Coconut Layer Cake

About a month ago, I posted a photo of this cake I made and a few of you asked for more details – it was a coconut layer cake inspired by the 12-Layer Coconut Cake from the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina.

Exactly 12 months ago, as we were sailing down the US east coast, we pulled into Charleston Harbour  seeking shelter from bad weather brought on by hurricane Sandy. We ended up staying for 9 days, waiting for a good weather window. The city has much to offer and I loved walking around the historic district, mostly eating my way around! I wrote about our Charleston stay here, of particular interest was the culinary tour during which our group sampled southern specialties in handpicked establishments. Some of the town’s most famous restaurants were also pointed out, notably the Peninsula Grill renowned for its decadent coconut cake. Top choice for local brides, highly rated by the likes of Martha Stewart and the New York Times, the advice from our guide was that even if we had dinner somewhere else, at least save room for dessert and walk to the PG just for the cake! Unfortunately we never managed this ( we were always too full to contemplate dessert anywhere), but I did do some research and found a recipe which I kept in my “to-do-one-day” list. The original recipe from the Peninsula Grill not only calls for an incredible amount of butter, sugar and cream, but also involves more time that one is used to bake a cake (unless you’re a pastry chef, then it’s all in a day’s work). The (dare I say) easier version I stumbled upon, while still very rich, didn’t require as much time and precision to put together.

Or so I thought, until my daughter asked me at 6pm to bake it for school the next morning. Panic on board: I had most of the ingredients on hand, except the sweetened flaked coconut, which I needed over 6 cups of! Mad dash around Playa del Carmen supermarkets to discover it is a US thing unheard of in Mexico (apart from expat americans who bring the stuff in their luggage), so used dried shredded coconut instead ( a very good move as there is already plenty of sugar in the recipe, it is an American based recipe!)I thought I could prepare it all the night before, but due to limited space in my fridge, I found that the recipe is best done in stages: make the cakes and the filling the night before, then assemble and apply frosting the next day. So yes, it takes over 12 hours of preparation , but boy, is it worth every mouthful!


coconut cake blog


Coconut Layer Cake

Serves 12 hungry kids for afternoon tea, probably 20 more restrained guests for dessert


3 ½ cup plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 ¼ cups sugar

1 ½ cups unsalted butter at room tempearature

5 large eggs

1 1/3 cups whipping cream

1 tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Line the bottom of 3 9” Teflon non-stick round cake pans with parchment paper ( or butter and flour if using ordinary pans)
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and blend
  4. In another bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
  6. Beat in cream and vanilla
  7. Sift flour mixture into butter mixture
  8. Divide batter equally among pans
  9. Bake until tester inserted into center oc cakes comes out clean, about 45 minutes
  10. Cool completely



2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ whipping cream

½ cup sugar

½ cup unsalted butter

2 ¼ cups fine dessicated unsweetened coconut

¼ cup sour cream

  1. Stir cornstarch, water and vanilla in a small bowl to dissolve cornstarch
  2. Bring cream, sugar and butter to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan
  3. Add cornstarch and bring to the boil
  4. Remove from heat and stir coconut
  5. Cool completely
  6. Mix in sour cream, cover and refrigerate overnight


250g (8oz) cream cheese at room temperature

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups icing (powdered) sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups shredded dessicated unsweetened coconut, toasted

  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer
  2. Beat in icing sugar and vanilla extract




  1. Place one cake layer on a plate
  2. Top with half of the filling
  3. Place second cake layer atop filling
  4. Top with remaining filling
  5. Place third cake atop filling
  6. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake (easier if placing the plate on top of a cylinder shape container like a spaghetti jar, to be able to rotate the cake at eye level!)
  7. Pat toasted coconut over top and sides of cakes, pressing gently to adhere (use a narrow spatula for the sides)
  8. The cake can be prepared the day before, keep covered and refrigerated. Leave at room temperature for 2-3 hours before serving. Enjoy!



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