I made the “coconut-iest” coconut cake for Becca’s birthday party. It was jam-packed with coconut flavors! There was coconut milk and grated coconut in the cake layers, a coconut-flavored pastry cream and coconut Swiss meringue buttercream. If you love coconut, this cake is for you!
But before we get to the cake, I wanted to share with you all how we celebrated Becca’s turning 2 years old. This will be quite lengthy, so if you came here only for the recipe, click below to jump to the recipe.
Becca turns two!
Our darling little Becca turned 2 years old (two!!) a few weeks ago. Somebody pinch me! My baby is now a full-fledged toddler, with the matching tantrums to boot! Look at how tiny she was when she was born:
The lucky little lady got not one, but two birthday parties. We celebrated on her exact birthday in Langsur (Germany) with family and friends in the backyard of Oma and Opa and a week later here in Biel.
Becca’s birthday party in Germany
Lately, she has been loving Minnie Mouse. She has been wearing mostly only Minnie Mouse shirts in rotation (she is choosing what to wear now!) and carrying around one, or all, of her 3 Minnie Mouse stuffed toys . So naturally, her party in Langsur was Minnie Mouse-themed.
Throwback to her first birthday
I made her party decors pretty simple though, having learned from her first birthday party. She had a jungle-themed party and we did so much. We had rented a hall and invited so many people. Because the venue was quite big, we made a lot of decorations, which included making vines with paper leaves, paper monkeys hanging and birds. We blew up so many balloons, even had a piñata for the kids. I also made a two-tiered jungle-themed cake (a yellow cake and chocolate cake), a smash cake (sugar free banana cake) and carrot cupcakes, as well as serving an early dinner with Filipino food (which I asked my friends for help.)
the birthday girl
Birthday in Langsur
So this year, I made only buntings and some cupcake toppers. We blew up a few balloons to decorate the backyard and that was it! I managed to do the decors all on my own!
I baked 2 cakes for her, an ube cake and chocolate cake (see here for the recipe). Ube is purple yam and is commonly used in Filipino desserts. Every time I introduce ube to my non-Filipino friends they love it!
Sadly, we didn’t have a lot of pictures of her party as I forgot my camera in Biel, and the friend I borrowed the camera from wasn’t able to make it. These pictures were from my phone.
She was so excited from opening gifts from family that she missed her early afternoon nap. So an hour into her party she fell asleep and napped for 2 hours.
But despite the birthday girl not present, all her guests had a lovely time. The kids came prepared with their bikes and scooters and went around the town for a bit as well. I’m sure they all slept well that night!
Becca’s birthday party in Switzerland
In Switzerland, Becca shared her party with Mateo. Mateo is the son of a Filipina friend, Jo, here in Biel. Mateo was born only 2 days after Becca, so it was an easy decision for us to have a joint birthday party. Jo graciously offered the garden with a playground in front of their apartment complex. She reserved the place and we made plans.
We needed a gender-neutral theme, and we came up with animals. Both toddlers are at the age that they love animals. I decided on animal silhouettes as it would be easy to get stock photos or clipart that would come together.
We divided the work, I would make the buntings and cakes, as well as some empanadas. Jo and her mom would make pancit, pork lumpia (see here for my recipe for tuna lumpia, which is a good alternative), vegetable and fruit platters, nachos and dip.
I made the buntings on MS Powerpoint because I find it easier to move the shapes, text and pictures around than in MS Word. I will be posting a tutorial on how to make buntings, so watch out for that!
Becca’s cake was an ube cake (yes, another one! I wanted to introduce it to our non-Filipino friends here) and Mateo got a coconut cake. Everyone enjoyed and had a slice of each. A few of our guests also took home some remaining slices.
Becca skipped her nap this time and really enjoyed her party. She was running around and playing with the other children. We went home with a couple scrapes to her knee and face. Such is being a child.
Now let’s get to the cake!
How to make coconut cake
I have been making this coconut cake (a recipe I found online years ago, and for the life of me I cannot remember from where! If I do, I will make sure to credit the creator of this recipe) for a couple of years now and I have always finished it with just icing and sometimes shredded coconut. This time, I wanted to add more coconut flavor and made coconut pastry cream, which I adapted from David Lebovitz in his cookbook Ready for Dessert and the method from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. It was a hit!
Here is how you make it!
Bake the coconut cake layers
Special ingredients for the coconut cake:
Shredded coconut – make sure to buy unsweetened as the cake batter is sweet enough
Coconut milk – if you have access to fresh coconut milk, use the first press only. If not, I suggest Thai coconut milk as the quality is quite good. Check the ingredients that it is just coconut milk, or sometime with water, but no preservatives.
Get your ingredients ready.
Prepare your 8-inch cake pans and oven. Line with parchment paper, grease the sides and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans. Tap out the excess flour. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Set a rack in the middle of your oven.
Mix the coconut cake batter and bake:
Into the bowl of an electric mixer or a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter pieces and mix on slow speed for 1 minute until the flour becomes coarse and crumbly (like you are making a pie crust).
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, coconut milk, shredded coconut and vanilla.
Add half of the coconut mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat on medium high speed for 1 minute. Add the remaining coconut mixture and beat for another minute until the batter is well mixed, light and fluffy. It is important to get enough air into the batter.
Divide the cake batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out dry.
Cook the cake layers completely before frosting.
Make the pastry cream
Set out your ingredients.
In a microwave safe jug, heat the coconut milk and whole milk in the microwave for a minute at high.
In a saucepan (do not turn on the heat yet!), whisk the yolks and sugar until light yellow and ribbony. Whisk in the cornstarch and salt until smooth. Add in the milks a little at a time, whisking the entire time. When you’ve added half, you may pour the rest in a more steady stream.
Cook over medium heat until it bubbles, then cook for a couple more minutes, whisking the whole time until it thickens with a pudding consistency. Remove from heat and add in the butter.
Transfer immediately to a container, cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap is pressed right on the surface of the pastry cream to avoid a skin forming.
Cool before using.
Make the Swiss Meringue buttercream
(See here for step-by-step instructions on making Swiss Meringue buttercream.)
Fill a saucepan where your heatproof bowl (metal, glass or your stand mixer’s bowl) can fit on top with at least 1 ½ inches (4 centimeters) water and bring to a simmer.
Combine the sugar and egg whites in the mixer bowl. Set on top of the saucepan and whisk constantly until the sugar has melted (pinch a mixture and if it’s smooth, you’re good to go), or it has reached a temperature of 140°F/60°C.
Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whisk, starting on low-speed, until stiff peaks form.
Ensure that the meringue is cool, then with the mixer on low-speed, add the butter cubes one at a time. When all the butter has been added, it may look curdled, but don’t worry. Increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture becomes silky and smooth.
Stir down the buttercream with a spatula to get out the air bubbles.
Add in the coconut milk and mix well.
Color the icing as desired, at least 2 colors.
Rotating cake decorating stand – this will make smoothing on the buttercream on the sides easier. If you don’t have one, you can put your cake board on a big plate and center it on an upside-down bowl. Choose a bowl that is wide enough to support the weight of the cake and plate. I have done that and it works too. This is the one I use.
Bench scraper – normally used for bread making, this has been one of my most used cake decorating tool. I have one similar to this.
Offset spatula – You will need this to spread the icing. I use onelike the middle one in this set for normal-sized cakes.
Piping bags – if you don’t want to buy, you may also use freezer bags.
Let’s make a pretty cake!
Get your cake stand/cake board and smear a bit of icing to stick the cake to it.
Center one layer of coconut cake on the stand/board. Pipe a wall of icing and then with an offset spatula, spread all the coconut pastry cream in the middle. Make the icing wall higher if needed.
Stack the second layer of coconut cake, pressing down and ensuring that the cake is level.
Do a crumb coat. Cover the stacked coconut cake with a thin layer of frosting to ensure that all the crumbs are trapped. Chill in the fridge for at least 10 – 15 minutes to let the icing set. See here for pictures on how it is done.
Then we make the stripes. Decide on the order of your stripes. Pipe thick lines of alternating colors all around the coconut cake and fill the top of the cake with buttercream as well.
Smooth the top of the cake with an offset spatula. Then run your spatula or bench scraper (make sure it is at a vertical angle) around the cake. Spin the cake while holding the spatula or bench scraper steady against the cake. Stop every once in a while to scrape off excess buttercream. Continue all around the cake.
Clean the top edge of the cake by using an offset spatula, swiping the blade across the top of the cake, from the sides going into the inside of the cake. Do that all around until you have a smooth top.
Finish your coconut cake with any additional finishing touches. I cut out fondant cat and dog head silhouettes for Mateo’s cake and the text using Tappits.