Ultimate Coconut Cake

August 18, 2008 § 9 Comments

To celebrate our wedding anniversary last week, I decided to make the Ultimate Coconut Cake for the Mister. He loves coconut, especially baked goods with coconut. Me? Well, I’m not a coconut fan unless it’s deep fried around shrimp, hehe. But since the Mister is kind of special, I thought I’d bake him what has been touted as the Ultimate Coconut Cake. This cake has been featured in 2 Food Network Challenges and show cased on Martha Stewart’s show. THE cake is the famous coconut cake by Chef Robert Carter of the Peninsula Grill.

If you haven’t seen the throwdown from Bobby Flay or Chef Carter’s guest appearance on Martha, let me try to describe this cake for you. It is 10 inches in diameter. It is 6 layers of cake and 5 layers of custardy-coconuty filling tall. It weighs approximately 12 pounds. Each slice served at the Peninsula Grill is 1 pound. Hefty! Just some idea of exactly what goes into this cake: 9 cups of sweetened coconut, 2.5 lbs of European butter, 3 3/4 cups of sugar, 5 cups of confectioner sugar, 6.5 cups of heavy cream, and 8 oz of cream cheese. No wonder it’s so darn heavy!

I contemplated about making Bobby Flay’s recipe, which won against Chef Carter’s. But wanted to try my hand at the Ultimate cake first. With that kind of moniker, I went through my usual couple of weeks of trepidation, going through the process in my head, watching both the throwdown and Martha’s show (you can watch that part of the episode on her website here), taking notes, planning and replanning again. I’m a decent cook but I’m a lousy baker. I do bake a handful of really good desserts, but cake, that’s a whole other story. And from scratch. Hmmm…

At some point before the planned weekend, I seriously contemplated buying a cake from Peninsula Grill. Heck, what’s a $100, right? (That’s about $8.33/lb, heck, I’ve had lobster that cost more!) Well…it’s not so much the $100, and after making it, I can honestly say that $100 is worth every penny. It was the $124 shipping tag that was the show stopper. YIKES!! Now we’re talking $18.67/lb. And the thought of paying more for shipping than the actual item’s cost just doesn’t seem right. So back to making the cake myself. Maybe another time for a very very special occasion (like our 25th anniversary).

I set aside 2 days to make the cake. Day 1, I made the coconut filling. This needs to chill overnight. I also made the simple sugar and set that aside in the fridge, too. The next day, I started on the cake. A standing mixer really comes in handy here. I measured out all my ingredients and shifted all the dry ingredients, per instructions, before I started mixing anything. I cracked all my eggs into a bowl with spout, makes adding eggs 1 at a time much easier. After I got my cake batter poured and into the oven (stupid oven, more on that later), I began on the coconut cake frosting. Easy to make, just follow the instructions, just make sure the butter is room temperature to help with the mixing. Once the frosting was done, I set that in the fridge for later.

The problem with my oven is that it’s 20 years old and on the smaller side. A typical oven. But it wasn’t made to handle 2 – 10″ cake pans. The only way it worked was 1 rack on the top and 1 on the bottom. There are only 3 positions the racks can be and the optimal spot, of course, is the middle. Having this setup meant the top shelf is too close to the top heating element and the bottom is too close to the bottom. So rotating the 2 pans half way through might help even out the baking. Well, sort of but not really. The sides were rising way too fast and the middle was still runny at the half way point. By the last 5 minutes, the pan on top started to brown too fast, and well, let’s just say these weren’t the most prettiest cakes. But I marched on like a trouper.

Once the cakes were out of the oven, I popped in the sweetened coconut for toasting.

After the cakes cooled, I flipped them out onto 10″ round cake boards. Because of the uneven baking, the middle of the cakes were lower than the sides. That meant slicing down the cake until the top is even. Which meant not enough cake to make 6 layers. So I decided on 4 layers. Also, I should have chilled the cakes before slicing through because the cakes started to crack in some places. I also don’t think the cakes were completely cooled through the middle.

Once the layers were sliced, I started the assembly. I followed the instructions and it went along pretty well. The only little hiccup was dealing with the layers that were cracking, needed some extra care when layering. Once everything was assembled and frosted, I pressed on the toasted coconut. I chilled the caked for 2 hours before serving (we couldn’t wait for the whole 5 hours).

Results: My cake actually looked more like Bobby Flay’s cake than Chef Carter’s (sorry no picture but you can check here to see a frozen version of it). It was a little lopsided since my cake layers weren’t completely even. I used an upside down steel bowl with a cookie sheet on top as a make-shift lazy Susan. It worked well enough.
Although the instructions says to serve it at room temperature, I find it to be waaaaay too sweet at room temperature. I recommend serving it cold, tastes much better. Since there is so much filling, you really need to cut the cake when it’s cold, anyway. It also tasted better after chilling for more than 5 hours (I think all the layers needed to set up).

The Mister loved the cake and wouldn’t have me change a thing. Me? It’s pretty darn good, except I’d like a little less coconut in the filling. For it to be a cake that I would love would be no coconut in the filling and a little less sweet (must be the Chinese in me). But it sure doesn’t stop me from eating it. Surprisingly, I could not eat a 1 pound slice of cake. Neither could the Mister. I thought I could but I couldn’t. As a matter of fact, 3 bites of it is enough to fill me. That’s how dense this cake is. Whew! I had to freeze half the cake because there was just so much. Overall, I would make this cake again with adjusts to the sugar in the batter, filling, and possibly the frosting. So to summarize:

Day 1
Make the coconut filling and the simple sugar, refrigerate overnight. Make sure to finely chop the shredded coconut before adding it to the filling mixture.

Day 2
Make the 2 cake layers. While the cakes are baking, make the cream cheese frosting and set aside. Check the cakes at about 40 minutes to check for doneness. Make s
ure the toothpick comes out clean before removing from oven. Let the cakes cool completely on cooling racks. I recommend chilling the cakes another 30 minutes or so for easier slicing into layers.

Follow instructions of the Coconut Cake Assembly. After assembly, let cake chill for at least 5 hours. This will help the cake firm up. Make sure you have room in the refrigerator cuz it’s huge!
Now go and eat well. And have a good week.

Postscript: I froze part of the cake (it’s so dang big!). You can check it out here (and see pictures!).

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§ 9 Responses to Ultimate Coconut Cake

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, what an undertaking. Do you think it would be okay to bake the cakes a day before and then let it sit in the refrigerator?

  • Hi and thanks for stopping by. I thought about that after the fact and I think that would work out pretty nicely. It would certainly give the cakes time to firm up and maybe easier to handle.

  • Anonymous says:

    The cake sounds delicious but that is a lot of cake. Maybe you can freeze the cake and then send it to me! haha! just kidding. Good writeup. –Mist

  • KirkK says:

    Sheesh……that’s quite an effort! And no photos! ;o)

  • Hi Mist, thanks for stopping by. It is a lot of cake. I gave about half of it away and I still have about 1/3 left in the freezer. I froze 2 large slices (about 1/4 of the cake) first on a tray and then in the FoodSaver bag. I am planning on opening one of them in a couple of weeks and then another one a couple of weeks later. So maybe I should send you that last one and you can tell me how it held up? Just kidding!

    Hey Kirk! Yeah, I know, NO pictures, I’m so lazy! My excuse is that I was fighting a bad cold when I made the cake so it took every oz of energy just to make the cake. Getting the camera and trying to get a decent shot of the cake would have been the death of me. 🙂 Besides, I figure people can see the photos from Martha and Peninsula Grill, as well as the videos. Give people the illusion that my cake looks just as perfect as theirs!

    Maybe I’ll take a picture of the frozen slice. It looks better than the first piece I cut anyway. I’ll take a picture tonight and see how it looks in the FoodSaver bag (hehe).

  • Anonymous says:

    Happy Anniversary!

    -C

  • Thanks, C! Now if I can just get over this darn cold…

  • Anonymous says:

    from someone who makes this cake everyday for the restaurant, I can tell you that this cake takes 3 days to make. Day one should be the cake. Turn it out while still hot. Allow to cool then wrap completely with plastic wrap. Same day make the custard filling. When that is cool enough add the coconut. Allow to chill over night in the fridge. To soften the next day for assembly whip with a mixer till soft. Day 2 will be slicing of the cake and assembling with the filling. When done wrap the whole cake with plastic wrap again and chill while you are make the frosting and toasting the coconut. Ice the cake and coat the sides with toasted coconut. Chill overnight if possible. Day 3 take the cake out and slice while cold allow to come to room temp before eating.

  • CAB says:

    Thanks for commenting! Glad I was on the right track as a multi-day undertaking. 🙂

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