Monday, April 18, 2011

Southern (Manhattan) Coconut cake with Silk Meringue Buttercream

This is Rose's take on a classic coconut cake, usually filled and frosted with seven minute frosting and festooned with lots and lots of sweetened flaked coconut. She switched out the marshmallow fluff (seven minute frosting) for her signature Silk Meringue Buttercream and recommends fresh or frozen unsweetened coconut for the festooning. What you get is a delicious coconut cake with a truly silky frosting that tastes a lot like french vanilla ice cream, only in frosting form. This would make a perfect party cake for the coconut lovers out there.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

April 17, 2011,
Name of Cake: the furry yellow cake
Occasion: HCB
constituents: 2 9 inch layers of white coconut cake filled and frosted with a coconut silk meringue buttercream (smbc) and decorated with flaked coconut

The cake is a butter cake, with just egg whites and the addition of coconut milk.

I had just, two days earlier, baked the White Velvet Cake from The Cake Bible, which is scaled for two 9 x 1.5 inch pans, and the amount of cake flour and sugar needed was 300 grams each. So you might imagine my surprise when, for this cake, for two 9 x 2 inch pans 400 grams of both flour and sugar are called for. I thought that maybe we needed more flour and sugar because of the coconut, but just now I was flipping through Rose's Heavenly Cakes and it seems like for two 9 inch cakes about 400 grams is right--except for the Devils Food Cake, which only calls for 225 grams for two 9 inch cakes. That's just about half! AND, the German Chocolate Cake only calls for 150 grams total flour. People, this is FASCINATING.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream
the completed batter

Something was not right about my oven, as the cakes appeared finished and the sides were pulling away, yet when they cooled they both sunk in the middle. I was mad; I had to take a break away from the cake and fume for a bit.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream
just out of the oven--before the sinking

The Silk Meringue Buttercream has three components and what looks like a daunting amount of steps. I just have to remind myself to tackle the recipe one component at a time, and then it doesn't look that hard at all.

The first component is a funky Creme Anglaise made with coconut milk instead of cow's milk. This is a great idea to infuse some coconutty flavor into the frosting, but it makes a strange and watery product.

Next up: Italian meringue. Us HCB have made countless Italian Meringues, so I wasn't too worried. I've had the sugar syrup seize up in the cup, I've spun the sugar all over the sides of the bowl, I feel pretty good about this darn meringue. And, so pretty.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

The last component is a pound of butter.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

Then, the combining begins. First, the butter is beat until creamy, then the coconut anglaise is added. At first the butter and anglaise didn't see eye to eye; there was curdling, there was lack of emulsification. Instead of getting all freaked out about temperature and getting this over a pot of simmering water, I simply out-stubborned the stuff. I kept beating it, I increased the speed, and eventually the two became one. Then, the meringue is added in and all becomes silky, soft, ice cream in frosting form.

Technically I'm supposed to add a bunch of flaked coconut to the frosting, but I thought that would just make it a pain in the butt to frost the cake, so I opted out.

This frosting is a pale butter yellow--no surprise there--and really is very silky. It is a bit rich but not terribly so.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream
you can see where all the frosting filled up the sunken cake

Now to assemble the cake. I added a layer of coconut flake in the filling, and then frosted the rest. The temperature of my buttercream must have been off because as I frosted it threatened to break--it was oily and the more I agitated the frosting on the cake, the more it looked like it was going to separate. So I just tried to get it done quickly and efficiently.

I also decided to use the regular sweetened coconut as it is softer than the unsweetened chips I found. I did add the chips to the outside edge and a little in the middle of the cake too.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

The cake is rich and lovely and perfect for a celebration. Maybe because Spring is slowly showing up around here, but I think this would be a wonderful cake for a Spring celebration or garden party. Or pretty much whenever.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream


  1. ECL, your cake is beautiful! And so fluffy!

    I'm sorry about the sunken middle - that sucks - but your frosting covered it just fine and nice.

    I love your comparison of the flour weigh between recipes. I do that too sometimes. It is fascinating! Also how Rose changed/improved her methods between TCB and RHC is fascinating.

    The photos are lovely. I like the one with a pound of butter - that's alotta butter.

  2. Your cake looks awesome and I'm anxious to make one. I too made the White Velvet Butter Cake from TCB this weekend...are you going to start using the 400 grams of flour and sugar when you make it in the future? I'm wondering where you found real coconut extract in Portland? Do you think there is any hope of finding the frozen coconut in PDX?

  3. Jenn, thanks for the compliments! Don't you love all the cake chemistry--so much fun!

    Manderley, thanks! You're a Portlander too? Yay for Portland! I might move up to 400 grams from now on, but frankly I've haven't been too worried about scaling up for my 2 inch high pans. In fact I failed to mention that one of the cakes rose maybe 1/4 inch higher than the pan anyways.

    I found a natural coconut extract at Whole Foods, but strangely enough it doesn't seem to contain any coconut in it. I don't think I found the right kind of natural extract! I didn't even bother looking for frozen coconut, but I wondered if someplace like Fubonn would have it.

  4. Gorgeous! It freezes well. I sliced it and put in individual baggies.

  5. I love your photos; I feel like I'm right there with you about to have a big ol' slice.

  6. I love how you cut up your butter, because I do it the same way.. perfectly squared!

    Your cake looks beautiful and I bet it tasted yummylisious too!

  7. Vicki, good to know! I gave it away to a friend of mine, after I saved a couple of slices for me.

    Lois, thanks, I would love to share a slice with you!

    Monica, I love cubing butter; strange isn't it?

  8. So where is this cheesecake that I heard about? :)

  9. Jenn, I posted! It is the next newer post.