I first learned about the “World’s Best Cake” from Bakers Royale (although the original recipe is Sweet Paul’s) and thought it sounded completely amazing: fluffy cake, with a baked, slightly chewy, yet crispy, marshmallow-y meringue, layered with creamy whipped cream. So very “world’s-best” sounding to me, in fact, that I knew then and there that I wanted to develop my own variation with a coconut twist (in my world, a cake with meringue and cream demands coconut). A little bit of internet research revealed almost no recipes for cakes with baked meringue (save for this meringue cake from Joy of Baking) and only a handful for “world’s best” cakes other than Sweet Paul’s (such as this Midsummer Cake).Sweet Paul’s version was republished on HuffPost but no one appeared to be tweaking it. Because I had other goodies up my sleeve in need of developing, I put my thoughts of the world’s best cake on hold, until i saw this espresso, cinnamon, maple cake and decided I, too, had to make my mark on the world with an attempt at the best.
The meringue and whipped cream layers of the cake were no brainers. I knew I’d add toasted sweetened coconut to the meringue and coconut extract to the cream, and as for the cake layers, having developed two different coconut cakes for Matt and Nato’s new book, Baked Occasions, a bundt and a sheet cake, as well as having created my own coconut cake in the form of lamingtons, I already had some coconut cake tricks up my sleeve (i.e., I knew my cake would have coconut oil in it, as well as shredded sweetened coconut). In addition, I thought I might try evaporated milk as my liquid since I have been obsessed with making this coconut cake (which calls for evaporated milk) for at least a year, although I have yet to do so.
However, my first attempts at the cake layers of the world’s best cake were dry and decidedly un-fluffy. That is, until I remembered Shirley Corriher’s magnificent moist golden cake from her book/my bible, Bakewise. I followed her creaming method to a T, ditched my evaporated milk idea for a combination of buttermilk and whipped cream (for increased tenderness), substituted cake flour for all purpose (again for tenderness), and increased the amount of sugar and butter. The resulting cake? So decidedly moist and tender that I almost felt badly covering it with meringue and filling the layers with whipped cream. Thankfully, however, not that badly . . . as the combo of this super moist cake with the meringue and cream is truly the world’s best.
Coconut Cake (The World’s Best Cake)
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1 stick unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 5 egg yolks room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 egg whites room temperature
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar optional
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut divided
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp coconut extract
- To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter or spray two 8″ by 2″ cake pans with cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the pans with circles of parchment, and spray or butter again. Set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk vigorously to ensure the leavening is fully incorporated. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed for two minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically. Add the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla and continue to cream the ingredients together for at least 4 to 5 minutes, or until the butter/sugar mixture is extremely fluffy, pale in color, and has at least doubled in size. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the yolks one at a time, creaming briefly after each addition to ensure they are fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the salt to the buttermilk and stir until dissolved. Set aside. Slowly add more than half of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl. Once most of the flour is incorporated, add half of the buttermilk mixture, then the rest of the flour and finish with the buttermilk. Scrape the bowl as needed. After the final addition of the buttermilk, stop the mixer, remove the bowl from the mixer and combine the liquid by hand.
- Fold in the sweetened coconut and set aside. Whip the cream until soft peaks form and gently fold the cream into the batter as well, being mindful not to deflate it. Using a large ice cream scoop, if you have one, or eyeball it if you do not, portion out the batter between the two prepared pans. Use a small offset spatula or a butter knife to smooth the tops of the layers and set them aside while you make the meringue.
- To make the meringue: Toast one cup of the coconut at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes (I use my toaster oven), stirring periodically, until golden. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk the whites and cream of tartar, if using, together until frothy. Add the sugar in a slow and steady stream and then continue to whisk the whites until soft, glossy peaks form. This will take up to 5 minutes or more. With a rubber spatula, fold in the cooled toasted coconut. Divide the meringue between the two cake pans and smooth the meringue over the cake layers with a small offset spatula, if you have one, or a butter knife.
- Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of un-toasted coconut onto the meringue of the cake that will become the top layer and place both layers in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs and the meringue topping has risen considerably, is lightly browned, billowy and crackly. You may want to remove the oven rack above the cakes, depending on how close it is to the rack the cakes are on, as the meringue does rise a few inches. Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack, before removing them from the pans.
- To make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (ideally you will have placed the bowl and whisk in the freezer briefly) combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar and extract and whisk on medium-high until medium peaks form (somewhere between soft and firm).
- To assemble the cake: Remove the bottom layer of cake from its pan. Flip the cake on to the wire rack, and then invert it right side up on to your serving platter.
- Spread all of the whipped cream on the bottom layer of the cake, using an offset spatula or butter knife to smooth over the top. Release the top layer from its pan, and carefully place it on top of the whipped cream, meringue and coconut side up. press down lightly on the top of the cake. Enjoy immediately, or let the cake sit at room temp for up to 30 minutes.