Some people's faces take on a look of pity when I tell them that I made a birthday cake for myself, but to be honest, at this point, I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, who knows what I like and want better than I? And since I have the know-how and ability to make it, there's no reason I shouldn't. It's like a present to myself.
This year's creation was all coconut, all the time. Soft, fluffy white cake was made with shredded coconut folded into the batter. My filling was a coconut-flavored pastry cream with, you guessed it, more shredded coconut added. The frosting was the woefully-underused seven minute variety smothered with a blanket of toasted coconut. I guess you could say I was in the mood for coconut.
While the number of steps and ingredients may seem daunting, rest assured that no aspect of making this cake is particularly hard. You can take care of the pastry cream, cakes, and garnish well in advance, though the frosting needs to be done shortly before applying it.
The aging of this cake is a mixed bag, as the longer it sits, three things happen:
1)The cake gets more moist, which is good.
2)The frosting starts to ooze a little bit, which is good when it seeps into the cake, but bad when it creeps onto the counter.
3)The toasted coconut gets soggy, which is bad. It still tastes good, but it loses that crunch. I suppose you could cover the cake in untoasted coconut for the snowball effect, but I just love the toasted touch.
Happy birthday to me.
Recipes adapted from Ina Garten (cake), Joy of Cooking(pastry cream), and Martha Stewart's Cupcakes(frosting)
Makes a 3-layer 9" cake
- 3/4 pound 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
- 1-1/3 cups milk
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 3 cups sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans, then line them parchment paper and grease them again.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 6 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter evenly into the 3 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.
Make the pastry cream: Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until a thin film forms on the top. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow, then beat in the flour, corn starch, and salt. Add some of the hot milk slowly to the yolk mixture, whisking as you add, to temper the eggs so they won’t cook. Then pour the yolk mixture back into the pot of hot milk and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high until the mixture begins to turn thick and bubble. At this point, trade your whisk for a spatula and gently stir the bubbling mixture for 1 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the extract and shredded coconut. Pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap down onto the cream so an icky skin doesn't form. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, probably up to 2-3 days. When it's time to use the pastry cream, stir it a bit to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.
Make the frosting: In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, and egg whites. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes. Attach bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat mixture on high speed until glossy and voluminous, about 5 minutes. Beat in extracts. Use immediately.
Assemble the cake: Put one layer of the cake on your serving platter. Spread 1/2 of the coconut pastry cream filling onto the cake. Spread it almost to the edge. Repeat with the other layers. Frost the cake generously with the seven minute frosting, then carefully push handfuls of toasted coconut all over the sides of the cake and on top.