Mom’s Coconut Layer Cake with Citrus Curd Filling

Sunday March 29, 2015

photo courtesy of Pornchai Mittongtare

If you like to bake for special occasions and holidays, you need a coconut cake in your repertoire. Coconut layer cake, one of the most basic of composed cakes, is a harbinger of spring cooking. This is a modern version of a cake that was wildly popular during the Civil War and known as a Robert E. Lee Cake since it was his favorite cake: a 1-2-3-4 basic yellow cake, derived from the original pound cake formula, was sandwiched with lemon curd and frosted with a cooked coconut custard.  My mother makes this cake with a whipped cream frosting and a mixed citrus curd filling, I believe originally a McCalls cooking school recipe from the 1980s. Oh that little bit of lime is excellent blended with the lemon and orange.You can make the cooked curd filling the day before and have it nice and chilled in the fridge waiting for assembly. The plain butter cake is baked in 3 pans, which means you just fill and stack. No cutting in half horizontally.

There are two types of coconut. One is easily available in the cake mix section of the supermarket and it is a very moist, sweetened shredded coconut. This is the coconut used in this recipe. The other is a thick shaved, more dry, coconut that is unsweetened and most often used in savory dishes, salads and granola. If you use this, the cake wont taste right.

Citrus and coconut spell divine in culinary lingo. The finished cake dusted with coconut makes a spectacular characteristic shaggy look, white on white, which is the hallmark decoration of this cake. Really attractive. This still one of my best spring cakes and an ideal birthday cake.

Makes three 9-inch layers, 12 to 16 servings.

the marvelous slice, ready for mouth


2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (non aluminum like Rumford)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups organic granulated cane sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup milk

Citrus Fruit Curd Filling

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup water

3 large egg yolks, beaten

1 tablespoon each lemon and lime zest

Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting

3 cups cold heavy cream

3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment, spray with butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray, and dust with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350º.

Toast the coconut: While the oven is heating up, place the coconut on a clean baking sheet and toast just until the tips are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

For the cake: Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In the work bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time until smooth. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately in three additions with the vanilla and milk; beat 30 seconds until smooth. Divide the batter between the 3 cake pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack and cool completely before frosting.

For the citrus curd filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk to avoid lumping. Remove from the heat and whisk in the 3 egg yolks and zests.  Return to the heat and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, transfer to a small bowl and cool completely. Can be made the day ahead and refrigerated.

icing the cake

To whip the cream and assemble, with an electric mixer, beat the 1 cup of the cream to stiff peaks and fold into the fruit curd.  Then, without washing the bowl, beat the remaining 2 cups of cream, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy and the mounds hold their own shape.  Sandwich between two layers with all of the fruit curd filling, then with a metal spatula, swirl the vanilla whipped cream over the tops and sides of the cake.  Sprinkle all over with the coconut.  Store in the refrigerator.

individual serving...the cupcake

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

Your Comments

6 comments Comments Feed
  1. Linda David 03/04/2013 at 3:25 am

    My mouth is watering just looking at the picture! I am anxious to try the recipe. Thank you!

  2. Sheila Stagner 03/04/2013 at 7:07 pm

    This looks amazing. Can’t wait to try. Thank you. For sharing.

  3. Kathi 03/04/2013 at 7:21 pm

    how much water goes in the citrus filling it doesn`t tell .. in the ingredients …

  4. Beth 18/04/2013 at 7:31 am

    1/4 cup water. thank you for noticing that and I will fix the recipe as well. my best, Beth

  5. Beth 18/04/2013 at 7:32 am

    you are most welcome sheila. my best, Beth

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