Kevin’s Coconut Cake

I owe a lot to this Cooking Light fresh coconut cake recipe. After all, it marks the start of my relationship with Kevin.

For my mom’s birthday on March 20 in 2010, I decided to try this recipe. I’d never made anything that involved a real, whole coconut, and was interested to give it a go. The cake turned out great. It was light, fluffy, and — true to its name — tasted like fresh coconut. (There was a good bit of effort involved, but the final result made the effort very worth it.)

I took the leftover cake into work the next day (I was interning at Paste Magazine at the time) and later that afternoon received an email from my future husband letting me know that he’d enjoyed the sweet treat.

A year and a half later, we served coconut cake as our groom’s cake for our wedding.

So see what I mean? This recipe is kind of a big deal for me. I felt like our first anniversary (today!) would be an ideal occasion to make it for the second time, so that was my project last night. (Plus, we threw out our saved wedding cake topper a couple of months ago because we ran out of room in the freezer/it had caught a bad case of freezer burn, so we needed something celebratory to eat today.)

One very helpful tip while making this cake is how to easily open a coconut:

1. Poke three holes in the eyes of the coconut (an ice pick or nail works well for this task). Pour the water into a measuring cup.

2. Put the coconut in a 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Wrap the coconut in a towel and bang it on a hard surface (I recommend a brick walkway or patio, or you can hit it with a hammer).

3. Separate the flesh from the shell. It should pop out easily, but you might need to use a knife to help certain spots of flesh come loose.

4. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the coconut before toasting.

If you’re interested in recreating this deliciousness in your own kitchen, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup warm coconut water (from one small, brown coconut)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 large egg whites
  • Wax paper

Ingredients (for frosting)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shaved coconut, toasted


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, and line bottom of pans with wax paper. Lightly coat wax paper with cooking spray and dust pans with 1 tablespoon flour.
  • Combine about 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. Place 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 1/2 minutes or until well blended.
  • Add flour mixture and coconut water alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

  • In a separate bowl, beat 6 egg whites on high speed until foamy using clean, dry beaters. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (do not over beat).
  • Carefully fold egg whites into batter and pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Discard wax paper. Cool completely on wire racks.
  • To prepare frosting, combine 4 egg whites, cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy.
  • Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250°.
  • With mixer on low speed, pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites. Gradually increase speed to high, beating 8 minutes or until thick and cool. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate and spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Repeat procedure with 1 cup frosting and remaining cake layer, ending with cake layer on top. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

  • Gently press toasted coconut onto top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Happy Anniversary, Kevin!

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