In the wrong light, this cake says: Hello, I drink like a pirate, I don’t have that many friends, and to top it all off, my cake frosting skills are horrifying, so I need to cover everything with pretty fruit and flaky coconut.
I just realized that when I was trying to sell you on this cake, and it made me laugh. But we all know better. Rum-spiked? That’s a good thing. Small enough for a gathering of, say, eight of your loveliest and most cherished people (including yourself)? Or perhaps as just one option in an array of desserts? That’s a good thing. That’s also a cute thing. Easy to decorate, allowing you to enjoy the festivities instead of sweating over uneven frosting? That’s neat, too.
Also a good thing: It tastes fantastic. Fragrant and light, with a pure coconut flavor and a little rum. As for the texture, this cake feels downright luxurious — dense, rich, velvety (way more so than “velvet” cake of any kind, I will say). I guess that’s what happens when you swap buttermilk for full-fat coconut milk. I don’t regret anything; this is a small, yet mighty (read: rich) cake, and it’s hard to mess up, from baking to decorating.
I think the recipe I adapted this from was written before the coconut oil craze of recent years. I didn’t think about this earlier, and I should have tried it, but I bet coconut oil would be a great substitute for butter here. By the time I realized it, the butter was already perfectly softened, and for someone who always forgets to take it out of the fridge in time (hi), that alone is like Christmas. So, try it if you’re feeling it! If you figure out how to replace the eggs, the cake itself would be vegan. Bananas perhaps? With whipped coconut cream frosting? This is a worthwhile experiment, friends. Remind me to try it again in a year, unless you get to it first.
Speaking of the frosting: It uses reduced coconut milk to concentrate the flavor. You’d get the same effect, I think, if you just put your coconut milk in the fridge and let the good stuff solidify at the top. However, I also wanted to reduce some rum to get the flavor in there without messing up the texture too much. So let’s just take the extra step to boil the bejesus (i.e. extra liquid) out of coconut milk and rum, ok?
Don’t worry about how your frosting looks (mine is always a homely beast).
See? Don’t matter none.
Also, if you’re going to take pictures and you’re tempted to throw flaked coconut everywhere like it’s some dessert nativity scene of sorts — don’t. It looks stupid (at least mine did) and you’ll have to clean it up and that invites all sorts of existential “what is really happening here/what am I doing” thoughts into your brain. I know from experience.
Pomegranate seeds look okay, though. See? Much better, actually.
I know you’re already Decembering like a bunch of festive bosses, but if this sounds like it’s up your alley, give it a shot. Send me a picture! If there are coconut flakes everywhere and you’ve managed to make it look good, I’m going to be jealous (in a totally positive and supportive way).
Happy holiday season, all. I’m feeling festive and full of cake, and I hope you are, too.
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut, like Coco Lopez
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (canned--I used full-fat but I suspect light will be fine)
- Pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup coconut milk, room temperature
- 1/4 cup light rum
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Sweetened flaked coconut
- Pomegranate seeds
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prep two 6-inch cake pans by buttering the inside, lining the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, then dusting insides and bottom with flour and tapping out excess. (Note that you can also double the recipe and use two 9-inch pans.)
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until incorporated. Beat sugar, butter, and sweetened cream of coconut using a handheld mixer until fluffy, then beat in egg yolks, rum, and vanilla extract. Turn speed to low, then beat in flour mixture, followed by the coconut milk, until just incorporated.
- Clean and dry the beaters, then beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into the batter, then divide batter between the two pans evenly. Smooth tops and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
- Cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes in the pans, then invert onto racks and cool completely.
- Bring coconut milk and rum to a simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Turn down the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced by half to 1/3 of a cup, about 20 minutes depending on your stove. Cool mixture completely in the fridge.
- Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat butter until smooth. Add the sugar, salt, and the reduced coconut milk and rum mixture. Turn speed up to high and beat until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
- Frost the middle and outside of the cake (don't worry too much about how it looks). Cover outside with coconut flakes and decorate top with kiwi and pomegranate.