Southern Coconut Cake

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE CAKE:

5 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup (375 ml) unsweetened coconut milk, divided
1 tablespoon coconut flavoring
3 cups (340 grams) cake flour
2 1/3 (470 grams) cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (226 grams) Challenge unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

8 ounces (227 grams) Challenge cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (113 grams) Challenge unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups (455 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
1-3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk or whole milk
1 teaspoon coconut flavoring
1 cup (85 grams) flaked or shredded coconut, toasted (see Notes)
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

1 cup of the Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting (above)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream
DIRECTIONS:

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two or three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. (See Notes)
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, 1/2 cup of the coconut milk, and coconut flavoring.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and remaining 1 cup coconut milk and combine on low speed until moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the egg white mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing just long enough to incorporate between additions.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
TO MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM:

Beat together the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar on medium high speed until light and creamy. Add the coconut flavoring and enough coconut milk (or regular milk) to reach a spreadable consistency. Mix until smooth.
Spread the coconut on a sheet pan. Toast in a 350 degree oven until golden, checking every 2 minutes. Watch it carefully, the coconut will burn fast. Let it cool completely.
TO MAKE THE WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

With a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until it starts to thicken. Add 1 cup of the cream cheese buttercream a spoonful at a time while mixing on medium-high speed. Whip to soft peaks.
TO FROST THE CAKE:

If desired, slice the 2 cake layers in half to create 4 layers. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate. Cover with the whipped cream cheese filling. Repeat with the rest of the layers. Frost the entire cake with the remaining cream cheese buttercream and cover in the toasted coconut.
Chill for one hour before serving. Store in the fridge, cake will keep for several days.
Notes:
This cake can be baked in either 8 or 9-inch pans. You can use 2 or 3 pans, depending on the look you’re going for: double layer (2 pans), triple layer (3 pans), or quadruple layer (2 pans, then slice each layer in half). I’ve had some comments about the batter not fitting in two 8-inch pans. My pans are 4 inches deep and can accommodate a lot of batter. If you have only 2-inch deep pans, consider using 3 pans or 9-inch pans.
To toast coconut: spread into a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 minutes. Watch closely to make sure it doesn’t burn. Let cool completely.

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