It’s March in Vermont, and as much as I’ve been trying to deny it I’m in the mood for warmer weather. I’ve also been dreaming of the amazing coconut raspberry cake I had last summer while on vacation (in Edinburgh) at The Kitchin, a Michelin-star-rated restaurant that served the best meal I’ve ever had. While the chef, Tom Kitchin, does publish recipes, he doesn’t publish his method for this particular item, so I’ve been scouring cookbooks and websites, trying to find something that resembled what I ate.
I really couldn’t find anything that reminded me of that awesome cake, until I came across an overly-complicated version on the Food Network. The coconut custard seemed right to me, but the frosting and filling looked too heavy, so I cut back the butter and used the custard as-is without adding more heavy cream. My trusty Cook’s Illustrated book had an interesting recipe, but it called for “cream of coconut,” an ingredient I couldn’t find at any of my local markets.
My own attempt here is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Coconut Layer Cake, Bobby Flay’s coconut cake with coconut filling, and my memory of Tom Kitchin’s delectable creation. It’s more formal than the Cook’s version, but less complicated than Flay’s, and I added back the raspberry element which was missing from both of those. The best part of making this is your house will smell like a tropical paradise!
Stand mixer, 2 9-inch cake pans, medium sauce pan
4 eggs, separated (see instructions)
1 14- oz can coconut milk, separated (see instructions)
3 T cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract
4 egg whites
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup coconut solids
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups filtered water
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract
3 cups pastry or cake flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 t salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
3/4 cup coconut custard
1 stick butter (softened)
4 T cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Shredded sweetened coconut
First, the Custard
Open the can of coconut milk and spoon out two generous dollops of the coconut cream (approx. 1/4 cup) from the top into a medium mixing bowl (this will be for the cake). Empty the remaining contents of the can into a medium saucepan, add the milk and extracts, and heat to a simmer.
Separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks into an empty mixing bowl and the whites into the bowl with the reserved coconut cream; set the egg white mixture aside (for the cake).
Whisk the egg yolks together with the corn starch and sugar until lighter in color and smooth. When the milk mixture has simmered, remove it from the heat and pour a few tablespoons into the egg yolks, then quickly whisk to temper the eggs. Add the warm milk a little at a time and continue whisking until about half the milk has been added, then pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk, whisk again and return the pan to the heat. Heat the custard until it just starts to bubble, whisking as you go. When it boils the heat will activate the corn starch and thicken the custard. Remove from heat and pour the custard into a mixing bowl, stir to cool somewhat and set aside. When the custard has reached room temperature place it in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Make the Cake
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray the cake pans with cooking spray, and add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom of each.
To the egg white/coconut creme mixture (reserved from the custard process) add two whole eggs, the milk, and the extracts, and whisk together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Beat on low speed and slowly add the butter, one piece at a time. Combine until the mixture looks like moist crumbs, about 1 minute. Pour in the egg/milk mixture and beat on low until combined, then turn off the mixer, scrape the sides and bottom, and resume mixing on medium speed until the batter is lighter and fluffy, about 1 minute more.
Distribute the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean, rotating once during baking. Allow the cakes to rest in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then flip the cakes out onto the racks, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to finish cooling completely, about 2 hours.
While the cakes and custard are cooling…
Make the Frosting
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese until very fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Add 3/4 cup of the coconut custard and continue whipping until well-combined and fluffy. Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake.
The Grand Assembly
Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and let sit 5 minutes. Slice the two cakes horizontally, creating 4 layers. Reserve one of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Heat the raspberry jam in the microwave for a few seconds until warm, and stir to create a spreadable paste.
Place the first cake layer, cut side up, onto a serving plate. Spread this piece with a thin layer of jam, then dollop on 1/3 of the coconut custard and spread gently. Try not to mix the jam and custard layers; if the jam is too liquid you can pop the first jammed cake layer in the freezer for about 5 minutes to set up before applying the custard.
Place a cake layer on top and repeat: cake, jam (optional freeze), custard, until you get to the final cake layer. Finish the assembly by spreading the frosting over the top and all around the sides of the cake, and sprinkle on the shredded coconut. If you like a lot of shredded coconut you can press it on gently with your hand for a denser coating.
Put the whole cake back in the refrigerator and chill until time to serve.