The Ultimate 12-Layer Coconut Cake From Famed Peninsula Grill

ultimate coconut cake recipe

Photos Courtesy of Peninsula Grill
It's hard to beat a good coconut cake, especially if you live in the South, but the actual baking can be a pain on your own. It's not because the cake is necessarily hard to get right, it's just that it may take more time than you're used to. If you're in the South — let's say Charleston — and you're in need of a decadent coconut cake, you probably won't find anything better than what comes out of the Peninsula Grill.

Fittingly called The Ultimate Coconut Cake, this 12-layer dessert is infused with fresh vanilla and coconut, featuring a pound cake center that's topped with icing made from cream and butter. The icing is then coated in toasted coconut and simple syrup. Refined by Peninsula Grill's Pastry Chef Claire Chapman, this cake tends to be the first choice of Charleston brides and has been given kudos by the likes of Martha Stewart, The New York Times, Vogue, and Bobby Flay. If you don't live in the area and want to order one, not to worry because the restaurant ships nationally on a daily basis. In the meantime, try making your own!

Yields: One cake
Serves: 20 generous portions or up to 30 smaller portions

Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups coconut flakes, medium shred
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Sliced strawberries for garnish
Cake Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the coconut evenly onto a medium sheet pan and bake until lightly browned; eight to ten minutes. Reserve for the cake assembly.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs three at a time, mixing well after each addition, until light in color.

In a separate bowl combine the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. In another bowl sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Starting with the cream mixture, alternately add the wet and the dry sifted ingredients until all are incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Spray two (ten-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray and divide the batter evenly among them. Bake until toothpicks inserted into the cakes come out clean; about 50 minutes to an hour.

Filling Ingredients:
  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 cups coconut, medium shred
Filling Directions:

In a medium saucepan combine the cream, sugar, and butter and bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl whisk the cornstarch and water together to form a slurry. After the cream comes to a boil remove it from the heat. Stir the slurry into the cream mixture, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and coconut. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting Directions:

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light in color. Mix in the vanilla extract until incorporated. ultimate coconut cake recipe
Coconut Crème Anglaise Ingredients:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, medium shred
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Coconut Crème Anglaise Directions:

In a small saucepan combine the cream and coconut over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Set aside to steep for 20 minutes, then strain and discard the coconut. Return the cream to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the eggs are light in color. Pour 1/2 cup of the hot cream into the egg mixture very slowly, whisking constantly. Pour this mixture into the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Stir constantly over low heat with a wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat, strain, and chill.

Simple Syrup Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
Simple Syrup Directions:

In a small saucepan combine sugar and water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.

Assembly Directions:

Using a long, straight-edged knife, carefully cut the thin, browned tops off the cooked cake layers and discard. Cut each of the two cakes into three equal, horizontal layers. For even layers, put cake on a baker's turntable (or on a lazy Susan) and rotate it counter-clockwise while cutting, keeping the knife relatively still and applying even pressure. It's important the layers are a consistent thickness.

Place the chilled filling into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low until the filling softens, then mix at medium-high until the filling is pale, creamy, and soft enough to spread.

Drizzle the first cake layer with simple syrup, then spread the filling evenly across and top with a second cake layer. Repeat with the remaining layers, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and chill two to three hours or overnight. Coat the top and sides of the cake with the frosting, then press the reserved toasted coconut onto the side of the cake.

To serve, drizzle Coconut Crème Anglaise on the plate, top with a slice of cake and garnish with sliced strawberries.


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