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This moist coconut cake is reminiscent of the venerable classic that was a staple of birthdays for years, and is now most often found in the freezer case at the grocery store. It uses one of our favorite ingredients: powdered coconut milk. While you can find it at The Baker’s Catalogue, naturally, I’ve also bought it at natural foods markets and Asian grocery stores, where it’s usually in the Thai section. What a wonderful thing; to take coconut milk and evaporate the water, so when you use it you can make it as thick or thin as you like! When added dry to cake batter it replaces a little of the fat, and makes an incredibly tender and moist crumb. If you’re a coconut fan, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without the stuff.S.R.
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) coconut milk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) sugar
6 large egg whites (about 1 1/4 cups; packaged liquid egg whites work fine, too)
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 drops coconut flavoring
1 (14-ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
5 1/2 cups (22 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or 3 to 4 drops strong coconut flavoring
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Soak two cake strips, if you have them. Grease and flour (or line with parchment circles and spray with nonstick spray) two 8" square cake pans (or two 9" round cake pans) that are at least 2" deep. Note: if you want to torte the layers for a taller cake, use two 8" round cake pans that are at least 2" deep.
To make the cake: Whisk together the cake flour, coconut milk powder, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is extremely light and fluffy; scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl after two minutes of beating, and beat for at least three minutes more. Add 1/4 of the dry ingredients, mix until combined, and scrape the mixing bowl.
Combine the egg whites, milk, and flavorings; add 1/3 of the mixture to the ingredients in the bowl and mix until combined. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients by turns, until all are incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl one last time, and mix for another minute.
Divide the batter between the two pans, and wrap the outsides with the soaked cake strips. If you don’t have cake strips, place the pans in larger pans and fill the water halfway up the sides of the layers. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center and the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the oven and place on a rack; remove the cake strips. Let the layers cool for 20 minutes, then turn out of the pan and return to the rack to finish cooling completely before filling and frosting.
To make the frosting: Set a fine-mesh strainer or colander over a bowl and line it with a clean linen towel. Pour the coconut milk into the lined strainer and let the coconut water drain for up to 2 hours, until you have a thick lump of coconut cream.
After the coconut milk has drained, cream the butter with 2 cups confectioners’ sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the salt and vanilla (or coconut extract) until the mixture is smooth. Add the coconut cream and mix, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar until you have a smooth, spreadable frosting. Cover and hold at room temperature until ready to use.
To finish the cake: Split the cooled cake layers horizontally. Place half of one layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/4 of the frosting. Place the other half on top, spread with another 1/4 of the frosting. Repeat with the remaining layers until you’ve used them all.
To decorate the cake: Sprinkle some coconut at the base of the cake and over the top.
Yield: 1 layer cake, 16 servings.