This coconut cake from Philadelphia’s Brown Betty Dessert Boutique is charmingly dubbed “Company’s Comin’ Coconut Cake” by the good folks at the bakery—and we can understand why. Truly a three-layer extravaganza, the pound cake baked in round layers is so tender and moist as to bring tears to your eyes. But that’s not all. The layers are sandwiched with a coconut filling, then slathered with cream cheese frosting, and then, as you can plainly see, strewn with coconut galore. Because the coconut plays a very real yet relatively restrained role, the cake is swell for situations when you crave a certain amount of coconuttiness but don’t care to quite cross over into coconutty obscenity.–Linda Hinton Brown and Norrinda Brown Hayat
Brown Betty Bakery Coconut Cake FAQs
You could bake the cake in two 9-by 13-inch pans and simply frost, but you’d miss out on the filling between the layers, which is pretty special. Without that, this is a delicious yellow cake with cream cheese and coconut frosting. Still a great cake, but not a Brown Betty Bakery coconut cake. We say go all-in with the layers and filling. It’s well worth the effort.
For this recipe, we just don’t recommend substitutions. Sweetened coconut is more moist than unsweetened and the substitution could affect the texture and quality of the filling. If you’d still like to try to reduce the sugar content, using unsweetened coconut to decorate and garnish the frosted cake would be fine.
Brown Betty Bakery Coconut Cake
- Three 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans
For the coconut cake
- Vegetable shortening for the pans
- Nonstick cooking spray with flour
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the coconut filling
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
- 1/4 cup sour cream
For the cream cheese frosting
- Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups sweetened flaked coconut for garnish
Make the coconut cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable shortening, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar on low speed and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended and scraping the bowl as necessary.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the cream, evaporated milk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat until blended. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.
Make the coconut filling
- In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch, water, and vanilla until the cornstarch has dissolved.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and butter until melted and smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture to the cream mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut. Cool to room temperature.
- Stir the sour cream into the cooled coconut mixture. You should have about 2 cups. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Make the cream cheese frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and beat until fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until blended, scraping the bowl as necessary. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until fluffy. You should have about 3 cups. Set aside until ready to use.
Assemble the cake
- Place 1 cake layer, bottom-side up, on a cake plate. Use an offset spatula to spread half of the filling on top. Add the second cake layer, bottom-side down, and spread the top with the remaining filling. Top with the third layer, bottom-side up. Use a large offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Use the palm of your hand to gently press the coconut onto the sides and top of the cake.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’ve several friends that love coconut, so I was happy to make this coconut cake for them. They all loved it. The recipe makes nice, level layers of moist (and dense) cake.
Surprisingly, there’s no coconut milk or coconut extract at all in the cake layers, relying only on the filling and frosting for that coconutty flavor. This cream cheese frosting recipe makes a generous amount for a 3-layer cake. It whipped up nice and fluffy and would’ve been beautiful on the cake even without the coconut applied to the surface. It wasn’t too sweet, either.
I can see this frosting working for a fresh ginger cake, or carrot cake as well. The recipe makes ample coconut filling for a 3-layer cake. The addition of sour cream is genius. It cuts the sweetness with just a hint of tang. One point I would question is the amount of flaked coconut. By volume, coconut measures a lot like brown sugar in that it can be packed into the measuring cup or just scooped up in the measuring cup, thus giving wide variations in how much was intended.
For a coconut cake, this is actually quite easy. The filling for the Brown Betty Bakery coconut cake is fantastic all by itself. With just a little more milk (maybe replacing some of the cream with more milk) and not using the sour cream, it could stand on its own as a pudding! The frosting is a fairly standard cream cheese frosting recipe. The general consensus is that the cake could have more coconut flavor. If you just made the cake, it’d be a yellow cake.