Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas
Hands-on Time
1 Hour 15 Mins
Total Time
14 Hours 25 Mins
Makes 10 to 12 servings

Coconut is the doyenne of Southern layer cakes, a masterpiece of home cookery that has crowned dining room sideboards for more than a hundred years. Purists sing the praises of simple but divine, opting for coconut water-doused cake layers and dreamy swirls of meringue. With this latest creation, we opted for a thick and rich filling. 

How to Make It

Step 1

Prepare Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together sifted cake flour and next 3 ingredients in bowl of an electric stand mixer. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and 3/4 cup water. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth.

Step 2

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of egg whites into batter; fold remaining whites into batter. Spoon batter into 4 greased (with shortening) and floured 8-inch round shiny cake pans (about 2 cups batter in each pan).

Step 3

Bake at 350° for 12 to 14 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Do not overbake--cakes will be a very pale golden color.) Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Step 4

Prepare Filling: Stir together mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla in a large bowl just until blended.

Step 5

Beat 3/4 cup cream at low speed with an electric mixer until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until well blended. Add thawed grated coconut, and stir just until blended. Spread mixture between cake layers (about 1 1/3 cups per layer). Cover with plastic wrap, and chill 12 hours.

Step 6

Prepare White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: Microwave chopped white chocolate and 2 Tbsp. whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Cool completely (about 20 minutes).

Step 7

Beat 1 cup softened butter and 2 cups powdered sugar at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add white chocolate mixture, 2 tsp. vanilla, and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, and beat at high speed 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Cover top and sides of cake with 3 cups flaked coconut, gently pressing coconut into frosting.

Step 8

Test Kitchen Tip: Be sure to measure flour after sifting. (If you measure before sifting, you'll end up with too much flour and a dry cake.) Check for doneness at the minimum bake time--even 1 or 2 minutes of extra baking can also create a dry cake.

Chef's Notes

We tested with Birds Eye Tropic Isle Fresh Frozen Flake Grated Coconut and Mounds Sweetened Coconut Flakes.

Ratings & Reviews

A lot of work but overall good cake

May 08, 2016
I made this cake for the first time for Mother's Day. I thought it was light and delicious. However the batter only makes two layers, if you want this cake to have four layers, only add one cup of batter to each cake pan when baking.Additionally, I would decrease the amount of sugar in the frosting. I would use a total of 2.5 cups of powdered sugar.Overall good cake and I would make it again.