Smitten Kitchen’s Plush Coconut Cake is EVERYTHING! Now, I’m not vegan nor have I ever been, but something really caught my attention with this cake when Smitten Kitchen posted it a few weeks ago. Maybe it was the use of the word PLUSH in the title? I mean… it’s totally the right word to use… it’s dense and moist and a delight to eat!
The second thing that made me want to make this cake was that my friend Patti Paige of Baked Ideas… a.k.a. Cookie-Master… a.k.a. like the best cookie decorator in the existence of decorated cookies… made this cake the very same day that Smitten Kitchen posted the recipe. You see, it’s THAT kind of cake… the kind of cake that you have all the ingredients for in your pantry. Just a few simple ingredients!
The THIRD thing that actually made me bake this cake was that my husband and I randomly got invited to a vegan dinner party last week?! That’s literally never happened to us! So this was all meant to be. My Spanish husband always tells me “nada es casual”.. “nothing’s an accident”.. and I think he’s right!
So when I made the cake for the party it was a total HIT! Everyone enjoyed it so much… or at least they said they did! It’s like the densest and super-moist cake. It’s got lots of coconut flavor without being too much. I want to play with the recipe a bit over the next few times I make it. I think it could be great with diced fresh strawberries in the batter or maybe try using part almond flour? We’ll see!
Let’s talk frosting… I’M THE #1 CRUNCHY SUGARY FROSTING FAN. I know that not everyone is! When I made the cake for the dinner party I made a nice frosting with confectioner’s sugar, almond milk, vanilla, and a bit of solid coconut oil as the fat. It was wonderful! But I’m not giving that recipe here because I’m not certain how it would work if the coconut oil was liquid and not solid? Like on a warm day? I will research the topic, but for now I’m going to just use a classic vegetable shortening frosting recipe. Because that’s what I grew up with. And that’s what I love the most. I understand if you’re not into vegetable shortening and in that case you’re more than welcome to use Smitten Kitchen’s glaze recipe or whatever other recipe you love!
Let me start by saying… this cake is WONDERFUL! I was visiting my mom in Western New York recently and she invited me to join her for her Ladies’ Club annual picnic. Each year she and about 12 of her friends have a luncheon under a tent by a lake in Linwood, NY. They each bring a dish to pass. The only rule is that the dish has to be a SALAD. I think it’s such a sweet idea!
Not to be one to follow too many rules, I decided that since I was a special guest I could bring a cake instead. I wanted something light since I knew there would be so many food options at the luncheon. I also wanted something that would hold up well in the heat of the day. My final requirement was that it had to be a real show-stopper! I always try to cook up something that will impress this group of ladies!
My Almond Dream Cake checks off all the boxes I mentioned above! It’s made of the lightest sponge cake made with 9 eggs and almond meal instead of all-purpose flour. I make it extra moist by soaking each layer with almond-flavored simple syrup. The filling is simply whipped cream and berries. My trick with the whipped cream is to use a stabilizer powder to make sure it can stand-up to a hot day. An added plus is that this cake is naturally gluten-free! I wasn’t trying for that, but the almond flour does that trick!
I have to say, the cake really didn’t disappoint! Everyone had a big piece, and we sent the leftovers home with two of the ladies.
The almond cake is based on the King Arthur Flour almond cake roll recipe that can be found here.
Here are the powders I used to help with my whipped cream:
Line a half-sheet jellyroll pan (13"x18")with parchment and grease the bottom and sides.
Mix together the almond flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and brown sugar until the color is light and the consistency is thick and silky. It's very pretty!
Add the extract and dry ingredients and mix well.
In a new bowl beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Be sure the bowl and your beaters are very clean and dry before starting to beat the egg whites.
Stir a few large scoops of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture. After it's fully incorporated, gently fold the remaining whites into the batter until it's JUST incorporated. Try not to over-mix so your sponge stays light and fluffy!
Pour the batter into the prepped pan and even it out to the edges.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beautiful and golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
almond simple syrup:
Dissolve the sugar into the water over medium heat until the mixture is totally clear. Add almond extract and mix well.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl beat the whipping cream and powder packets until it's light and fluffy.
When the cake is cool, cut it into three even segments. Place the first third onto your serving plate and spoon on the almond simple syrup evenly over the top of the layer. Add berries evenly over the whipped cream. Top with the next third of the cake and repeat the process until the cake is fully built.
You can make the whipped cream your own favorite way and omit the stabilizer and powdered vanilla sugar.
VARIATION: Make egg white meringues and crunch them up and add them to each layer and the top of the cake for a little extra texture!
This lovely layer cake is made from light almondy sponge, simple syrup, whipped cream, and fresh berries! It’s also naturally gluten-free!
I think this is a FABULOUS party cake! Three layers always impress guests. The almond, vanilla, pecan, and coconut makes this cake a little more sophisticated than your average chocolate or yellow cake. It’s so easy to decorate this cake too. It’s SO forgiving… the coconut and pecans hide any frosting mistakes.
I photographed this cake recently at my mom’s house. I perched it on her milk glass cake stand. I think it looks just stunning! I’ve got to get one of those cake stands for myself!
Italian Cream Cake is a three-layer masterpiece of light sponge cakes with pecans, and luscious cream cheese frosting with toasted coconut, and vanilla and almond flavors!
Authorwe are all magic
Toasted Pecans & Coconut:
2stickssalted butter, softened1 cup, 225 grams
1/2cuplight brown sugar
5large eggs, separated
7ouncestoasted coconut (mentioned above)
1cuptoasted chopped pecans (mentioned above)
2packagescream cheeseTwo 8 ounce packages
2stickssalted butter, softened1 cup, 225 grams
remaining toasted coconut
remaining toasted pecans
Toasted Pecans & Coconut:
Preheat oven to 350F/175C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Chop up the pecans, they don't need to be too small.
Spread pecans evenly on one of the baking sheets and repeat with the coconut.
Put both sheets in the hot oven and toast for 5-10 minutes. CHECK ON THEM FREQUENTLY! The coconut goes from toasted to burnt very quickly! I really like the toasted coconut because it gives a lot of texture to the cake, but I suppose you could skip the toasting part if you wanted.
Remove both sheets from oven and set aside to cool.
Grease and flour three 8-9 inch round cake pans. (I actually used aluminum disposable pans at my mom's house and the cake turned out fine!)
In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars for about 5 minutes until light in color and fluffy.
Add egg yolks and extracts to the butter/sugar and mix until incorporated.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix into batter alternately with the buttermilk in a few parts.
Add coconut and pecans and mix well.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow layers to cool completely before decorating.
Cream together butter, extracts, and cream cheese in a large bowl or stand mixer.
Slowly add confectioner's sugar a little bit at a time until it's all incorporated. Beat the frosting until light and fluffy.
Assembling the cake:
Position first layer on a cake stand and top with a hefty dollop of frosting. Spread evenly across the layer. Top with the second and third layers in the same fashion.
Frost the sides of the cake. Use all of the amazing frosting and make it really thick! Don't worry about making it too pretty, the coconut and pecans will hide any mistakes.
Pat handfulls of coconut onto the side of the cake. Sprinkle pecans on top of the cake.
I spend a lot of time in Santander in the North of Spain. There are a lot of drinks that are popular in Spain but BY FAR the gin & tonic is the most loved cocktail. For this cake I’ve taken one of my favorite pound cake recipes and replaced the soda pop-leavening with tonic water. There’s a subtle tonicy taste in each sweet and buttery bite and then there’s a bit of ZING from the lime.
Juniper berries are the dominant flavor in gin. In Spain it’s very common to put a few fresh or dried juniper berries in a glass of gin and tonic as garnish. They’re very fragrant and add to the experience!
You can order juniper berries HERE. I usually buy a bulk pack and keep them in the freezer until I’m ready to use them.
I have used this gin-flavored simple syrup on ice cream, in milkshakes, and on bread pudding. It’s wonderful! I have a large collection of gins at home. My current favorites are Junipero, that I used in this recipe, and I also like Xorigur Mahon and Gin Mare from Spain.