buttercream. Last, place the final cake layer on top. Go around the edges of the cake and place vertical stripes of butter cream about 2” apart and also a general spiral of frosting on the top. With an offset spatula, smooth the frosting so that it covers the cake uniformly. At this point, you can either do a crumb coat and come back in for a second layer of frosting or go straight to covering the cake completely in sweetened shredded coconut by pressing the shreds with light pressure into the frosting. Ta-da! You’re done.
Hot Tip: For an additional coconut boost, sub some coconut extract for vanilla extract in the buttercream recipe.