Powdered-Sugar Coconut Layer Cake

Prep Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs
1 9-inch-round cake

The powdery softness of confectioners' sugar gives this cake an especially velvety crumb. For an especially interesting design, use a variety of open- and closed-star tips when piping the trees on top of the cake. For a how-to, go to marthastewart.com/coconut-cake-buttercream.


  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

  • 4 ½ cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for pans

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt

  • ¼ cup coconut oil, room temperature

  • 3 ½ cups confectioners' sugar

  • 9 large egg whites, room temperature, lightly beaten

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

  • ¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut

  • 5 ½ cups Basic Buttercream


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter; line bottoms with parchment. Butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter with coconut oil on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar; beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add egg whites and vanilla; beat until combined, about 1 minute.

  3. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with coconut milk in 2 batches, until just combined.

  4. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops. Bake until a tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack; let cool completely.

  5. With a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes level. In a bowl, fold shredded coconut into 1 cup buttercream. Spread evenly on one cake layer. Top with second cake layer, trimmed-side down. Reserve 2 cups buttercream; use remainder to spread a smooth layer over entire cake.

  6. Place reserved buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (such as Ateco #826). Use a tree-shaped cookie cutter to mark an overlapping pattern on top of cake, then fill in each tree by piping within markings: Working from bottom to top, hold pastry bag at a 45-degree angle and place tip on cake; squeeze while pulling forward and then up, releasing pressure to make pointed tips. Cake can be stored in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before serving.

    Will Anderson
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