Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Coconut" Cake, I Resent You.

Have you ever had a dessert that was so completely ugly but it was so good that it didn't even matter? Or a beautifully plated masterpiece that was dry and lackluster that it made you resent it's good looks? Yeah well this "coconut" cake falls into the second category.

Coconut is put into quotations because I don't think a yellowish cake with a handful of shredded coconut folded into it constitutes a coconut cake! This cake had it's ups and down. It was gorgeous, there's no doubt about that. I was even impressed with myself because it looked so ethereal. It was so white and cloud like. It had a good amount of coconut on and in it and the frosting was good. But then again it's hard to screw up cream cheese frosting.

I use a large cookie scoop to portion out my batter so I get even amounts in each pan. Then I use an offset spatula to spread it out into the crevices.

It's down sides were that it was HEAVY and DENSE and dry and didn't taste like coconut. It had almond and vanilla extract in it which was good but that's what the cake tasted like--not coconut. I think this cake could have been benefited from some coconut milk or cream of coconut, maybe even coconut extract. It was just lacking something, which is pretty sad when it contains 3 sticks of butter and 5 eggs! I read the reviews on this cake and a lot of people really loved it while all the others agree with me and didn't. Make it and let me know what you think.

And did I mention this was for my in-laws 38th wedding anniversary. I had every intention of making a different cake but she kept hinting that she really wanted a coconut cake. No one really had any comments about it- good or bad, but I knew it was NOT a hit when my MIL didn't want to take any home with her. And sadly, I didn't blame her. A good portion of this went in the trash. I'll have to redeem myself on their 39th!

"Coconut" Cake by Ina Garten
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp., plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

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 and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

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 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 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.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Happy 38th Anniversary N&B!


  1. Sorry to hear it didn't taste as fantastic as it looked.

  2. That sucks. I've made her coconut cupcakes (it's supposed to be the same as the cake) and they came out really good. Light and coconutty. I'll have to go back and compare the recipes.

  3. Wow, it really is a beautiful cake. I'm sorry that it didn't taste good. I love how you scoop in the cake batter. What a great tip!

  4. It looks incredibly tasty. Sorry it was a disappointment! I won't be trying this I don't think. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. It looks beautiful, like a cloud of fluffy snow. What a shame you found it a dry. I have recently discovered you can buy coconut flour in some enthic shops and delis, it really adds a strong coconut flavour!

  6. The cake looks beautiful in the photos--love the cake stand and topper! I am surprised that Ina wasn't a hit on this one. I usually like her recipes. You may want to try Paula Deen's son Jamie's recipe for coconut cake.

  7. It really is a beautiful cake, too bad it wasn't the tastiest cake. I hate it when I try a new recipe for a special occassion and it flops.

  8. I had the same problem with a Martha Stewart coconut cake. My SIL loves coconut and this Martha cake took forever (it seemed) to make and it was blah. Your cake looks beautiful!

  9. Boooo! I hate hearing that! It LOOKS amazing, and what a great tip using the ice cream scoop for the batter!
    I made a coconut cake that I got off the food network and it is my's called Put the Lime in the Coconut cake. It's yummy.
    Sorry to hear that Ina failed you though, that's a lot of eggs and butter, she usually does better.
    Thanks for the heads up, I might have tried this.

  10. The cake looks beautiful. Too bad it didn't taste like coconut. I love the idea of using a cookie scoop to measure the batter. That is much easier to use than measuring cups or just eyeballing it.

  11. I'm surprised that the cake didn't taste better, Ina's recipes are usually decadent. I don't know about the cream cheese icing though for a coconut cake. It was picture perfect though and I'm sure they appreciated your effort to make their favorite cake. I'm sure you could tweak this and make it delish!

  12. I have yet to find a good coconut cake recipe. The ones I have tried also are dry and funky and do not taste like coconut. They are pretty to look at tho! Someone needs to come up with a good tasting recipe!

  13. Well, it was beautiful. The recipe looks somewhat similar to my coconut pound cake, but my cake tastes moist and coconut-y. I'd hesitate to put cream cheese icing on a pound-cake-ish cake. Sorry it didn't come out right, but at least you tried it! I like reading reviews of failed recipes because it gives me an idea of which combinations of ingredients to avoid.

  14. The cake looks beautiful! It is always very disappointing when you bake a cake and it doesn't live up to expectations. Last weekend I made the Contessa's lemon cake and was pretty disappointed. The taste was pretty good, but it was so dense. I'm not a dense cake kind of person. Have you tried the coconut cake from the Southern Cakes book?

  15. I wonder if the coconut makes it dryer? I made some coconut cookies that were kind of dry but the coconut kept them chewy so I didn't know whether or not to blame it :)

  16. On the up side, at least they know that your creations are normally fantastic, so they know it was a fluke. It sure looks purdy though

  17. Bummer--I hate wasting ingredients on something mediocre. My favorite coconut cake is from the Cook's Illustrated large book. I don't like their frosting, but the cake itself was amazing. At least yours looks beautiful!

  18. That that stinks! I abhor when that happens. Looks great, everything goes along well and bam... In this case it was even worse as it was for a special occasion. I won't even mention how lovely the cake looked as it's a poor consolation.

    On the other hand I LOVE that cake stand. I want!

  19. Yummy...a good cake for Valentines Day I think! Come say hi :D

  20. First time here and what a lovely blog you have!! I'm so glad that I stumbled upon it. :) Will be back!

  21. I hate when that happens!! Especially when the cake is for someone else! Your cake looked really pretty though!

  22. Ya know, I felt that way, too. I hope it wasn't my blog that inspired you to make this! I liked the cake, but as I mentioned, the icing did nothing for me. People love the recipe, but I am still looking for a true coconut cake. I did learn that coconut milk improved the cake, and maybe cake flour. I love Ina, but I haven't had the best of luck with her cakes. Still, it looks beautiful!

  23. Well it is beautiful and I wouldn't turn down a slice! Cream of coconut would be a great idea, but how would that change the recipe? I'm all about making things my own, but then with baking I'm not sure how to adjust.

  24. Julia- I think it's supposed to be a pretty similar recip, but I'm not sure which one came first. I've never tried the cupcakes though.

    Katie- I've never heard of coconut flour but I'll be on the look out!

    Treehouse Chef- I'll have to try Paula's recipe. They're usually pretty good and it can't possible be any more fattening than this one :-)

    Cookies and Cups- Lime and coconut?! YUM.

    Jenn- I totally agree!

    Keeley- It was very pound cake like. Which is fine of it had an amazing coconut flavor. It just didn't.

    Winifred- I thought her lemon cake was really dense but the last time I made it we were at a much higher altitude so I contributed it to that. I don't really know though. I did look through the Southern Cakes book because there are at least 6 different coconut cakes in there, but I wanted one with cream cheese frosting and I didn't want one with a fruit filling. I'll have to try one one of these days.

    Lissaloo- I have no idea.

    Grandma Tillie- I'll have to try that recipe and just use a diffrent frosting. Thanks for the heads up.

    Sook- Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it!

    Debby- You reminded me of this cake when you blogged about it but I don't blame you because it had been on my "to-bake" list for a long time. Now I know.

    MBC- I don't think it would changfe the texture since it's already a dense cake. It would just impart more coconut flavor. I would start out by substituting half of the milk for the cream of coconut. If you make it let me know!

  25. Aww I'm sorry it was a bust.=/ Well I guess you never know until you try! But it does look gorgeous=)

  26. Well that is just looks beautiful. I do think that there are more things that look delicious and taste icky than those that look icky, but taste great. There are some ugly foods that are really good, but good pastry/baked things...not always easy to fine.


  27. So sorry Monica.. it looks so gorgeous.. that so bites when you make something for a special occasion and it doesnt rise to the occasion. Must not happen to you often, I bet.

    It is truly pretty.

  28. Hi Monica,
    Gorgeous looking cake. I have given you an award. Please visit my blog for details.

  29. I have made this same cake with the same results. Very disappointing!

  30. Usually Ina's pretty reliable, kinda weird! But it is beautiful for sure :)

  31. Ina's recipe failed? That's just shocking!

  32. So sorry to hear about the cake. But, it looks awesome!!! I have made this recipe and I added coconut flavoring. It turned out really nice. My family love coconut =).

    Love your blog!!

  33. It is so cute! I love the caketopper too!

  34. Beautiful cake...sorry it didn't meet the taste test! That is so frustrating when hours have been invested...

  35. Aww, I'm sorry it didn't taste good and was dry - that's just the worst! It certainly is pretty though!

  36. Oh, sadness! We fellow bakers KNOW how frustrating that is soooooo beautiful, though!

    I've had this happen to me before, too....Sigh.

  37. how unfortunate :(

    i love her coconut cupcakes and make them all of the time! i will have to compare the cake and cupcake recipes...

  38. i love sprinkles coconut cupcakes, but my complaint about them is that they don't taste like coconut (nor do they have any coconut in the cake), either - they simply have coconut on top of the cream cheese frosting.

  39. Hi, just found your blog and sorry this is way after the fact, but I like Ina Garten's recipe for the coconut cupcakes, I am also not sure if it is same as cake recipe. But I have always used coconut milk (full fat) instead of cow's milk. I feel the same way about a lot of coconut cake recipes- just yellow cake with a handful of coconut thrown in, so I always always use coconut milk. I think it makes a big difference and you might like it much more. Beautiful photos!!!


Thank you for your supportive comments. I appreciate each and every one of them!