Photo: Greg DuPree; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine
Total Time
3 Hours 30 Mins
Serves 10 (serving size: 1 slice)

Layers of chocolate cake and coconut cream are covered in dark chocolate frosting for a striking dessert that tastes every bit as good as it looks. The cake layers can be baked and frozen up to two weeks in advance to cut down on hands-on time. Don't be afraid of the time; the cake has to cook and the custard and frosting have to chill resulting in only 30 minutes of active cooking. Don't worry, it's so worth it not only for looks but also for taste. 

How to Make It

Step 1

Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine boiling water, cocoa, unsweetened chocolate, and, if desired, instant coffee in a bowl. Let stand 2 minutes; whisk until smooth. Let cool completely.

Step 2

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with cocoa mixture, in 5 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter evenly between 2 (9-inch) greased and floured round cake pans. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 32 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pans; cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Step 3

Prepare the Coconut Cream Filling: Stir together half-and-half and shredded coconut in a small saucepan over medium; bring just to a boil. Remove pan from heat; let stand 30 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids. Return coconut liquid to pan; bring to a simmer. (Coconut liquid should just begin to bubble around the edges of pan.) Whisk together 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium bowl until smooth. Gradually add hot coconut liquid to egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to pan. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until thick and bubbly, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons butter, rum, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and coconut extract. Pour mixture into a shallow dish; refrigerate until completely cold, about 2 hours. Transfer chilled custard to a medium bowl.

Step 4

Beat 1/2 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into custard in 2 batches. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 5

Prepare Chocolate Frosting: Combine 2 cups heavy cream and powdered sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium. (Do not boil.) Place bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl; pour hot cream mixture over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; gently stir until all of the chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Chill until mixture thickens to spreading consistency, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Step 6

To assemble cake, slice cake layers in half horizontally using a serrated knife; place 1 layer, cut side up, on a plate. Spread about 1/4 cup Chocolate Frosting over top. Top with one-third of Coconut Cream Filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with another cake layer; repeat layers twice, beginning with frosting and ending with a cake layer. Spread remaining Chocolate Frosting on top and sides of cake. (If chocolate gets too thick to spread, microwave at HIGH until spreadable, 5 to 7 minutes.) Press unsweetened flaked coconut around sides of cake.

Ratings & Reviews

Much too complicated

August 27, 2016
I love chocolate and coconut and decided to devote an afternoon to this cake.  Well, besides the huge number of ingredients, the time commitment is crazy.  Having said that, the entire recipe is backwards.  Start by baking the cakes, let cool.  Then start the filling--and let it cool for two hours.  Then do the frosting and let it cool.  Put it all together 8 hours later--all right, I'm exaggerating by a little.  In any case, when you start the filling, you realize that it is simple cornstarch pudding with some coconut flavor.  I was washing bowls without end....and, at the end, had a nice, tasty cake not worth all that trouble.  I couldn't get the frosting to thicken, even after several hours of chilling so I just added powdered sugar and thickened it that way.  It's pretty, and of course, very rich, what with pounds of chocolate and butter in it; but the cake itself is a little tough.  If you're trying to kill an entire day, here's a project for you.

Very Disappointed

November 27, 2016
I have made other Southern Living cakes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and all were great even though some were time consuming.  I followed the recipe for the cake layers to the tee and they were quite heavy not very moist.  I made the cakes 4 days and stored according to the recipe.  I was disappointed because ALL the chocolate overpowered the coconut flavor.  The cake was SO RICH it could feed 30 and not 10.  I have to say I was constantly washing bowls and utensils.  The cake took more than 3 hours to make and put together as per the recipe.  Fortunately we had other desserts for Thanksgiving dinner to fill the void.  The only good thing about the cake was it was eye appealing.

Waste of an entire day...

December 29, 2016
Wow was this an extensive amount of time to spend on a recipe. Especially one we didn't like. I guess its my fault for not paying more attention to the ingredients before I committed to this cake, but I couldn't get over how bitter the chocolate icing was. The coconut flavor was hardly noticeable, but next to the strong dark chocolate icing not much could be. I added extra sugar and coconut oil to the icing which definitely helped but when I think cake, I don't think bitter. This was not a winner for me. Wish they had named it Bittersweet chocolate coconut so there would have been more warning without reading through the whole thing.

Heavy, but lovely flavors

December 07, 2016
I enjoy spending time in my kitchen, and knowing it would take hours, I made this cake for a chocolate-loving octogenarian.  He LOVED it!  He particularly enjoyed the coconut creme filling combined with the dark chocolate flavor.  My husband labeled it "the absolute worst cake I have ever tasted."I made this recipe the second time thinking I had made some kind of mistake the first time, which resulted in a heavy, not-very-sweet cake.  Not so.  This is just a very dense cake, with a great flavor of dark chocolate combined with a lovely coconut creme.If I try it again---and my friend likes it so much, I might---I will use a different cake recipe, a different frosting recipe, and make the coconut creme filling to serve alongside.

VERY Disappointing & Extremely Complicated!!!

December 01, 2016
If I could give this cake less than 1 star, I would! First, it was extremely time consuming! 3 1/2 hours is a very modest estimate to prep this cake! I would not have minded the time spent in the least had the outcome been worth it!!! I made it for my husband's b'day & was so very disappointed! I bake from Southern Living all the time & have never been disappointed until now! Not only a huge waste of time but ingredients!!! Lots of Ghirardelli chocolate and heavy cream which are expensive! And then, there is all the cleanup! Add another 3 hours for that! At best this cake takes an entire day & will probably be thrown out! Southern Living, what were you thinking?!?!


October 25, 2016
Thanks for this amazing cake recipe. Yes, it is rather complicated - but OH, so delicious! I actually made it twice in two weeks for different events. It was very well received, got lots of compliments! Make the cake layers first - even several days early and wrap tightly and freeze. The custard is really amazing - but made old-school. Worth it.The chocolate ganache (which recipe calls 'frosting') requires patience. I used it while still warmish on the cake layers. Not too warm, or it won't stay. But it sinks down into those sliced layers and is amazing when complete.Then the same ganache/frosting needs to be put in the fridge and checked every 5 minutes or so as it cools. I put a wire whip in my stainless bowl and set the timer, whipping a bit of air into it until it was cooled to a 'frosting' consistency. Probably takes about 20-30 minutes in the fridge. Then I frosted the outside of my assembled cake.Use great ingredients. Guittard Chocolate was easy to work with and magical to taste. Pressing toasted coconut flakes on the outside was a great finishing touch. Makes dense chocolate cake with ganache/custard filling and ganache frosting. And it's beautiful!Rave reviews and many requests for the recipe!