Coconut Southern Comfort Layer Cake

So I thought I'd start out this blog with a bang. A big coconutty SoCo bang.

Coconut Southern Comfort Layer Cake

I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit several months ago and was immediately fantasizing about it.   My boyfriend Alex loves coconut so I knew I would have at least one taker in the house. But I needed a special occasion to cook such a large cake. This weekend rolls around we are visiting Alex's family in Connecticut. Perfect timing for coconut overload.

I’ll warn you, you are in this one for the long wrong.  This cake presented a pleasant challenge, but is time consuming.  I don’t normally want a recipe review to be this long, but here we go!

Coconut Southern Comfort Layer Cake
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine February ’12 
by Martha Hall Foose

Topping:
4 cups unsweetened coconut chips

Cake:
2 ¾ cups cake flour
2 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large eggs
½ cups coconut oil, warmed to melt
1 cup buttermilk

Frosting:
2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½  2 ½ tbs plus ¼ cup Southern Comfort
½ tsp kosher salt
5 cups powdered sugar
...

We start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Lay out the coconut chips in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil. Recipe calls for 4 cups, but in the end I used probably 3. If your package of shaved coconut only has about 3.5 cups (7oz) you should be fine. Toast in the oven until about three quarters of the pieces are golden brown.  About 5-7 minutes. Watch them! They get really brown in the last minute or so quickly!

While the coconut is toasting you can prepare your cake pans. You will need four 9" cake pans. But seriously who has four 9" cake pans? I have two and cooked the cake in two batches. If you have only one pan, well you may be baking for a long time...

Original recipe does not call for lining pans with parchment paper, but I would, especially since the cake bakes a little sticky. To line pans with parchment paper, place a pan on the parchment and trace with a pencil around the pan. Repeat three more times. Cut out the circles. Prepare the pans by brushing bottom and sides lightly with butter. Place a parchment round in the bottom. Brush with more butter and dust with flour.  Lining with paper lets the cake pop right out. It only takes an extra five minutes and is way better than cake stuck in your pan :(

Prepare your cake pans with parchment paper, butter and a bit of flour

Prepare your cake pans with parchment paper, butter and a bit of flour

Now on to the cake. Keep the oven heated to 350 degrees. 

First whisk together the dry ingredients of cake flour, shredded coconut, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and coconut oil.

Cream the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and coconut oil.

Next cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and a lighter creamy yellow. You will want to use an electric mixer. Unless have arm of an Olympic discus thrower. Mix about 3-4 minutes. Now add the eggs one by one, beating as you go. Beat for another 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pillowy. Will feel awesome! Now add the coconut oil and beat.

*Note on coconut oil: I have never used coconut oil and found it rather intriguing and expensive. When looking for it in the grocery, look for jars, not bottles. When I bought it, it was solid, but once in my 90-degree apartment, it turned to liquid. Ready for cooking! If yours is not liquid, warm the appropriate amount in a small bowl/cup placed in another bowl of hot water. I'm not sure why the cake needs coconut oil, rather than vegetable oil, maybe someone more versed in oils can tell me. I know coconut oil is good for frying and has certain health benefits, baking pluses beyond that I’m not sure...

Back to the cake. Now it's time to add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions. Beat between each addition. We are almost there!

Spread the batter into the pans

Spread the batter into the pans

Divide the cake between the four pans. Well, I have only two pans at a time, so I had to guesstimate. I guesstimated wrong. My second two layers were much smaller. Oh well, tasted the same. I would say about 1 3/4 cups per pan. Original recipe says more, but it wasn't so for me. Spread the batter to the edge of a pan with a spatula and smooth. 

Cool the cakes on a rack for five minutes, then remove from their pans

Cool the cakes on a rack for five minutes, then remove from their pans

Bake in the oven for 23-27 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes and then pop out the cakes to cool. With the parchment paper in place all you should have to do is invert the pans and lightly rap on the bottom. They should come right out. Save the papers. I will tell you why later. Repeat the preparation of the pans and bake the rest of the batter.

Frosting time! Yay

Whip out that electric beater again! You will be beating those three sticks of butter and cream cheese with some serious steadying elbow grease until creamy and blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go.

Now blend in the SoCo. I used more than called for, about 2.5 tbsp. yummy! Who can go wrong with more booze flavoring?

Now to add the powdered sugar. Be sure to either sift your sugar beforehand or as your beat it in. If your powdered sugar is anything like mine it will be filled with balls of sugar and you don’t want that in your frosting. You can scrape the balls through a sieve. Beat for 5 or so minutes more on a low speed until fluffy.

Frosting! Blend the butter and the cream cheese, mix in the SoCo and sift in the powdered sugar.

Frosting! Blend the butter and the cream cheese, mix in the SoCo and sift in the powdered sugar.

Next the recipe says to cut the layers in half. Hell no! I am perfectly fine with a 4-layer cake rather than 8 layers. In fact, I am not even sure they are tall enough to cut in half. Four layers it is!

Prepare you frosting station. Cakes are ready. Frosting at attention. *Note: do not do as I did and stack the cakes- they will stick together. This is why I mentioned saving the papers. Keep them around to keep between the cakes while they are waiting to stop from sticking together.

Set out the first layer on your plate. I also used a cardboard cake round underneath because I knew I would want to transfer the cake later.  If you want to build on the plate you will be serving with later, place pieces of wax paper under the cake. You can then pull out the pieces after the frosting is done and the plate will be clean!

frosting station

frosting station

Brush the top of the first layer with SoCo. Frost with about a half cup of frosting. I really like my icing knife. It makes frosting cakes much easier and smoother.  Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat. SoCo and frost the top as well.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.  Keep the frosting out, but remove from your 90-degree kitchen and keep near the air conditioner. Complete by frosting the sides. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect, the coconut flakes will make it look awesome! P.S. I had a lot of frosting left over and froze it for a later use.

Layer the cake with SoCo and frosting

Layer the cake with SoCo and frosting

Cover lightly with foil and refrigerate overnight. This will let all the flavors meld. Be sure to cover very loosely or the foil will stick to the cake and remove chunks when you peel it off. 

Next Day:

Remove from the fridge and let sit 30 minutes or so.  Cover with the coconut chips by lightly pressing into the top and sides. I’m not sure if this really needs to be done the next day. The coconut didn't really lose crunchiness after sitting a day, so I would say you could do it before putting in the fridge overnight. Then it would be really to go the next day and less fuss. Done!

.....

And the verdict?

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Delicious! 

Not too heavy, but definitely rich.  The cake itself was not light and fluffy, but certainly not heavy – it had a good texture. The frosting had a lovely tangy orangey spiced taste and the coconut coating makes the cake looks so pretty and professional.

This cake certainly took a good deal of time and several steps, so I would make it again, but only for a special occasion. 

Also, this recipe calls for several expensive special ingredients. I don't usually stock SoCo, cake flour, coconut oil and copious amount of coconut.  Also, my guilty conscious is sore from the five sticks of butter that went in.

And finally, if you plan on carrying this cake far, don’t. It weighs 12 pounds. And you need a small army to eat it.  After two days and more than 16 servings of cake, there was still a third left.  But who doesn’t like cake leftovers for breakfast?

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