When you make a layer cake, you shouldn’t think about how much of a mess it will make. You shouldn’t think about how many sticks of butter go into it, or how many separate components it requires. You should instead focus on how good it will taste, how impressive it will be, and how many friends it will feed. And, if you’re like me, you can use the amount of time you spend measuring, mixing, and cleaning as justification for the calories.
When I looked to see if other bloggers had tried this recipe, I was surprised to see several negative reactions. It seems that coconut can be either refined or kitschy, depending who you ask. In Baking as Biography: A Life Story in Recipes, Diane Tye lists coconut as one of several “exotic” baking ingredients indicative of mid-century, middle-class status (along with nuts, citrus, pineapple, and dates, to name a few). Coconut appears in a majority of my family’s sweet and savory recipes, so I always regarded it as a staple. Personally, I loved this cake. I thought it was simple, subtle, and elegant.
This cake is relatively time consuming, but you can divide it into stages. It’s a basic white cake brushed with rum syrup, filled with whipped cream-lightened custard, and frosted with coconut buttercream. The cake layers, rum syrup, coconut custard, and buttercream can all be made ahead of time. Properly wrapped, the cake layers and buttercream keep well in the freezer (though you’ll have to re-whip the frosting before you can use it).
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