Sunday, March 11, 2012

If there is cake in Heaven...

Photo: Jamie Chung


....this exactly what it will look like. It will be eight layers tall, full of butter and sugar, cream cheese and Southern Comfort (yes, in Heaven), and covered with toasted coconut flakes.

Martha Hall Foose created this spectacular dessert for Bon Appetit magazine (February 2012). This is not a simple one-bowl cake and it definitely requires an investment of time and money, so save this one for special occasions. Pull out this recipe when you want a cake that is definitely rich, over the top, indulgent, spectacular, decadent, and yes, Heavenly.


Southern Comfort Coconut Cake


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (not reduced-fat)*
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to melt*
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Frosting and Assembly

  • 4 cups unsweetened coconut chips*
  • 2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup Southern Comfort
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

* ingredient info: Unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut oil, and unsweetened coconut chips can be found at some supermarkets and at natural foods stores.



    • Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray; dust with flour. Whisk 2 3/4 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter at medium speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth, 3–4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Gradually beat in oil. Beat in dry ingredients at low speed in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide among four 9" cake pans (about 2 generous cups batter per pan); smooth tops with a spatula.
    • Bake until a tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, 22–27 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks; let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks, remove pans, and let cakes cool completely.

    Frosting and Assembly

    • Preheat oven to 350°. Place coconut chips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast until some of the chips are golden brown (some will remain white), 5–7 minutes; let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
    • Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth and creamy, 2–3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. Southern Comfort and salt; beat to blend, about 1 minute longer. Add sugar; beat on low speed to blend. Increase speed to high; beat until fluffy, 5–6 minutes.
    • Using a long serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally (most reviews of this recipe suggest that you omit this step). Place 1 layer, cut side up, on a cake stand or plate. Lightly brush with about 1/2 Tbsp. of Southern Comfort. Spread 1/2 cup frosting over. Repeat with remaining 3 layers, Southern Comfort, and frosting. Chill cake for 30 minutes. Leave remaining frosting at room temperature. 
    • Cover sides of chilled cake with frosting. Cover cake loosely with foil and chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let cake stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
    • Gently pat handfuls of toasted coconut chips over sides and top of cake and serve.

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