Let Them Eat: Coconut and Espresso Cream Layer Cake


Go (coco)nuts. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

I've heard that layer cakes aren't as popular as the simpler ones because people don't have all that much time to bake. I get it. I love a dump-and-stir cake that comes together in the time it takes the oven to come to temperature, but sometimes...sometimes I need a little something extra, like an uncomfortably high heel (extra-desperate for those now as I've been nursing a broken toe for a full month) or cerulean sequined shorts. Also, it's my birthday month and I'm feeling festive and in a party and multi-layer cake kind of mood.

I made a coconut layer cake quite a while back. It was light and feathery, layered with coconut-cream cheese frosting and coated in a bittersweet chocolate shell. This version is a little different, and now, picking a favorite among the two is intensely difficult. The cake layers in this recipe are sturdier, using all-purpose rather than cake flour. They are also more moist and sugary, calling for a combination of granulated sugar as well as coconut sugar, which melt and caramelize during baking (do try coconut sugar straight out of the container, it's absolutely divine). In addition to coconut sugar, this cake packs in coconut flavor with sweetened cream of coconut and flaked coconut.

The idea for the espresso cream in between the layers came about when I had coffee with coconut milk a few weeks ago. I missed the richness of dairy in my coffee, but the aroma of espresso mingling with the scent of what I still associate with sultry summer evenings at the beach when the coconut suntan lotion is escaping your pores was irresistible. This whipped cream is flavored with instant espresso powder that's been bloomed with boiling water to release its flavor. To give the whipped cream body and stability, I add several ounces of cream cheese and confectioners' sugar, and, for extra richness, some sweetened condensed milk.

Assembly of this whole luscious affair is actually easy and the point is to allow the espresso cream to lick the sides of the cake, so slather it on without being too fussy. Once built, chill the cake so the cream is cool. The cream blends into the thin cake layers and each bite is nothing short of ethereal.

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Coconut and Espresso Cream Layer Cake »