Throwdown's Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream

Total Time:
6 hr 35 min
1 hr
4 hr 30 min
1 hr 5 min

8 servings

  • Toasted Coconut:
  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • Coconut Simple Syrup:
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • Coconut Custard:
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons coconut rum (recommended: Malibu)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coconut Filling:
  • 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above), cold
  • 3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
  • Coconut Buttercream:
  • 3 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above) (cold)
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • Cake:
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter, for pans
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold
For the toasted coconut:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring once, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the coconut sit in the oven until very dry and crunchy, about 15 minutes longer.

For the simple syrup:

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

For the custard:

Combine the milks and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

For the filling:

Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

For the buttercream:

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the coconut custard and salt and beat until combined and smooth.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pan and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

To Assemble:

Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another layer on a cardboard round cut side up and brush with some of the coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. Place the layer cut side down on top of the cake.

Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.

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    206 Reviews
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    This cake is delicious. Coconut haters might even find it tolerable if you leave the toasted coconut off, but why would anyone do that? I'm not sure the simple syrup adds anything except more work, and the coconut rum was somewhat undetectable, but otherwise I would make the recipe as written. I also used vanilla bean paste instead of an actual vanilla bean. It's not that labor-intensive if you plan your work: bake, cool, slice (and freeze, if necessary) the layers; make the custard and simple syrup the day before; make the filling and frosting, toast the coconut and assemble the day of. I made the layers the weekend before and froze them, along with the egg yolks for the custard (mix the yolks with the sugar called for in the recipe before you put them in the freezer). Worked out great.
    Anyone who had trouble with this cake either 1) didn't follow the directions carefully or 2) likes the kind of dessert where your teeth hurt after you eat it. This is a cake about balancing flavors, it's not the traditional sweet-on-sweet-on-sweet ordeal most of us are familiar with. After reading many of the comments I was very concerned about the buttercream and added about 1/2 c of powdered sugar as opposed to the 1/3 of a cup recommended by the recipe. After I mixed in the custard and tasted it, I was concerned. To be honest, this isn't the "lick the beater" buttercream we all know and love. It is very buttery and not very appetizing on it's own. However, when it is combined with the relatively sweet cake, simple syrup, custard filling, and sweetened toasted coconut, it is absolutely perfect. If I had used a traditional buttercream it would have been way too sweet. Although it wasn't a difficult cake to make, it was very time consuming, but well worth it for special occasions.
    The beauty of this cake is that is has a wonderful delicate flavor. The frosting is wonderful. I tried adding more powdered sugar at first with only 2 sticks of butter, as some people suggested, thinking that 3 sticks of butter was a bit over the top - it was too sweet. The coconut flavor is subtle. I did add about 1/4 tsp of coconut extract to the custard and I ended up using 2/3 cup powdered sugar to 3 sticks of butter for light, fluffy frosting. My 4 star rating is 2 fold. I would give it 5 stars .... But the cake tastes best if you bring it to room temperature - then the flavors sing. But, when the cake is at room temperature, the frosting is soft. Still a winner. I made it the day before and refrigerated it overnight. We had it for breakfast with coffee. WOW! If you can stand to wait about 30 - 45 minutes or so after taking it out of the fridge your patience will be rewarded.
    More of a question than a review: My actual cake is baking in the oven as I write this. The batter tasted amazing, but it seemed broken when I put it in the pan. I am wondering if I did something wrong or if that was how it was supposed to look. I was hoping either the administrator or other users could weigh in. I may not have let my egg whites and milk sit long enough to get to room temperature so that could be the problem if there is in fact one. Did anyone else's batter have a broken look to it upon completion? If not, I failed somewhere along the line.
    This would definitely be a 5 star recipe if not for the frosting. The ratio of butter to sugar is off like others have said. I just made a 1/2 butter and 1/2 marscapone combination and used more powder sugar than suggested in the recipe. It was light, tasty and perfect for the cake. As for the cake, I loved it!! A new favorite for sure. I used the custard as is (did not mix in whipping cream and that worked great. Everything else was made using his recipe. It's the kind of cake you could eat without frosting...the soft layers and amazing coconut custard are a perfect match. The simple syrup adds extra coconut flavor and using the sweetened coconut flakes gives it a wonderful (flavorful sweetness. With a few changes here and there, I've discovered a new favorite!! Oh, the technique mixing the butter with the dry ingredients is a must! It also works on pancakes making them so tender and fluffy. ENJOY!!!!
    Tender white cake with great filling, good icing and great taste. Yes, this takes time and some know how to successfully make. For instance, the custard needs to be stirred while cooling to release the steam to prevent it from becoming runny, but I liked the texture of this white cake so much more than my other recipes that I am going to use the 'cold butter added to dry ingredients' for all to see if I get the same tender crumb.
    It was excellent I used cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream.Everybody loved it.
    This cake was very popular at my moms birthday party. I used 1 1/2 t. coconut flavoring in place of the rum and I added 1 cup of powdered sugar to the butter cream to make it taste better. People who usually don't like coconut cake liked this one. It was worth all of the extra effort!
    I have to say, when I read the reviews that said this recipe was terrible and that they "followed the recipe exactly"...well, they just couldn't have followed it exactly. They made a mistake somewhere. I only cheated on the cake and made a box mix. But everything else was made following the instructions and it came out perfectly. I would have liked more coconut flavor (but that's just my personal had a good coconut flavor and I couldn't taste the rum in the filling but this was a really delicious cake! One thing to emphasize ~ When you're making the filling, make sure EVERYTHING is very very cold, including the mixing bowl and beaters. This will help the filling to set better. And keep it refrigerated until you're ready to put it on the cake.
    Best coconut cake I've ever had - works really well to cut up the cake into squares and make a layered cake in the glass as well!
    What a cake!!!!! 
    It's soft, delicious, not too sweet, it's hard to stop eating!!! 
    This cake is so decadent and very delicious! The cake is very delicate and the filling and frosting are sinful. The cake takes a while to make and has multiple steps but is worth it. This has become an overall family favorite.
    Note: The recipe is correct. It?s a very buttery as opposed to sweet buttercream, and the coconut custard, which also has some sugar, gets beaten into the buttercream to make it a buttery, custard-like frosting. Hope this helps clarify. 
    Admin Customer Service
    While the cake and custard filling were moist and delicious, the buttercream was extremely disappointing and tasted more like pure butter than a sweet buttercream icing. Followed directions exactly...instinctively knew the amount of confectioners sugar seemed inadequate, but was intimadated in altering Chef Flay's recipe - should have as 1/3 cup is not enough to sweeten 3 sticks of butter! Also purchased Malibu rum to make this recipe...personally don't believe that this is even needed...just promoting Malibu rum. Recipe is costly and time consuming for the results if followed precisely. Will make again, using my own buttercream icing. Chef Flay needs to review the recipe amounts as I cannot believe this is the buttercream recipe that beat Chef Carter in the throwdown!!!!
    AWESOME! This was so delicious. Not too overpowering that you get a hint of coconut throughout the cake. The cake recipe is now my go to recipe. Very light and holds the syrup well. I'm so glad I finally had the chance to make this cake. I wish I can have this cake every week but I know I should only prepare it on special occasion. I followed the instruction to a T except for the frosting. I followed the suggestion of preparing the custard and syrup one day before assembly. I also found that I had to bake the for 30 minutes. In the buttercream frosting I added 1 package of cream cheese and used 1 stick of butter and 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar. Other than that it was wonderful. Simply delicious! Thanks Bobby.
    I was so excited to make this cake after reading all the reviews about how good it was. I have a baking business and know how to bake so i know it was the recipe that wasnt good and not something I did wrong. The cake was a terrible white cake. It had an aftertaste of baking soda. Nobody in my family could taste it but I could. Was so disappointed I didnt use my recipe. Only one out of 8 people liked the frosting. Regular buttercream would have been so much better. By mixing the custard in you get a whipped cream texture to it. Now if you like whipped cream frosting this cake might be for you but Im more of a traditional buttercream fan. The custard filling is delicious I would definetaly use that to fill my cakes with in the future.
    I haven't made this cake yet, but I just tried it at the Mesa Grill in Las Vegas. Our waiter recommended it and mentioned it was a "Throwdown" recipe. I wasn't was delicious!
    I made it for my uncles birthday and everyone loved it!!! I had to make more the next day becuase eveyone wanted to take some home the day of the party and there wasn't enough left. It is a long process but well worth the end result. I made the cake first and as it baked I made everything else (custard, frosting. I used store bought cocunut water and it worked fine. I also used less sugar in the custard because the cocunut milk I bought was sweetened and the recipe calls for unsweetened. BEST CAKE EVER!!!!
    I made this cake for my mom on mothers day she loved it. Thanks for the recipe.
    This cake is amazing. It is very labor intensive, but after making it, I now know I can make a few things the day before. Make sure to make everything in the order written. The day before you can toast the coconut, make the simple syrup and coconut custard. Make sure to lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the custard before refrigerating. You won't get a film on the top layer of the custard, by doing this. Day two make the cake ( I replaced the 1 tsp. of vanilla extract with cocount extract and while that is in the oven make the coconut filling. While the cake cools make the buttercream frosting. I made mine two days in advance and it gave the cake time reach it's full flavor. I'm telling you when I made this cake I threw the recipe away, because it took so long to make, but after tasting it I printed it out again. I will definitely be making this again! :
    This cake is one of the best I've made. Labor intensive, like the other reviews noted, but the outcome is worth it. The buttercream is not very sweet and tastes very much like butter. It definitely needed more than 1/3 cup for the buttercream frosting. Make sure you taste as you go. You can adjust the frosting to your liking.
    Although this cake seems involved, and it is, it is well worth the effort. After seeing the Throwdown episode, with the chef from the Peninsula Grill, I had to make this cake. There are a lot of steps involved, but if take your time and prepare all the steps, it comes together beautifully and you will find that it truly is the best coconut cake ever. It requires nearly 1 pound of butter, but is lighter than air. I am getting ready to make it again for a friends birthday at work. They're not going to know what hit them. Thanks to you Bobby Flay for creating such a delectably decadent cake. It's the best I've ever tasted. The only change I made was I garnished the top and sides of the cake with toasted coconut. It adds a wonderful texture. Yummy!!!!
    Second time making this cake, it's delicious, big hit among my friends. Thank you Bobby for sharing this wonderful recipe.
    This cake was very light. A lot of work but I will definately. Make it again. I may even try it as a muffin recipe and then insert the custard. Very tasty.
    I have made this cake a number of times and it has been a star every time! 
    Light yet rich! I have had this requested but it does take some time so I only do it for special occasions. Bobby you make me look good with this recipe!
    I have made this cake 4 times now and it is a hit every time. Everyone loves the texture and even folks who don't "love" coconut LOVE this cake. I am making 2 this for a co-worker's birthday (her request and one to have with our Thanksgiving meal.
    I have made this cake many times. It's the best special occasion cake that I know of. Here's my thing: I don't mix the whip. cream with the custard. The whole concoction is liable to slide off the plate and it must be kept cold. SO I just use the coconut custard for the filling. No whip. cream. I use a regular buttercream frosting with cream cheese. It doesn't fall over this way.
     I skip the simple sugar step.
     I add extra coconut extract to cake.
     I just make this cake for special occasions. I don't even want to know how many calories are in each piece. I do toast the coconut. I think it is prettier that way.
     I also set aside two or three baking days. Make the custard one day, make the cakes another day, and the day of the event I assemble the whole thing. It's tall. I use bamboo skewers to hold the whole thing together. Dont' do this one if you are in a hurry.
    I am not a lover of Coconut but had this cake at a freinds Birthday
     (and was talked into trying it)....AMAZING is all I have to say. I can't wait to make it for my family, which will be very soon!!
    Bobby Flay, this is why I love you!!! This cake is outstanding! Anyone who says different hasn't made it correctly.
     Though time consuming, the recipe is accurate. So if you follow it, you will have a perfectly light and deliciously flavorful experience.
     I made this cake as one of the tiers on my daughter's wedding. It was the first tier to be completely devoured.
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    Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay