Billowy, creamy, vanilla-flavored frosting and showers of feathery fresh coconut make Scott Peacock's coconut cake a dazzler. Here, the American cooking guru shares his secrets for getting it right.
A three-layer cake is a sure sign of a special occasion. Serve it as the grand finale for an Easter brunch, at a wedding, or as the reward for a household task well done.
Combine dry ingredients; spoon flour mixture onto a square of waxed paper. "It makes adding flour to the bowl much neater," says Scott. Using waxed paper as a funnel for flour, alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low after each addition until just combined. "It should be satin smooth."
Divide batter among three pans. Bake until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool layers in pans on wire racks. Remove the cake layers from pans; peel off waxed paper and discard. Cool on wire racks.
With an ice pick or nut pick make holes in two of the eyes with a pressing, twisting motion. If eyes are particularly tough, tap top of pick with hammer.
"Some folks use this water as a replacement for part of the milk in the cake layer recipe," says Scott. "I enjoy drinking the coconut water over ice."
Hold coconut in one hand and with hammer tap -- somewhat assertively -- rotating the coconut as you strike. "The goal is not to smash it open, but to systematically tap and loosen the shell, so tap up and down and all around," says Scott. "Rotate and tap a bit more aggressively as you go. After 2-3 minutes of this you will hear a change in the sound of the tapping and then a cracking sound, which indicates the shell has been split."
Let egg whites stand at room temperature. Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and water. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover; bring to boiling; boil. Remove cover; attach candy thermometer to pan and cook, without stirring.
Meanwhile, beat egg whites until frothy. Add salt and beat just until stiff peaks begin to form. Slowly pour in hot syrup. Beat in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy and a dollop of whites lifted off the beater holds its shape.
On serving plate or stand, arrange first cake layer on strips of waxed paper. "Once you're done frosting, remove the waxed paper and your plate will be pristine," says Scott. Spread top of each layer with frosting, and then sprinkle generously with shredded coconut. If frosting starts to thicken, set over bowl of hot water.
When cake is completely frosted, heap with additional coconut, pressing gently with your fingers to bed the coconut.
With a broad knife or spatula, gently lift base of cake and slide waxed paper free. Repeat on all sides of cake.