Coconut Ginger Cake

October 4, 2011

coconut ginger cake | une gamine dans la cuisine

When it comes to baking layer cakes, my oven refuses to cooperate. If it were human, my oven would be a spiteful curmudgeon; the stubborn sort who'd make a face and press their lips together when you try to be nice by offering him a bite of something delicious. But it's also quite wily and takes great pleasure in throwing last-minute curve balls. I tried to pull a fast one by pretending to prepare a sheet cake instead of a layer cake. Apparently, even when I don't make direct eye contact, my oven still knows what I'm doing.

The cake is sitting pretty in the photos, but it's all thanks to a clever little photo trick known as 'cropping.' In reality, some of the cake clung to the pan like gum to a shoe. But it was amazing... beyond delicious and in the end that's all that truly matters, right?

coconut ginger cake | une gamine dans la cuisine

The original recipe actually called for saffron, not ginger. Unfortunately, I could not summon the amount of will needed to pay 23$ for a small bottle of what appeared to be air. But I felt as though I was entirely missing the cake's plot. Saffron is pure bliss. Truth be told, even if someone handed me a bottle of saffron and said that I could have it for free, it would still feel wrong. Something as luxurious as saffron needs to be earned. If I successfully embarked on an epic Indiana Jones quest to save a 50,000 year old relic from falling into the wrong hands, *maybe* I'd feel worthy of using saffron. Maybe. Until that happens, I'll always have ginger.

The cake is everything that people dream of when they dream of cake. It's soft, fluffy, sweet and it sticks in-between fork tines (the ultimate test in moistness). I couldn't taste the coquettish ginger in the cream filling so next time I would add a bit more; or, better yet, use fresh ginger root. The filling was sweet with a silky custard-y texture. And the frosting...seriously, what more needs to be said about coconut cream cheese buttercream frosting?

Please don't let my tales of miserly ovens and codependent cake pans deter you from trying any recipes, especially this one. I'm sure other ovens are well-adjusted.

coconut ginger cake | une gamine dans la cuisine

Coconut-Ginger Cake (recipe adapted from Tyler Brown via Food & Wine)

Cake Ingredients
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (be sure to shake, and stir before using)
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
12 tablespoons (that's 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated

Ginger Cream Filling
1 cup milk (I used whole)
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 pound cream cheese, softened
12 tablespoons ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut flakes

Prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 250° F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan (bottom and sides), line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper, gently tap out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and almond extract (or vanilla, is using).
In the bowl of you stand mixer (or any large bowl if using a hand-held mixer), beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar on medium speed until fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between additions and scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Turn the speed down to low, and add the dry ingredients in 4 batches, alternating with the coconut-milk mixture. When using this method, always begin and end with the dry mixture. Set the batter aside.
In separate large, clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the beater(s) still running, slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar until the egg whites are thick and glossy. Scrape the beaten whites into the cake batter and fold until just combined. Try not to over mix the batter. A light hand=fluffier cake!
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes (I know this seems like a long time, but the oven temperature is low, so it's okay). Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. [Note: My cake took about an hour and 45 minutes...but my oven is insane. Just be ready to adjust the time as needed.] Transfer the cake to a rack and allow it to reach room temperature before removing from the pan.

Prepare the ginger cream filling: in a medium saucepan, combine the milk, coconut milk and ground ginger. Bring to just a simmer over moderate heat.
In a medium heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the egg yolks, and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened.
While whisking constantly, slowly add about 1/4 of the hot ginger milk, once it has been incorporated, add about another 1/4 (in all, you'll be adding 1/2 of the hot milk). It's important to keep whisking at this stage so that the eggs don't scramble.
Now that it has been tempered, scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the ginger cream is thickened and just comes to a simmer, 4 minutes. [Note: Mine took about 10 minutes to thicken, so don't worry if it still looks thin after the 4 minutes. Just be sure to keep whisking.]
Transfer the cream to a heatproof bowl and stir in the butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream (to prevent 'skin' from forming), and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the frosting: in the bowl of your stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or any large mixing bowl, if using a hand-held), beat the cream cheese and butter together until light, creamy, and smooth. Gradually add all the confectioners' sugar until everything is well combined and the frosting is thick. [Note: if after adding all the sugar, the frosting is too thick and does not appear spreadable, add about 1 teaspoon of milk. Keep adding the milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it's the right consistency.]
Cover and set aside while you assemble the cake!

Let the fun begin: Carefully remove the cake from the pan. I slowly turned it over onto a large plate, peeled off the parchment paper, placed another large plate on top, and gently turned it over again so that it was right side up. Using a large serrated knife, slice the cake in half crosswise to create two 9-by-6 1/2-inch layers. [Note: Don't feel bad if your cake is smaller than it should be. :) Mine was too sloppy to reach 9 by 6 1/2-inch status, so I cut away all the messy parts.]
Transfer one layer to a platter and spread the ginger cream on top. Cover with the second cake layer, flat side up. Using an offset spatula, spread the cream cheese frosting all over the top and side of the cake.
Press the *shredded coconut* onto the side of the cake and sprinkle the rest of the coconut on the top. Serve right away or lightly chilled.

*If you would like to toast the coconut, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the coconut out evenly on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the tips start to turn golden brown. Stir once or twice to prevent burning. Remove the pan and allow the coconut to cool before adding it to the frosted cake.*


  1. Have mercy! coconut and almond extract. Game on. I'm sorry the cake stuck (I hate it when that happens), but frosting works just like spackle. The cake looks beautiful. I'd eat a HUGE piece of this, without any shame.

  2. Wow! That is one very lovely cake! So white! I love the look of it!

  3. When it comes to food, taste always trumps looks. I've done my share of cropping photos strategically too. And you don't ever have to apologize for substituting ginger for any other ingredient!

  4. A splendiod cake! Very tempting. I really like that flavor combination.



  5. this looks and sounds fantastic! Cake+custard+coconut with the bonus of cream cheese frosting would be absolutely irresistible for me. You really outdid yourself for your birthday this year!

  6. This sounds truly heavenly! I love all things coconut and gingery but rarely (if ever...) have I had the 2 together, i bet its absolutely gorgeous! And the texture looks so divine, even if you did have to do a bit of cropping it really looks lovely :)

  7. Sounds fabulous! Hope you had a fabulous birthday weekend.

  8. YES!!! It IS all about the taste. Saffron - spice of the Gods! Rich Gods. Ah, well.

  9. This cakes sounds and looks fantastic!!

  10. This looks delicious! Do you have any recommendations for oven time adjustments when using two round pans instead of one 9x13?


  11. Hi Anon,
    If you want to make a round layer cake instead, I would use 2 9-inch pans, or 3 8-inch pans.

    Depending on the depth of the pan, round cakes may take less time to bake than a large 9x13 rectangle. Just to be on the safe side, I would start checking the cakes after about 50 minutes...just to see how they're coming along. If the centers are still jiggly, leave them in for another 15 minutes. The best way to test their readiness is to gently press the center, if it springs back, they're ready. If it leaves a slight indentation, leave them in for a few more minutes.

    Also, when you're baking with more than one pan, be sure to rotate them at least once during the baking times (usually at the half-way point.)
    I hope that helps! Please don't hesitate to ask if you need any more advice. :)

  12. Your cake looks so light and fluffy and yummy!

  13. Hi

    I've noticed you only used a 1/2 cup of sugar in the cake batter, is this cake sweet with such a small amount of sugar.

  14. Hi Jackie!
    It's actually 1 cup of sugar. I know it still seems like a small amount, but because the frosting is so sweet, the cake balances everything out.
    Thanks for visiting, I'd love to hear how it turns out! :)

  15. Je n'en fais qu'une bouchée … terriblement gourmand hummm !!!
    Je te souhaite une agréable soirée


  16. Elizabeth (Adelaide, Australia)October 27, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    Hi Valerie, I made this cake the other day and it was absolutely beautiful, with many compliments and requests to make it again ASAP! I was a bit worried when I made the custard that the ginger would be overpowering but once I put the cake together all of the flavours balanced out perfectly. Thank you for your recipe :)

  17. Hi Elizabeth!
    You just made my evening! I love to hear success stores, especially when it comes to layer cakes (which I know can be a bit tricky sometimes).

    Thank you for taking the time to let me know how this cake turned out for you...and for believing in the amount of ginger. :D I'm so happy it was loved by everyone.

    Hope you're having a lovely spring Down Under! :)

  18. Hi Valerie, Your Coconut Ginger Cake recipe has been selected to be featured in a Recipe Guessing Game. Please share the following link with your friends and fans. To play, go here: Congrats again!! :)

  19. I have baked this cake twice alredy, and I can get enough of it. This is simply devine cake.Thanks for the recipe.

  20. Tamara, I'm so happy to hear that you liked this cake! Thanks for letting me know. :D

  21. I'm so happy that a google search of "coconut ginger cupcakes" led me to your fantastic blog! I made these last night after a rough day at work and while drinking a glass or two of wine :D and even with the substitutions I made (I'm vegan, and I wanted cupcakes instead of cake) and my general laziness about "soft peaks" etc they were AMAZING! Now I am going through all your recipes beyond eager to bake up another storm of deliciousness as soon as possible. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Also, I love your photographs :D

  22. @allie: Thanks for visiting, I'm glad you were able to make this recipe vegan (and into cupcake form!).

    Wine prove helpful sometimes. :D

  23. Hmmm...was this cake supposed to expand because my baked one came out kind of thin.

  24. Can you make the cake before hand, like before a few hours of being served or the day before or must it be eaten right away? Does it not store well or does your note just mean to be eaten at room temperature.

  25. @Coley: Yes, the cake can be made ahead of time (it should keep for about three days if covered and refrigerated). Just be sure to let it come to room temperature before frosting. :)


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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