cardamom and toasted coconut cake


Nik Sharma

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cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

Last week was the birthday of my dear friend, Cheryl of Sternman Rule. Since birthdays and cakes are synonymous (though I firmly believe ice cream should be too), I thought I would surprise her with a cake when I met up with her for lunch this week (we had Korean food in Korean town in Santa Clara). So I had to hold off on posting the recipe, lest she saw it online before I gave it to her. Cheryl has been busy with her new book, Yogurt Culture and traveling so it was really nice to get some time to spend with her and catch up. I didn’t let her see the cake at lunch because buttercream and warm weather are not good together. To protect the cake, I wrapped it up in almost what can best be described as a bulletproof vest of aluminum foil and clingfilm. She wanted to peak but I wouldn’t let her. 

I can eat a lot of coconut, savory or sweet. And being part Goan, coconut cakes are part of my lifestyle. This particular coconut layer cake has two layers of sponge that have coconut and cardamom infused into the cake batter. The whole process of making this cake from whipping the batter up to toasting the coconut and frosting it, makes for one very aromatic and fragrant time in the kitchen. And if you end up with extra toasted coconut shreds, save them for breakfast to add to your yogurt bowls or even to your homemade trail mixes or just eat whenever. 

The recipe for the Swiss buttercream frosting used in this cake is easy and it’s also not too sweet. I sometimes find frostings to be cloyingly sweet, so much so that I usually take them off the cake (if I’m eating out). Ideally, I like the frosting to compliment the cake and not take away from it. Cardamom and coconut are two highly aromatic and flavorful ingredients to work with and in this cake they make a happy union, one that’s rather tasty.

Also, resisting the urge to eat a cake that’s for someone else is hard, very hard!!!

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips that you might find useful when making this cake;

  • I used desiccated coconut for this recipe. I prefer to use unsweetened coconut when making the cake batter but for decorating the cake use sweetened. Both fresh and desiccated work well here.
  • The swiss buttercream recipe will give you about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of frosting enough to cover two 9 inch cakes and layer them. However, if you want more icing and a thicker coat, I recommend doubling the amounts used for the ingredients in the frosting recipe. 
  • I use rice flour in this recipe not only to give a tender crumb but also for a smoother flavor. Rice flour add a little nuttiness that compliments the coconut and cardamom flavors in the cake.
  • If the weather is warm (as it is here in summer), I recommend chilling the cakes before working with them. Buttercream is easy to work with when it soft and pliable but not to the point where it is melting. I only have one bowl for my stand mixer, hence the recipe instructions require you to wash and dry the bowl between preparing the meringue and the butter but if you have more bowls you don’t need to do this. However, there is an advantage to transferring the meringue to a cool bowl, it keeps the mixture cool and won’t let the butter melt when it is added to it. 
  • Since this is a coconut cake, I recommend consuming it within two to 3 days of preparing it. Store it a the refrigerator.

This cake is adapted from the Great Cakes book by Carole Waters.

cardamom and toasted coconut cake | A Brown Table

cardamom and toasted coconut cake 

yields: 2 X 9 inch cakes (to form one double layer cake)


for the cake: 

3/4 cup skim milk

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used desiccated)

2 cups(266g/9.38 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (52g/1.83 ounces) rice flour

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cups unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature + a little extra for greasing the cake pans

1 1/3 cups (266g/9.38 ounces) superfine sugar (I use baker’s sugar)

3 large eggs, cold

1/2 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground 

1. Bring the milk to a rolling boil in a small saucepan and pour this over the coconut flakes in a heat proof container. Stir to mix. Transfer this mixture to a food processor and pulse  10 times for 20 seconds. Transfer to a container and allow to sit for 5 minutes before use. 

2. Place a wire rack in the lower-third of the oven and preheat to 350F. Take two 9 inch circular cake pans, line the bases with parchment paper cut to size and grease them with a little butter. Keep aside until ready to use. 

3. Whisk the flours, salt and baking powder three times and keep aside until ready to use.

4. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment beat for 60 seconds on medium-high speed. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed for 6 to 7 minutes until smooth and creamy. Using a silicone spatula scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to bring the ingredients together. 

5. Add one egg at a time and beat each egg into the batter for at least one minute on medium-high speed. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to bring the ingredients together. 

6. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low and then add 1/3rd of the sifted dry ingredients from step 3 and 1/3rd of the  coconut-milk mixture from step 1 into the creamed ingredients. Repeat this with the remaining flour and coconut-milk mixture until the ingredients are completely combined. Add the cardamom and beat for 30 seconds. Using a silicone spatula scrape the sides of the bowl to bring the ingredients together.

7. Divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cakes for at least 25 to 30 minutes until the center of each cake is firm and a skewer comes out clean from the center. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then release from the pan with a sharp knife and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature completely before frosting. If desired, you can wrap each cake with clingfilm after they are completely cool and then refrigerate overnight or up to four days before frosting. 

for the cardamom and coconut swiss buttercream frosting 

4 large egg whites

3/4 cup (120.48 g/4.25 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted once

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/ 340.19g/12ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed

1/4 cup cream of coconut 

1/4 teaspoon green cardamom powder, ground fresh

1. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the wire whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on medium-high speed until it just starts to get frothy.

2. Remove the bowl from the mixer and place it over a pan containing barely simmering water.  The water should not touch the bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, start to whisk the eggs on medium-high speed with one hand while slowly adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the other hand. Continue to whisk until all the sugar has been added and the egg whites warm up (around 120F). The mixture will transition to a thick mixture resembling marshmallows. 

3. Remove the bowl from the pan and return to the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment whisk the egg white-sugar mixture on medium-high speed for 6 to 7 minutes until it becomes acquires a thick meringue like structure and cools down. Transfer this mixture to a cool bowl and keep aside. 

4. Clean the bowl of the stand mixer by washing it thoroughly and wiping it dry. Place the butter in the bowl and using the paddle attachment beat the butter for about 1 minute until it smooth and creamy. It should not be too soft otherwise the buttercream will be soupy. Scrape the butter out of the bowl into a dry cool bowl. 

5. Return the egg mixture to the same bowl of the stand mixer in which the butter was beaten (you don’t need to clean it). On medium speed using the paddle attachment whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, into the meringue. Add the coconut cream and the cardamom and whisk for another 45 to 60 seconds until it is combined evenly. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least 15 minutes before using. 

for the toasted coconut and coconut cream syrup


2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut fresh or desiccated 

1/2 cup coconut cream

1/4 cup (50g/1.767 ounces) granulated sugar 

1/2 cup water 

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the coconut over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast the coconut for about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully to avoid burning. The coconut should be a mix of white, dark brown and golden brown shreds. Remove aside and keep aside to cool completely before using.

2. Heat the coconut cream, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and allow to cool. Refrigerate this syrup to chill completely until ready to use.

assembling the cake 

1.  Line a cake stand with four 12 X 4 inch strips of parchment paper in a crosswise section. Place one of the cakes on top of the lined cake stand. Using a serrated knife make a few superficial criss cross cuts (they do not to be deep, just minor cuts on the surface). Brush the surface of the cake generously with coconut cream syrup. 

2. Attach a pastry bag with a #6 pastry tip or a tip with wide mouth. Fill the bag with buttercream and squeeze out the buttercream in a spiral to get an even amount of buttercream. Using an offset spatula even out the buttercream if needed. Then place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream and repeat the entire process. Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.

3. Coat the rest of the cake with the remaining buttercream. (You don’t need to really do a crumb coat here because you won’t see the surface of the cake but you can if you like). 

4. Coat the generously with the toasted coconut on all sides and refrigerate for another 10 minutes. 

15 Responses

  1. This cake looks delicious! I love thats it’s covered with toasted coconut and that the frosting isn’t too sweet. I totally agree that it can take away from a good cake if it’s overly sweet.

  2. This is the absolute dreamiest cake, and the sweetest thing EVER that you made it for Cheryl! Seeing snaps of it made me so so happy. Yay for birthdays and for this loveliest of cakes!

  3. On step 5 of the icing directions- did you mean to say add 1 tbs of the butter at a time until incorporated?

  4. Would subbing the skim milk with coconut milk be a good swap out or would coconut flavoring be too overpowering then?

  5. Hello Nik ! This is a wonderful thing ! I have to do to this cake very soon becauce my family and I love the coconut. Thank you very much for sharing your great recipe. we send you a big hug from Venezuela…… mi ig account is @foriguen2015

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