A Taste of Happiness ~ Coconut Cake ~ From The Lemonade Cookbook



There is something about coconut that reminds of summertime. Sunny beaches, suntan oil, tropical weather. Coconuts just make me happy. I love drinking coconut water fresh from the shell--- just add a straw. This coconut cake has a special memory for me that layers happiness within my senses with a sweet sunny frosting of pleasure.

If there was ever a more idyllic Southern California evening for a private dinner party, it was a few weeks ago when Chef Alan Jackson of Lemonade gave a dinner in his backyard to introduce The Lemonade Cookbook. We enjoyed a leisurely five-course tasting menu created from the recipes in the new cookbook with hors d’oeuvres, champagne, wine, and dessert. Sure, the chocolate pot de crème was luxurious, and the passionfruit pavlova, light as air and citrusy sweet. But the coconut cake.

And so, I baked this cake to celebrate a special birthday.





The recipe is based on Tres Leches cake, a Mexican recipe and a favorite of mine. Adding coconut made it even more delicious. Rich coconut milk, creamy and evocative of summer, a cake for a warm August night, sparkling birthday candles, and a backyard full of guests.

Here is the recipe from The Lemonade Cookbook. When I bake, I am generous with the vanilla extract and added coconut extract too. In place of milk I used coconut cream, as I just can’t get enough of coconutty anything. I am a coconut lover. You can also use raw sugar like I did, and don’t worry if the filling turns a little brownish from the color of it. I made the filling a day ahead and let it set in the fridge. It gelled nicely and tasted so good. Here’s a suggestion you might consider--- add rum. I left the rum out this time because I didn’t have any in my cupboard. Rum and coconut cake? But, of course. Lightly toasting the coconut flakes is also a good idea if you’d like to add more flavor to your cake.



This recipe is selected from The Lemonade Cookbook and given here in its original form, except for my obvious commentary, suggestions, additions and substitutions. Add rum, use coconut cream, splash in some coconut extract, toast your coconut flakes--- whatever you want, darling. Just add your own touch to this and enjoy.


Makes 1 cake

Batter Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (go ahead, add more)

  • 1 cup evaporated milk (I used coconut cream)

Glaze Ingredients

  • ½ cup sweetened coconut milk

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or 4 teaspoons in my case)

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter

  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • (splash of rum, optional and suggestive)

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (or mascarpone) room temperature

  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup powdered sugar (fondant icing)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut for topping


Preheat the oven to 350ºF degrees.

Line three 9-inch round cake pans with wax or parchment paper and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray (or butter and dust with flour), set aside.

To prepare the batter, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer (KitchenAid is my mixer) fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a hand held electric beater. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well to incorporate.

Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the dry ingredients and the evaporated milk to the creamed butter and sugar in two additions. Beat for 1 minute after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the cake’s structure. Mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula; the pans should be one-half full. Tap the pans a few times firmly on the counter top to level and knock out any air bubbles. Place the pans on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched. Cool the cake in the pans until completely cool, otherwise you run the risk of this extremely light cake breaking apart when you take them out. In the meantime, prepare the glaze, filling and frosting.

To prepare the glaze, in a mixing bowl, stir together the coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla; set aside.

To prepare the filling, combine the cream, sugar, and batter in a large pot and place over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the coconut, cornstarch and vanilla (I added coconut extract as well--- if you choose to add rum, now is your chance). Cool and then store in the refrigerator until ready to use. I prepared this one day in advance and it set quite nicely.

To prepare the frosting, add the cream cheese (or mascarpone) and butter in a bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a handheld electric beater. Beat on medium speed until very smooth and lump-free, about 2 minutes. Stop the machine periodically to scrape off the paddle and the sides of the bowl. While beating, gradually sprinkle in the powdered sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. I added coconut cream to this, just a little, along with coconut and vanilla extract. Continue to mix until well combined.

Once the cakes are cool, turn them out from the pans and remove the paper. Trim off any uneven edges. With a pastry brush, coat all of the cake rounds with glaze. Using a metal spatula, spread half of the coconut filling on top of two of the cake rounds. Carefully place the cakes on top of each other. Set the last layer on top. Frost the top and the sides of the cake thoroughly. Generously cover the top of the cake with shredded coconut (I toasted half of my coconut shreds very lightly to give a warm, nuttier flavor) carefully patting the sides with the coconut. Refrigerate the cake for 45 minutes before cutting.