Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Jan Gautro
16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Prepare to fall in love with layer cakes all over again. If your coconut water does not measure 1 cup (8 fluid ounces), add enough tap water so the liquid measures 1 cup. Even though fresh coconut is sublime, you can use Goya brand coconut water in place of fresh coconut water and buy coconut flakes in the baking aisle.

How to Make It

Step 1

To prepare the cake, preheat oven to 350°.

Step 2

Lightly coat 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottom of pans with wax paper. Lightly coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust pans with 1 tablespoon flour.

Step 3

Combine 12 ounces (about 3 cups) flour, baking powder, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 1/2 minutes or until well blended. Add flour mixture and coconut water alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla. In a separate bowl, beat 6 egg whites on high speed until foamy using clean, dry beaters. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Carefully fold egg whites into batter; pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Discard wax paper. Cool completely on wire racks.

Step 4

To prepare frosting, combine 4 egg whites, cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250°. With mixer on low speed, pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites. Gradually increase speed to high; beat 8 minutes or until thick and cool. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Step 5

Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, and spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Repeat procedure with 1 cup frosting and remaining cake layer, ending with cake layer on top. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Gently press shaved coconut onto top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Ratings & Reviews

kaccampo1's Review

May 11, 2010
Made this cake for Mother's Day, but after reading some of the reviews decided to simplify things by using 1 C coconut milk instead of coconut water. I also toasted flaked coconut and sprinkled it on top as opposed to using the fresh. This cake was FABULOUS!! (more fattening than the original version, I'm sure, but what the heck) The cake was delicious as was the meringue. My whole family loved it. I will definitely make it again for a special occasion.

barbaramgray's Review

April 20, 2014
Overall this cake has great coconut flavor. The icing is a bit labor intensive but the texture is fluffy and wonderful. The first attempt to make the icing I followed the directions to NOT stir the sugar and water mixture. This leaves you with a dense and sticky mixture. On the second attempt I stirred the mixture and kept it boiling until it reached 250 as recommended. Basic scientific logic would dictate that you need to stir. The cake batter is a bit labor intensive with having to fold the egg white mixture into the batter. Kind of not worth the effort for a result that wasn't light and fluffy. This was a heavy cake. Since this was a recipe from "Cooking Light" I was expecting a bit more. But overall the coconut flavor of the cake and icing was great!

sandy927's Review

December 25, 2013
I agree with the other reviewd that this cake is just not worth all of the effort and time that you put into it! It is dense and dry and flavorless. I didn't have a candy thermometer and failed miserably on my first attempt making the icing as it crystallized when I poured it into the egg whites! After throwing that batch out, I repeated it all over again. I'd highly recommend that you have a candy thermometer if you decid to make this lousy cake. I served it to my kids last night along with another cake (Hershey's dark chocolate, the directions are right on the box), and they much preferred the latter. I'm a little too embarrassed to take it over to a family gathering this afternoon, everyone will think that I messed up. I may just throw it away!

sunnybee6's Review

October 06, 2013

Tinkerbell0914's Review

July 22, 2013

CW1979's Review

September 07, 2010
Overall, the cake is good, but lacks coconut flavor. This was way too labor intensive for the actual result. The coconut did not have enough coconut water inside, but I did have some additional coconut water from a can on hand. You can find Goya brand in the Hispanic foods section of the grocery store, but you can find coconut water in the health food section too. Also, there are several brands in the juice section at Whole Foods. Shaving the coconut was a pain, dangerous too. So I ended up using my grater, which worked out wonderfully. The meringue frosting is a bit too sugary for my taste, I think I would have preferred a buttercream. The cake texture is nice, not too floury, not too dense. Most likely, I will not make this again. Not really worth the effort.

rachLITH's Review

May 30, 2010
I previously gave this only 4 stars, and I need to correct this. After the third time serving it, I found that absolutely everyone loves it and gives it RAVE reviews. Only the baker knows the amount of work that went into it, and everyone who eats it seems to proportionally enjoy it. Highly recommend spending the time on it.

MeMe924's Review

May 25, 2010
This is a beautiful cake ~ great for a party or special company.

PatriciaCasey's Review

May 23, 2010
Coconut (a poem) Instructions said to find three eyes. With nail and hammer made my tries to tap the water ‘neath the shell and blind the eyes that couldn’t tell. The next step to my enterprise, remove the ugly masked disguise. Took all my strength to bang his head and crack the skull; no tears were shed. And then the toughest part of all, to shave the inner concave wall. The hours passed, but I would win and steal the fruit I found within. ____ Then I toasted the cocounut and pasted it to the frosting. My husband and I didn't like it so I picked all the coconut off the cake. The frosting, though, was delicious. I now use that part of the recipe on my homemade angel food cake. No fat and great taste. I don't believe I'd make this again, even though only seeking the coconut water wouldn't be too labor intensive to try again.

catherineml's Review

May 08, 2010
This recipe was far too labor intensive for a cake that tasted worse than a box cake. The coconut water didn't do a thing for the flavor and trying to shave the coconut left me with bleeding hands. Don't bother making this cake. The amount of food and money you will waste is appalling.