This is one of my favorite cakes from my book. It reminds me of ballerina in a giant white tutu — completely over the top.
When I was developing the recipe, the idea was to create a big white confection that wasn't overly sweet and capitalized on the flavor and texture of freshly shaved coconut. Using the pre-shredded stuff in the plastic bag gives an inferior result. If packaged coconut is your only choice, be sure to avoid the sweetened variety.
Fresh Coconut Mousse Cake Makes one 8-inch layer cake, 8-10 servings
For the coconut cake layers: 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 5 eggs, separated 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1/2 cup milk 2 teaspoons pure coconut extract 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the coconut mousse: 3 cups heavy cream 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 3/4 teaspoon pure coconut extract 3 cups shredded fresh coconut (from 2 coconuts)
Prepare the coconut cake layers: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the pan bottoms with parchment paper rounds and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt to blend well.
In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the egg yolks with 1 cup of the sugar until they are thick and pale yellow in color. Add the butter, milk, coconut extract and vanilla and beat to combine well. With the mixer set on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients. Set aside.
In a clean dry bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed, until they hold soft peaks. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until the whites hold stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, in two batches, to blend thoroughly.
Divide the batter equally in the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cakes begin to pull away from the pan sides and a wooden skewer inserted near the center of cake comes out clean. Set the pans on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out and carefully peel away the parchment. Reinvert onto the wire rack and let cool completely.
Prepare the coconut mousse: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar on medium0high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft peaks are formed.
Add the vanilla and coconut extract and beat 1 minute longer. Fold in 1 cup of coconut. Chill for at least 1 hour.
Assemble the cake: With a serrated bread knife, trim the rounded top of each layer to create a flat surface.
Place one layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Evenly spread 1 cup of the coconut mousse evenly on the top of the first layer. Gently place the second layer, cut side down, on top of the first layer. Spread 1 cup of coconut mousse on the top of the second layer and place the third cake layer on top, cut side down.
Spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining coconut mousse. Carefully pat handfuls of the remaining 2 cups coconut around the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.