Bake up the taste of summer with a cake from a city that knows a thing or two about heat. This Savannah Coconut Cake is a classic elevated southern trophy. Coconut is added in several parts of the baking to create a full and developed coconut flavor.
Over a hundred fifty years ago, as the evening settled into the city, the lanterns of the shrimp fishermen—going out in their boats and setting their traps—lit the water horizon with a soft yellow hue. In Savannah these bobbing lanterns were more of a vista than the actual night sky. It is the image, romantic, that makes you travel to the southern port city. You can still find some of that history, wedged between the brick buildings or sprawling in one of the many town squares.
The weeping gone-with-the-wind Spanish moss is countered by the tropical palms. These semi-tropical features hint at the Caribbean waters, which lay south and beyond the Atlantic coastline. The days, laced with heat, break around the same time that those boats would’ve headed out to gather. Like ghostly apparitions on the memory, you think those same fishermen wade in the night, harvesting and re-trapping even beyond the grave.
Take your time. Stay glued to the porch swing during the afternoon. Go to a tea parlor or dinner party. Receive calling cards. Keep only the one from a the horse breeder whose face wrinkles with a sun aged smile and smells of cedar wood. Eat dishes filled with she-crab and rice. But you will surly, and always, end the meals with something sweet.
Savannah Coconut Cake.
It is the cake that needs no frivolous adornment, takes no embarrassment by its seemingly monotone appearance.
The elegance of this Savannah Coconut Cake comes from an absence, not from hurried ad hoc adornment. Just as there are statement gowns, there is something evocative from a well edited, well tailored linen dress.
Elegance comes in many forms.
Coconut flavor is incorporated into multiple steps of the baking process. Coconut oil is one of the fats used to moisten the cake. The slightest drop of coconut extract is used bolster the flavor of the coconut milk in the batter and frosting. Ala southern tradition this cake uses shortening in the batter to give it—in tandem with the floral coconut oil—a richness only found in classic southern cakes.
Other summer themed cakes:
Savannah Coconut Cake
For the Coconut Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (360g)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 1 cup unsweetened full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream room temperature (120g)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (145g)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil room temperature (100g)
- 6 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup shredded coconut
For the Coconut Buttercream:
- 1 pound unsalted butter very soft (454g)
- 8 ounces cream cheese very soft (225g)
- 2 pounds powdered sugar (907g)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup unsweetened full fat coconut milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp coconut extract
To make the Savannah Coconut Cake:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch cake pans with baking spray, set aside.
- Sift then whisk first 4 ingredients (dry ones) together, set aside. In another bowl whisk the following 5 ingredients (milks and extracts), set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat shortening and coconut oil together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes on medium speed. Scrape paddle and sides of bowl. On medium-low speed, add eggs—one at a time—beating between each addition. Scrape bowl and paddle again. With mixer speed on lowest speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternating with the wet mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape bowl to ensure even mixing. Fold in coconut.
- Divide between prepared pans. Bake 30 to 38 minutes, rotating pans halfway. Cake tops will be golden in color and a toothpick inserted will come out with a few moist, not wet, crumbs. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
To make the Coconut Butttercream:
- Beat butter and cream cheese until soft and lump free, about 5 minutes in medium speed, scraping frequently. Gradually add powdered sugar, adding coconut milk whenever the frosting gets too thick.
- Finish with extracts and salt.