It was my boyfriend’s sister’s birthday, and she wanted a coconut cake. I originally wanted to make a 6 layer coconut cake with passion fruit curd filling, but the Austin Central Market is not very well stocked, and did not have the passion fruit puree like it’s Dallas store does. I settled for a Tyler Florence recipe from Food and Wine. Instead of a separate cake filling the layers are brushed with a mixture of rum and simple syrup, and frosted with a coconut buttercream.

The recipe called for 4 cake pans, but I only had 3. I also thought about using 2 pans and halving each cake, but there was two much batter for 2 pans, so I just settle for dividing between 3 pans. The layers were a bit thick for my liking, and next time I will probably half each cake to two so I will have a 6 layer cake.

To make the batter, a lot of eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract are beaten together in a stand mixer.

The batter will become pale and triple in volume.

The dry ingredients then are folded gently into the egg batter. It’s important to fold from the bottom so the dry bits are thoroughly mixed, otherwise you might get little balls of flour or corn starch in the baked cake.

The cakes are baked and cooled and set aside until ready for assembly. The cake will fall a little bit as it cools, which is normal.

The buttercream frosting is a little complicated to make, and requires constant attention. This basic concept is that egg whites are beaten while hot sugar syrup is mixed in at the same time. The egg whites will be cooked by the hot syrup, and once the sugar is fully incorporated, the meringue is then beaten until cooled to room temperature, and a lot of room temperature butter is beaten into it.

To make the meringue base for the frosting, some sugar is cooked in a pan until it reaches “soft ball stage”. “Soft ball stage” means the cooked sugar has reached a temperature range of 235F to 240F, and if a little bit of sugar at this point is dropped in cool water, it will form into a soft and pliable ball. I would highly recommend investing into a candy thermometer to monitor the sugar cooking process, since the “soft ball stage” is very near full caramel-ization, and, if you don’t watch it carefully, may burn.

When the sugar is about 5 degrees from reaching the soft ball stage, you want to start beating the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. If your egg whites reach this stage before the sugar has reached the soft ball stage, you can just leave the egg whites in the soft peak stage until you are ready to pour in the sugar. Be very careful when pouring the sugar, because it will be very hot, and you want to have a steady hand so the sugar is poured in gradually, not all at once. I also highly recommend making this frosting in a stand mixer if you don’t have a second pair of hands to help. Also make sure your sugar is at the right temperature, if it’s not hot enough, it will harden quickly and make a mess with your stand mixer.

I don’t have too many photos of making the meringue, because things happen very quickly, so I didn’t have a spare second to document the process.

After the sugar is fully incorporated, the frosting will be fluffy, shiny, and hot. I usually leave the mixer on for 20 minutes so that the meringue is beaten until cooled to room temperature. If it’s too warm, when you add butter, the frosting will curdle. If that happens to your buttercream, just let the frosting cool in the fridge a bit, then continue. The frosting will reshape it self if the temperature is correct.

When the meringue is cool enough, room temperature butter is added, a couple of tablespoons at a time, into the meringue. Make sure that the butter is fully incorporated before adding more. Finally, beat in the coconut extract. The buttercream can be kept in the fridge, or frozen, until ready to use. If it’s been sitting in the fridge, you want to beat it for a minute or two in the stand mixer before using. If your butter cream is frozen, thaw it out over night in the fridge, then beat it for a minute or two before using.

To assemble the cake, a mixture of simple syrup and rum is brushed over the first layer of cake, then buttercream frosting is spread over the cake. I added a extra layer of sweetened, shredded coconuts before topping with the next layer.

This process is repeated twice with the remaining two layers. The cake is then frosted all over.

To add finish decorating the cake, I toasted up some unsweetened, large flakes of dried coconut in a pan.

Then I pressed the flakes by hand into the frosting on the side of the cake.

When I served the cake, I noticed that I did not evenly frost each layer, so there was too much frosting on the top layer, and not enough on the bottom layer. I think next time, I will divide the frosting up so I will know exactly how much frosting I use on each layer. That way the cake will be much more pleasant looking, and the frosting evenly distributed.

Towering Coconut Layer Cake: