This is a few days late, but I'm so glad I went ahead and made this Southern Coconut Cake. Reason #1: I grew up eating cake made from a box mix, and while made-from-scratch cakes sound really good in theory, I find that most of the time, they aren't as moist or fluffy as box mix cakes. Taste-wise they are certainly better, but a lot of cakes from scratch are too dry and have a weirdly muffin-like heaviness. This cake was delicious AND supermoist AND light and fluffy; everything you want in a cake. Reason #2: This is the fourth cake I've made from Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. While all of them have tasted good, this is the first one that I actually thought was sooooo good, good enough to hang on to the recipe and dream of occasions for which to make it again. I highly recommend it!
Southern Coconut Cake
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
for the cakes:
5 large egg whites
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at warm room temperature
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8" round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the 1/2 cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Ad the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out and place on a wire rack to cool completely. To assemble the cake, place on layer--flat side up--on a plate. Cover this layer with 1 cup of buttercream frosting. Spread it evenly all the way to the edges. Then sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded coconut on top. Repeat with the next layer. Top with the final layer of cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake and cover with the remaining coconut. Chill the cake for at least 1 hour to allow the frosting to firm up.
for the cream cheese buttercream frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, slightly chilled
1 stick unsalted butter, at warm room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifter after measuring
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites
Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set aside at room temperature. Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and heat slowly, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring until the syrup reaches the softball stage, 228 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Meanwhile, place the egg whites in a mixer bowl and have the mixer ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer on medium low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites, taking care not to pour onto the beaters (it may splash). When all the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed on the mixer to medium high and beat the egg whites until the mixtures has cooled and stiff meringue forms. With the mixer on low, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy.
for the garnish:
2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut