CREATED Mar 19, 2008

Alisa Huntsman / Cookbook Author "Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes"

Southern Coconut Cake

5 egg whites
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at warm room temperature
* makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

12 ounces cold cream cheese
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted after measuring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
* makes about 5 cups

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of three 8-inch round cake pans or coat with vegetable cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

  2. Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl and whisk slightly. Add the 1/2 cup milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

  3. In a large mixer bowl, combing the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat to mix well and break up any lumps, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and coconut milk and with the mixer still on low, beat to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  4. Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing just long enough to incorporate between additions. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.

  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then turn them out onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

  6. To decorate the cake, place one layer flat side up on an 8-inch cake board. Cover this layer with 1 cup of the buttercream frosting, spreading it evenly right to the edge. Sprinkle 1/2 cup coconut over the frosting. Add the second layer of cake and repeat with another 1 cup frosting and 1/2 cup coconut. Top with the final layer of cake and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting.

  7. Place the remaining 1 1/2 cups coconut on a large baking tray. Pick up the cake and hold it on the palm of one hand over the tray. Using the other hand, scoop up some of the coconut and press it onto the side of the cake. Continue to do this, rotating the cake slightly each time, until the sides are completely coated. Set the cake on a serving plate and sprinkle any remaining coconut over the top. Chill for at least 1 hour to allow the frosting to firm up before slicing.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

Everyone loves the unctuousness of cream cheese frosting, but the silky texture of buttercream is irresistible. Unfortunately, if you try to make a buttercream with cream cheese, it breaks. This technique solves the problem perfectly, giving you the best of both frostings.

Place the cream cheese in a mixer bowl, and mix on medium until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set this aside at room temperature while the buttercream is prepared.

To prepare the buttercream, combine the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, put the egg whites in a mixer bowl and have the mixer set up and ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer to medium-low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites, taking care not to pour it directly onto the beaters, or it may splash. When all of the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the eggwhite mixture has cooled to body temperature and a stiff meringue forms.

With the mixer on low speed, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until the frosting is smooth and fluffy. Enjoy!