Helpful hints to guarantee a baking success.

 

Like many holiday dinners, the succulent main course and tasty side dishes are just necessary preludes to what everyone is really waiting for: the dessert. For Easter dinner, church potlucks, or any springtime gathering, a coconut layer cake is sure to be the main feature on the dessert sideboard. And while the skills of a BBQ pitmaster are measured by the taste and tenderness of the meat he grills or smokes, the reputation of a Southern baker is based on her ability to produce a tall layer cake with straight lines and smooth frosting. This Easter, treat your guests to this top rated, reader favorite Coconut Cream Cake, which gets high marks for both its beauty and taste. Follow these easy tips to guarantee baking success, and you will discover why this is the only coconut cake recipe you need this Easter.

Plan Ahead

This may seem like a complicated recipe, but with some time management you can bake and assemble this cake with ease. The luxurious filling has to be made ahead and chilled at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours, so you can cook the filling up to two days before your dinner and store it in the refrigerator. The cake layers can also be made in advance and frozen until you are ready to use them. Once the layers are baked, let them cool completely, then wrap securely in plastic wrap and again in aluminum foil, and place them in the freezer. Thaw the layers at room temperature when you are ready to assemble the cake.

Level and Split the Layers

Cake layers often bake with a domed top or uneven sides. If you stack these uneven layers, it will create a lopsided cake. Once your cake layers have cooled, use a long serrated knife to gently shave off the dome or uneven sides, leveling the layer. This process is actually easier to do on chilled cake layers; the cake is cool and firm and less likely to crack or tear. For the same reason, it is easier to split the cake layers horizontally. Even if you didn’t freeze the cake layers days in advance, go ahead and wrap the cooled layers in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. You will have a much easier time leveling and splitting them.

Avoid Leaky Filling

Certain fillings are firm and stable enough to be spread across the layers of a cake and won’t seep out in between the layers. Other fillings, like pastry creams and fruit purées, are thin and, if not sealed, will leak out and down the sides of the cake. Avoid a leaky mess altogether by creating a border for the filling. Use the same frosting you plan to use for the outside of the cake, and pipe a single ring around the outer edge of each cake layer. Then spread the filling inside the border; repeat this step for each layer of filling.

Remember the Crumb Coating

Bumpy, crumb-filled frosting can mar the beauty of an otherwise perfect layer cake. For a smooth finish on your cake, take the time to spread a crumb coating. Before applying the final layer of frosting around the outside of the cake, spread an even, thin layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Cover the cake and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before applying the final layer of frosting.