Declaring Winter is Over with Spring Cakes

IMG_4173If you lived through New York City this winter, it’s safe to say your heart may have sunk when spring rolled in with yet another snow fall followed by weeks of cold damp.It’s not that snow isn’t a beautiful marvel of Mother Nature. It is. Just not after a terribly slushy, sleet-filled winter.

So to Mother Nature, I offer you one spring-inspired coconut cake. Having worked at a bakery all through high school, switching out our cake cases became a hallmark of the change in seasons. Harvest-filled flavors transformed into vibrant, bright-flavored desserts.

Plucked by my dad from a leisurely Sunday read of the New York Times, this coconut layer cake has definitely become an Easter tradition in my family. Though it can be made anytime, I can’t help but think of warmer, pastel-filled climates when indulging. If you are in the New York City area, you can sample the cake yourself on the lunch menu at the well-known restaurant Telepan on the Upper West Side. And while this is a great option for those who are not culinary-inclined, it doesn’t allow for the opportunity to toast your own coconut flakes and make them “snow” onto a velvety landscape of cream cheese frosting. That beats real snow to me, any day!

Adapted from Larissa Raphael, Telepan, New York


For the cake:

  • 2 sticks/226 grams unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups/265 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon/3 grams fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons/10 grams baking powder
  • 3/4 cup/140 grams granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated, plus 3 whites
  • 1 1/2 cups/355 milliliters cream of coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups/295 milliliters unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters coconut or dark rum
  • 7 tablespoons/104 milliliters freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 cups/370 grams unsweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks/226 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups/454 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla extract
  • 7 1/4 cups/2 pounds/907 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups/340 grams unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut, toasted


Make the cake:

  1. Grease 3 8-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and reserve. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with spatula. Lower speed and gradually add flour mixture. Batter will be thick and pasty.
  3. Whisk together cream of coconut, coconut milk, rum and orange juice.
    Alternately add shredded coconut and the orange juice mixture to the batter.
  4. In the clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 6 egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Cool
    in pans on wire rack. Unmold cakes once cool.

Make the frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla extract. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix until combined and fluffy.
  2. Spread 1/4-inch-thick layer of frosting on top of the first layer of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Place next cake layer on top and repeat with frosting and coconut. Repeat with the third layer, spreading frosting on top and around sides of cake. Hold cake steadily in one hand and use other hand to pat remaining coconut onto edges of cake.