Toasted Coconut Cake with Lime Cream and Mount Gay Rum


Unforgettable Desserts

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This image courtesy of Alexandra Grablewski

The inspiration for this cake came from the tropical flavors of coconut, lime, and gold rum. The yellow cake is made with pure coconut milk as its liquid and has sweetened coconut folded into the batter. Lime cream is spread between the cake layers that have been brushed with a full half-cup of rum. A lightly sweetened whipped cream frosting covers it all, and then it gets a complete cloak of toasted and untoasted coconut. The cake is very moist and even improves in texture and flavor if made a day before serving.

Serves12 to 14

Cooking MethodBaking


Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseDessert

Dietary ConsiderationHalal, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Vegetarian


Taste and TextureCreamy, Nutty, Sweet, Tangy, Tart

Type of DishCake, Dessert


  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup 100% pure coconut milk (not sweetened cream of coconut)
  • 3½ cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided
  • ¾ cup gold rum, such as Mount Gay Eclipse
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 4½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3¾ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • ½ cup (more or less) 100% pure coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ cups chilled heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar


  1. For the cake: position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat two 9 × 2-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, and then spray the parchment.

  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.

  3. In the bowl of stand mixer, add the butter and beat with the flat paddle attachment on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternately with the coconut milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture; add 1 cup of the coconut and beat briefly until smooth. Divide the batter evenly in the pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Reserving 1¼ cups of coconut, spread the remaining 1¼ cups coconut out in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan.

  4. Toast the coconut in the oven, shaking the pan once or twice, until it is golden, about 5 minutes. Put the cake layers in the oven at the same time and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick shows a few moist crumbs when removed. The cakes will be tinged light golden brown and will have begun to come away from the sides of the pans. When the cakes are done, place the pans on racks and immediately poke the cakes all over with a bamboo skewer. Brush the cakes evenly and equally with half of the rum. Cool the cakes completely in the pans on racks. Unmold, peel off the parchment, and brush this bottom side (now on top) with the remaining rum. Trim the layers to be level, if necessary. The layers are ready to fill and frost. Alternatively, place the layers on cardboards and double-wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature and assemble within 24 hours. Cool the toasted coconut in the pan on a rack as well. Set this toasted coconut aside for decorating the outside of the cake.

  5. For the Lime Cream: put the sugar, juice, and yolks in the top of a double boiler. Whisk together to break up the eggs. Add the butter. Place over the bottom of a double boiler filled with hot water that is just touching the bottom of the bowl. Place over medium heat and bring the water to a simmer.

  6. Whisk the mixture frequently over simmering water for about 12 minutes, or until the mixture reaches 180°F. (The temperature is more important than the time it takes, and the curd itself should not simmer.) The curd will thicken and form a soft shape when dropped from a spoon. Stir in the zest after removing from the heat. Let cool to room temperature, scrape into an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 1 week.

  7. For the frosting: put the coconut milk and sugar in a small saucepan. (Chances are that you will have a little over ½ cup of coconut milk left if you have used one 14-ounce can for the cake. Use it all to be efficient. It will be somewhere between ½ cup and 1/8 cup; that’s okay.) Stir to combine, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer until reduced by half. Cool completely.

  8. Put the heavy cream, reduced coconut milk, and confectioners’ sugar in a mixer bowl. Whip with the wire whip attachment until stiff peaks form, but do not overbeat. The frosting should be used immediately.

  9. For the assembly: toss together the 1¼ cups toasted coconut with the reserved 1¼ cups coconut in a large bowl.

  10. Place one cake layer on a 9-inch cardboard round, bottom side down. Spread the top of the cake layer with the lime cream; top with the second cake layer, bottom side up. Frost with the whipped cream frosting. Press the toasted coconut mixture all over the top and sides. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Pure unsweetened coconut milk can be found in Asian markets and the international aisle of the supermarket. It has no sugar added; cream of coconut cannot be substituted. A typical can is 13 to 14 ounces and will give you enough for the cake as well as the frosting. If you are comfortable making citrus curd, you can make it over direct heat—I do all the time. Just don’t walk away, and take care not to scorch or boil it.

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