I did it! ALL I wanted for my birthday this year was to create the perfect paleo version of a fluffy coconut cake. And, people, this one is amazing.
Coconut cake and I have a long history. Bernice Stroud first introduced me to real Southern coconut cake when she would bring them to our family in her signature moss-green cake carrier. The cakes were good enough to sell, five layers or so with sweet 7-Minute Icing. (She also made a killer German Chocolate cake!)
For fifteen years my husband and I lived in the West Village and each birthday all I craved was a huge slice of coconut cake from Magnolia Bakery. I wasn’t particularly fond of their cupcakes, but the coconut cake was moist, dense, and light at the same time.
And coconut, well, it’s like my kryptonite. I keep three or fours cans of coconut milk in the pantry, as well as a few cans in the fridge if I want to make coconut whipped cream (refrigeration keeps the water separate from the ‘cream’). As a dairy-free person, coconut comes in handy all the time for sauces, baking, smoothies, and quick curries. (Coconut yogurt is also amazing!)
Not everyone is so fond of coconut, I realize. While it is profoundly upsetting to me that people may not appreciate this cake, I have included a lemon version (though not tested!) in the Notes. Again, props to paleoglutenfree.com for the amazing grain-free recipe!!!!
May you sleep on a fluffy cloud of coconut custard and merengue!
Coconut Custard Cloud Cake
Yield 1 8 inch layer cake
Here she is! The best coconut cake that is gluten, dairy, and grain-free! This cake has a fair amount of sugar in it, so from a health perspective, it's still a treat.
This cake has three steps: cake, custard, and icing. The cake and the custard can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge. The icing is best made fresh (and only takes 7 minutes!).
Make SURE to toast the coconut- this step is crucial for giving the cake that depth of coconut-y flavor!
Read Notes for a lemon version if coconut isn't your thing.
I MUST give a shout-out to Paleoglutenfree.com. She is amazing and this cake recipe is based on her lemon-vanilla cake, with a few adjustments.
This recipe yielded one 9 inch layer and one 8 inch layer. Note that this cake doesn't rise and fluff up as a normal cake would. If you want three layers or a nice sizable layer cake, I would double the recipe (but make sure to adjust baking time!).
The recipe for the custard makes more than you need, so you will have extra (to eat with a spoon!).
- 2 cups finely shredded coconut
- 2 cups raw white sweet potato (Japanese sweet potato), minced in a processor (about 2 medium potatoes)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar, or cane sugar (I used slightly less)
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup cassava flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
FOR TOASTED COCONUT CUSTARD:
- 2 cups full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 3 T tapioca flour (or arrowroot flour)
- pinch of salt
- 1 whole egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites (leftover from making the custard)
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
FOR TOASTED COCONUT:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread coconut on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 8 inch cake pans with coconut oil. Place parchment rounds on the bottoms of each pan.
- In a food processor, mince sweet potato.
- In a large bowl, combine sweet potato with all the ingredients. Using a hand mixer, blend ingredients until well incorporated.
- Divide batter between two pans, tapping each pan on the counter to release air bubbles.
- Bake cakes for approximately 25-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the middle of the cake feels firm and bouncy when touched.
- Cool completely before removing from pan.
- Pour coconut into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not let boil.
- In a medium bowl, combine sugar, tapioca, egg, egg yolks, salt, and vanilla. Using a whisk or a hand mixer, blend ingredients into well-mixed.
- Using a small ladle, add some hot coconut milk to the egg mixture, whisking well and quickly. This is tempering the eggs. Stirring well after each ladle, adding about half the coconut milk to the egg mixture.
- Pour egg mixture into the coconut milk and whisk continuously over medium-low heat. The mixture should begin to thicken nicely.
- Keep whisking. After a few minutes, the mixture should be very thick. Remove from heat.
- Pour mixture into a glass bowl. Place plastic wrap over the surface of the custard and poke holes with a knife to allow it to cool. Place bowl over another bowl filled with ice and place in fridge or freezer to cool down. Custard should be thick.
- When the custard has cooled, mix in 1.5 cups toasted coconut.
- Combine egg whites, sugar, vanilla, tartar, salt and water in a large bowl big enough to fit over a saucepan of boiling water (or a double-boiler if you have one).
- Using a hand-held mixer or immersion blender, beat egg whites over hot water (make sure bowl does not touch the water in the saucepan) until stiff peaks form and egg whites are glossy. This should take about 7 minutes!
- When stiff and glossy, remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the bottom cake layer on a cake platter or cake stand.
- Spoon custard onto cake layer and spread thin. Repeat with next layer, spooning custard over cake.
- Ice cake with generous icing.
- Sprinkle top of cake with remaining toasted coconut.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled!
- For a lemon variety, substitute fresh lemon juice for coconut milk and add 2 T lemon zest to batter.
- Make a lemon curd by adding 2 T lemon juice to custard recipe. (Omit the toasted coconut.)