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Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

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© 2014 Helana Brigman
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I would like to take a moment to wish my best friend, Lydia, Happy Birthday.

Since we met, I’ve been in charge of making her birthday cake, often going to great lengths to sculpt the cake into Food Network-inspired concoctions held together by fondant and edible glitter. But, this year, I kept things simple. Instead of multiple layers of her favorite Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, I baked an easier, 2-layer variation loaded with extra coconut.  

While the shape of Lydia’s birthday cake changes regularly, the recipe never does. 

To me, this stark white cake is perfect for winter birthdays. Snow white and nutty, Coconut Cake embodies the decadent flavors of a rich, buttery white cake without being too heavy. 


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

To make this recipe, I used cake flour instead of all purpose and full-fat cream cheese whipped together with equal parts butter, sweetened, desiccated coconut and a dash of vanilla. By nature, cake flour’s high starch content lends a delicate nature to the cake, and the cream cheese creates a velvety, tart flavor that ices the cake without excessive crumbling.

Don’t have cake flour on hand? Try making your own—for every one cup serving of all purpose flour, remove two tablespoons, substituting two tablespoons corn starch instead. Whisk (or sift) flour and corn starch together and combine fully. 

Happy Birthday, Lydia!

Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 8 (1-inch thick) slices 



* 2 ¼ cups cake four

* 1 tsp. baking powder

* 1 tsp. salt

* ¾ cup butter, softened, cut into 1-inch pieces

* 1 ¼ cup sugar

* 3 eggs

* 1 cup evaporated milk

* 1 tsp. vanilla extract

* 1 tsp. almond extract

* ½ cup sweetened, desiccated coconut


* 2 sticks butter, softened

* 2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

* 2 tsp. almond or vanilla extract

* 2 cups powdered sugar

* 2/3 cup coconut

* ½ cup pecans, optional, for garnish

1.) Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two (8-in.) cake pans. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients—flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2.) In a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until fully combined. Add evaporated milk, extracts and coconut with wet ingredients, mixing until well blended.

3.) With mixer set to Medium, slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stop mixer, scrape down sides of the bowl and mix one last time.

4.) Evenly pour cake batter into greased pans and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cake from pans to a cooling rack and cool completely.

5.) To prepare the icing: Beat together butter, cream cheese and vanilla for two to three minutes until fully combined. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing well. Add coconut, mixing until just combined.

6.) To frost cake, spread a tablespoon of frosting over a clean cake holder. Place the first cake upside down and ice completely. Sprinkle surface with more coconut. Top with second cake layer and ice completely.

7.) To decorate cake: Sprinkle cake all over with coconut, pressing it into the icing. Press pecans into the top (optional) to garnish. Serve chilled.



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Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
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