Coconut Lover's Birthday Cake


This dessert is made in 4 parts: cake, rum syrup, coconut custard and whipped cream frosting.  I like to think of each part as a separate recipe that can be made at different times and then assembled.  It fools me into thinking that it is not that much work and in truth, done like that, it isn’t. The completed cake without the frosting should be made one day in advance. The Whipped Cream Frosting can be added 6 hours before serving. 

1 -3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Thai coconut milk (Chaokoh brand preferred)
1 cup sweetened flaked or shredded coconut, finely chopped

1.  To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment and butter or spray the parchment.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

3..  In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes, until pale yellow and fluffy.  Scrape down sides and beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. One at a time, mix in the eggs and yolks, beating well after each addition. 

4.  On low speed, mix in one-third the flour and one half the coconut milk. Repeat with another third of the flour and the remaining coconut milk.  Scrape down the bowl and beat again.  Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture. Fold in the chopped coconut and stir to combine.  Divide the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

5.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops are golden and firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the layers in the pans on racks for 5 minutes. Go around sides with a sharp knife and unmold onto racks to cool completely. 

MAKE AHEAD:  Layers may be wrapped in foil and held at room temperature for 2 days or frozen. 

2 packed tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup Thai coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup sweetened flaked or shredded coconut

1.  To make the coconut custard:  In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and coconut milk until the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is free of lumps.

2.  Pour the whole milk and sugar into a medium saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seedsinto the milk; add the scraped vanilla pod. Heat the mixture until it is hot. Whisk in the cornstarch/coconut milk mixture and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks to blend. Whisk some of the thickened milk mixture into the yolks to warm them, then stir them into the mixture in the saucepan. 

4.  Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula and making sure to scrape the bottom, until the mixture becomes very thick and looks like it is almost ready to boil.  It should be very thick but still spreadable. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl.  Remove vanilla pod or stir in vanilla extract, if using, and stir in the coconut.  Cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

MAKE HEAD: Custard may be refrigerated for up to 2 days. 

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbs. dark rum

1.  To make the rum syrup:  Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the rum.  Cool. 

MAKE AHEAD|: Syrup may be refrigerated for one week.    

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make the frosting: Beat the cream, sugar and vanilla until thickened and spreading consistency.  Use immediately.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: This is best done one day before serving.

1.  Place one cake layer on a cardboard round or a plate.  Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with half the rum syrup.  It may seem like a lot, but you will want to use half on each layer.

2.  Spread about two-thirds of the coconut custard over the soaked cake layer. Top with the second cake layer and brush with the rest of the syrup.  Spread top with the remaining custard. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight, loosely covered with foil. 

3. Up to 6 hours before serving make the Whipped Cream Frosting: Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until it forms soft peaks and is a good spreading consistency.  Use a metal spatula to cover the cake completely with the whipped cream.  Refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before serving. 

Makes 12 servings.   

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