Coconut Layer Cake

Sooo…about 17-ish years ago, I drew this picture in my “All About Me” scrapbook:

That’s me.  Docter Lust.

Then I read the Red Cross’s “Babysitter’s Guide to Emergencies” manual about 30,000 times.  Please ignore the fact that when I read this manual, I was far too young to babysit.  But I was very concerned about what to do if the child I was not babysitting swallowed something poisonous!  Needed mouth-to-mouth!  Bumped his head!  These are serious concerns that I’m not sure every 7 year old has.

Then I spent vast amounts of time coloring in my Gray’s anatomy coloring book.  They make these.  They make them specifically for terrifyingly nerdy children like me.  I’m wondering if I bought one now, would it help with real anatomy class?

All along the way, I kept my plastic doctor appointment bag well-stocked with foam stethoscopes, reflex hammers, and fake bandaids that somehow looked like snap bracelets.

I was on a mission.  After approximately 25 science classes, 110 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, and countless obnoxious conversations with the Weatherman where all I do is spit out “cool” (to me, ok?) science-y facts, I have partly accomplished that mission.

…I’m back in another science class.

No wait.  Wait.  I see that look you’re giving me.  As disappointing as that sounds, it’s exciting!  This time, the science classes are on the reals.  Because these science classes will eventually turn me into a doctor.  That’s cray cray.  And exciting!

I’m so optimistic now.  Doctors!  Biochem!  Enzymes!  ANATOMY!  I thought I’d write a nice optimistic post about medical school for you because a) today is only my second day, and b) our first exam is nonetheless in 10 days and soon, I’ll be everything but optimistic.

Although, anyone can be optimistic when a giant, fluffy, so so coconutty coconut birthday cake is involved.  I should make one every week, just to keep morale high.

Before medical school started, and before I had a whole semester worth of material to learn in 2 weeks, I made this cake for my brother, Taylor, who turned 18 (!!!) last week.  He is 18, so I am…old.  He is old!  And funny.  And so much cooler than I was or ever will be.  I mean…he has like, 4 girlfriends right now, and none of them mind, because they all just feel lucky (as they should) to be dating my brother.

I have had 4 boyfriends in my entire life.   This is probs because I was always coloring anatomically correct drawings of insides.

When it’s your birthday, I believe you should get to choose what kind of cake you want.  So Taylor chose a coconut cake with caramel filling.  Ask and you shall receive.

(Unless you ask me for money.  Or to fix your flat tire.)

I adapted a coconut cake recipe from Epicurious by changing up the filling, using coconut milk instead of cream, and subbing some coconut sugar for some of the granulated sugar.  I filled it with dulce de leche that I made in the MICROWAVE (amazing!), and covered it with cream cheese frosting like there was no tomorrow.

Then we lit some candles, let Taylor make a wish, and ate cake.  I advise you to enjoy this cake with milk, and I advise you to find lots of people to share this cake with because it is quite large.

Although…I have never been one to complain about cake leftovers…

Coconut Layer Cake

Makes one 3-layer 9-inch cake, serves 10 to 12

For cake
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coconut sugar (this will make the cake a little bit darker than it would be with all granulated)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (feel free to use all granulated if you can’t find coconut sugar)
1 1/2 cups (= 3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large eggs
1 1/3 cups coconut milk
1/2 TBS vanilla extract
1/2 TBS Sweet Buttery dough emulsion (or use 1 TBS vanilla extract + 1/2 tsp orange zest)
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

For filling
1 can sweetened condensed milk

For frosting
10 1/2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (= 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
about 2-3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1. For cake – Preheat the oven to 325ºF with racks in the upper middle and lower middle positions.  Butter and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.
2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars on medium-high until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs thoroughly 1 at a time.  On medium speed, beat in the coconut milk, vanilla, and emulsion until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Beat in the baking powder and salt.  Gradually add the flour, mixing on low until just incorporated.  Fold in the coconut with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape up any bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl.
4. Divide batter equally among the 3 greased and floured pans.  (I just used a measuring cup to get it as even as possible.)  Smooth the tops evenly.  Bake the cakes, with two pans on one rack, and one pan on the other for about 30 to 35 minutes.  Halfway through, switch the pans from top to bottom and rotate from front to back.  When the cakes are done, they will be golden brown (don’t worry if they look a little dark, it’s just the coconut sugar) and will spring back when lightly pressed.  Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans.  Turn the cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely.
5. For filling – Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small hole for steam to vent.  Cook the milk on high power for 2min, 30sec.  Stir.  Cook for another 2:30, then stir.  Cook for another 2 minutes and stir.  Continue cooking at 1 minute intervals until the milk is the color you like…I did mine to a even golden brown, not too dark (about 9 minutes), because I didn’t want the caramel flavor to be overwhelming.  If possible, you should use the dulce de leche immediately to fill the cakes.  As it cools, it thickens a lot.  If it’s not time to assemble the cake yet, just reheat the filling gently to soften it when you’re ready.
6. For frosting – In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and salt.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing on low until it’s all incorporated.  Beat the frosting on medium-high speed for about 1 minute until it’s fluffy and of a spreadable consistency.  If necessary, refrigerate the frosting before assembling the cake (i.e. if you need the frosting to be stiffer).
7. Assemble the cake – Place 4 strips of foil, parchment, or wax paper down on the cake platter so that when you remove them, your cake platter will be clean and frosting-free.  Place 1 cake layer on the platter, and spread half of the filling on top, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch border all around.  Place a 2nd cake layer on top of that, and repeat with the remaining filling.  Place the last cake layer on top.  Frost the entire cake, sides, top and all.  Press the remaining shredded coconut gently into the frosting around the sides of the cake.  Serve cake slightly chilled or at room temperature, for a birthday or for a Tuesday.  Cake will keep wrapped or inside a cake dome for 2 to 3 days, refrigerated.

Recipe for cake adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious; recipe for filling adapted from The Perfect Pantry; recipe for frosting adapted from Birthday Cakes

Also!  Important announcement!  Seeing as I am way in over my head with this medical school business, and I’m not sure why they thought I was smart enough to admit to school, I will probs have less time to bake than I did when I started this baby.  So…some very, VERY, VERY exciting changes are coming to Fleur-De-Licious.  I bet you can’t guess what they are, so you’ll just have to wait until I decide to tell you, which should in fact be very soon!

Now I have to go study.  Thanks for reading, happy baking!



  1. Wow congrats! I am going back to school in a month too 🙂 my mom, dad and brother are mds, that really isn’t my thing… I’m more into arts and computers lol
    I’m sure you’ll do great, following your childhood dreams… this cake looks fabulous, happy birthday Taylor.

    1. Thank you! It’s very exciting to be learning lots of things again. Good luck with your back-to-school transition!

  2. Hope school is going well and congrats to you on starting this new journey. That is SO cool that you are realizing a dream you’ve had since you were young!! Your post was so funny (as usual) talking about being a prepared 7 year old for the kids you (weren’t) babysitting. 🙂

    This cake looks AH-Mazing! The caramel filling sounds so good! I can’t wait to try it!!

    1. Thank you Ryan! So far, so good with school. I was an overly prepared (probably paranoid also, since I was reading about emergencies) 7 year old, what can I say 🙂

  3. Science-y facts are way cool. I had to warn my daughter at a NASA JPL open house a few months ago that I was going to “geek out”. She saw what I meant and I would have been embarrassed if I wasn’t kinda proud of her seeing that, yeah, science can be TOTALLY COOL. I am not necessarily a fan of coconut (not necessarily a detractor either) but this cake looks pretty awesome.

    1. Hi Jackie –
      I’m actually not sure of the brand. I bought it in the bulk section of a natural foods market here in Dallas, called Sprouts. It was my first experiment with coconut sugar, so I don’t know too much about the different brands. I’m sorry! Thanks for reading!

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