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Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing: Happy Birthday Lydia!

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© 2012 Helana Brigman
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There’s nothing I like more than baking a close friend her birthday cake.  Something about the labor of love it requires to mix, bake, cool, ice, and beautify a bakery item so demanding really is a present in itself.  Add together the combination of silky gourmet Coconut Cream Cake with homemade Cream Cheese Coconut Icing, and the best vanilla fondant you’ve ever had, and you’ll get…well…a Unicorn Cake.

Perhaps I should explain myself.

I spent the last three days embarking on this particular labor of love for my good friend Lydia Dorsey.  Lydia, one of the wittiest AND coolest girls I know, has had a lifetime affinity for unicorns.  As a painter, she’s brought them to canvas, made them her profile picture, and even written some graduate papers on the role of unicorns in art.  What better way to honor the birthday girl herself than a high-end unicorn cake?

And, this isn’t my first Unicorn Cake for Dorsey.  Back in 2009 (or was it 2010?), I attempted this feat for the first time.  Although the results were certainly noteworthy, I’ve come a long way in the world of fondant working since that time.  Here are my most recent results:

Beautiful braided color fondant give a feel of magic to the unicorn’s hair.  To dress, I covered  the hair ends with pressed leaves and decorator flowers.

For the horn, I made sure it was purple (Lydia’s favorite color) and added the use of edible glitter stars and pressed paisleys to the horn.

As for the recipe, well, unicorn or not, it makes for a wonderful Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing.  Normally, I adapt pre-existing recipes with cake flour, leavening, and added flavors like almond extract.  But, having made this particular one before (courtesy of Garrett McCord at Vanilla Garlic), I followed his instructions by the book and they were *perfect.*

I’m certain Garrett had no idea his coconut cream cheese cake would turn into a magical creature like this one, but for those of you looking to show a little extra love with a little magic (and fondant) this year, try my advanced-level cake recipe for a unicorn cake.  Or, half the recipe and make an easy batch of cupcakes!

Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing: Happy Birthday Lydia!!

This recipe comes directly from a guest post by Garrett McCord (of Vanilla Garlic) found at Simply Recipes (here).  Garrett’s recipe takes the cake (metaphorically, literally) for the addition of coconut milk to moisten the batter’s ingredients.  When I made this cake the first time, I kept saying, “I can’t believe I made this! It tastes like wedding cake!” And although most wedding cakes don’t have the inclusion of coconut, the moist, complex flavor of Garret’s bakery conception really evokes that high quality gourmet feel.  For all my readers who love coconut, this cake (or cupcake) recipe is for you.

A Note on Portion Sizing: because of the over-sized nature of this cake, I used a double batch of Garret’s cake recipe.  For a single batch (the regular recipe), simply halve the ingredients below.


*1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature

*2 1/2 cups sugar

*6 eggs

*1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk, shaken well

*2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*4 1/2 cups flour

*2 teaspoons salt

*2 teaspoons baking powder

*1 cup sweetened desiccated coconut


*2 sticks butter, room temperature

*2 (8-oz) packages Philly Cream Cheese (whole, not lowfat)

*2 cups powdered sugar (plus more to taste)

*1/2 cup sweetened desiccated coconut

–Special Equipment Needed–


1.)Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.

2.) In a standing mixer such as a KitchenAid, beat butter until fluffy.  Add sugar slowly beating until fully integrated and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time allowing for thirty seconds between each addition (about 3 minutes).  Scrape down sides of bowl and return to slow mixing speed.

3.) In another separate bowl, combine coconut milk with vanilla extract and mix to combine.

4.) Create batter: add 1/3 of dry mixture to KitchenAid, then 1/2 of coconut milk allowing for each addition to mix in properly.  Add second 1/3 of dry mixture, followed by last half of coconut milk. Continue mixing until integrated and add last third of dry ingredients.  Right when batter has fully combined, stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.  Add sweetened desiccated coconut to batter and fold in.  Do not over-mix.

5.) Pour batter into greased cake pans.  If making my unicorn above, I used a 9-inch circular cake pan and one 10-inch sheet cake pan.  Bake at 350 or until a toothpick comes out clean (around 30-34 minutes).  Remove cake from oven and allow to rest for several minutes in pans before loosening and transferring to cooling rack.

6.) Prepare icing: beat together butter and cream cheese until fully mixed.  Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix until you’ve reached your desired flavor of sweetness (I prefer a bit of that cream cheese taste in my icing, so two cups really was quite right here).  Finally, fold in sweetened desiccated coconut and reserve for icing at room temperature.

7.) To carve the cake like a unicorn, you will need to allow the cakes to completely cool and then transfer them to a cake sheet (dry surface).  Carve cakes, ice, and cover in fondant before decorating as shown above.  Since these steps require an extraordinary amount of patience and vision as you work your way through them, I want to turn readers’ attentions to a couple of food bloggers who have attempted similar culinary tasks in the past and created *beautiful* cakes:

Cardamom and Lavender: The Unicorn of Trail  


Unicorn Wedding Cake by Rose Sen.

Whatever you attempt–three dimensional, or flat, you will wish to use a thin layer of fondant to give your cake a little extra za za zoo.  Here’s a great vanilla brand I picked up at Hobby Lobby–cheap and easy to use.

For my flower designs,  I used a press out stamps like this one and this one to add extra sparkle with pre-colored fondant.  For the finishing touch? Edible star glitter to give the unicorn a more “magical” feel.

Makes 15-20 servings.

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing: Happy Birthday Lydia!, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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2 Trackbacks

  1. By Clearly Delicious » Carol’s Gumbo on November 26, 2012 at 11:32 am

    […] Dorsey—one of my nearest and dearest of whom I’ve written plenty about on this blog (here and here)—extended me an invitation to join her family for a low key dinner in Alabama.  This […]

  2. […] Pictured: this year’s birthday cake for Lydia (see last year’s here). […]

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