Coconut cream cake
This summer for my son’s fifth birthday, he wanted a surf-themed party. He wanted a cake that looked like a sandcastle. (Five-year-olds don’t know that most surfers probably don’t make sandcastles when they go to the beach.) So, that was tricky enough. But with my family’s food allergies and intolerances, I also had to make it wheat- egg- dairy- and nut-free. The cake had to be white or yellow, of course, and covered in “sand.” And that’s how the coconut cream cake came to be:
While testing the cake recipe before the party, I posted pictures on Instagram and Twitter and caught the attention of my blog friend Annie. So, this long-overdue recipe post — to the best of my memory — is dedicated to her.
Coconut Cream Cake Dedicated to Annie
2 cups gluten-free flour (I recommend King Arthur Flour brand; you may substitute with regular flour)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dairy-free butter substitute
1/2 cup applesauce (or two eggs)
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla
1 tsp. salt
pinch of xanthan gum (optional)
(standard buttercream frosting recipe)
1/2 cup dairy-free butter substitute
1/2 cup shortening (I recommend organic to avoid the preservatives in most shortening)
4 cups powdered sugar
Coconut milk as needed
1/2 cup coconut flakes (I recommend Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup brown sugar
For the cake:
Cream the butter and sugar together and mix extremely well. Mixing these two ingredients together until they are light and fluffy helps make for a light, fluffy cake. (If it helps for you to think “floofy” like the Muppet Swedish Chef, go ahead and do so.)
Add the applesauce (or eggs) and the vanilla, and continue mixing. Then add the rest of the ingredients a little at a time and mix well.
Pour the cake batter into in an oiled pan and bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes. Baking time will depend on the size and color of your pan; check the cake frequently and look for the cake to slightly pull away from the edge of the pan. The top of the cake will also feel springy when you touch it, if it’s done baking. I find that gluten-free baked goods don’t brown as much as wheat-made ones, but you can learn to look for a “done” golden color.
Let the cake cool before taking it out of the pan. I usually place a plate on top of the cake pan and flip it upside down onto the plate. Some people use wire racks, but I don’t like the marks it leaves on the cake. I’m weird that way. If you’re making a sheet cake in a larger pan, best to just leave this cake in the pan, or get one of those cardboard cake platters from a craft store like the pros use.
For the frosting:
Mix the butter, shortening and sugar together. Add milk as needed, usually no more than a couple of teaspoons to loosen up the mixture. It’s all right to use all butter or all shortening, if you prefer it or if that’s what you have on hand. Use this to frost your cake when it is completely cooled.
For the coconut “sand”:
Toast the coconut flakes on a baking sheet at 350F. Set a timer for about seven minutes and check the coconut every minute after that. There is a fine line between delicious toasted coconut and stinky burnt coconut! And it happens fast. Combine the toasted coconut with the brown sugar.
As an alternative, mix 1/3 cup each of toasted coconut flakes and brown sugar with graham cracker crumbs. (If you eat gluten-free, you may have to make your own crumbs from gluten-free graham crackers like the kind by Kinnikinnick.) This is best done with a food processor while you sing “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by the Scorpions.
Make as many batches of this as you like. Use this to sprinkle over, or even press into, your frosting on top of the cake.
Makes one delicious cake.