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Coconut Layer Cake

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Like typical young siblings, my sisters and I would spend hours of our youth engaging in pretend play scenarios based on our favorite TV shows. Each play session would begin with a tense negotiation over who would represent each character. As the oldest of my siblings, I typically drew a first-pick card, of my own creation. This meant that I was usually Alvin when we played the Chipmunks, Brittany when we played the Chipettes, Lion-O when we played Thundercats, and Stephanie Zinone when we played Grease 2.

Looking back, it now seems somewhat inappropriate that my sisters and I played Grease 2 games in our youth. We truly had no comprehension of the lyrics we belted into the neighborhood, as we swung merrily on our backyard swingset. Three young girls, ages 5-9, singing at the top of lungs, Let’s do it for our country… I’m certain that our parents were sufficiently mortified.

Yesterday, I had a flashback of these memories of my sisters, as I sat watching my two boys play. They’d cleared out half of their toy box and situated themselves comfortably inside. Listening to their conversation, I learned that the toy box was now a pirate ship and they were about to play Jake and the Never Land Pirates, a current favorite Disney show.

And then the predictable negotiation began, led in older sibling style, by my four year old. He explained that he would be playing the part of Jake and his two year old brother would be a character known as Cubby.

But my two year old has never been one to roll over and accept his fate. He responded with an assertive, “NO, I’m Jake!” Even at the young age of two, he has a clear understanding of starring roles and he was not about to play sidekick.

The negotiations quickly dissolved into a chanting match of “I’m Jake” after that. And then they played Legos instead.

Celebrating Easter this past weekend, there were other flashbacks of my youth; hunting for eggs, early-morning candy treats, and discovering the animal crackers, which the Easter bunny always hid at the bottom of our baskets. And best of all…our traditional Easter dessert; bunny cake!

The bunny cake of my youth was always made from a box of yellow cake mix, frosted with a tub of white frosting, coated with coconut, and decorated with a bunny face. In my mom’s version, it was a single layer cake, with ears cut from the second cake round, frosted pink in the center. Two black jelly beans formed the eyes, a pink one for the nose, and shoestring licorice for the mouth and whiskers. An adorable Easter treat.

I took a few liberties with my version of a bunny cake. I skipped the ears in order to make a two layer cake, filled with a luscious coconut custard. I coated my cake in a simple cream cheese frosting and the traditional shredded coconut. Our bunny’s face was constructed of the same jelly beans and shoestring licorice I loved in my youth.

He may have lacked ears, but the kids didn’t mind. In fact, with this cake, I have finally managed to impress my discerning two-year-old, who has been unusually generous with his praise of my culinary skills, exclaiming “You make good things, Mommy! You make good things.” Thank you, dear. I try. 

This cake works perfectly for a coconut-coated bunny cake around Easter time or a decadent coconut layer cake any time of year!

Vanilla Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two round cake pans. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture and milk, alternating about a third at a time, until well blended. Divide the batter equally between the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes. Cool completely.

Coconut Custard Filling


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/6 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut


Bring the milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and one tablespoon of cornstarch to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently so that the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Then, reduce the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining tablespoon of cornstarch. Gradually whisk about 1/2 of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, starting with a slow drizzle. (Gradually incorporating the hot milk into the egg yolks tempers the eggs, allowing them to slowly rise in temperature without scrambling.) Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Stir in the shredded coconut. Allow to cool at room temperature until only slightly warm before spreading onto the cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 bars ), softened
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Beat together all ingredients until smooth.

To assemble the cake: Carefully slice off the rounded tops of both cakes. Line the edges of a plate/platter with foil or wax paper to keep the plate clean while you frost the cake. Place one cake round, cut side up in the center of the plate. Spread the slightly cooled custard across the cake. Place the second cake round, cut side down, on top of the custard. Spread the cream cheese frosting all around the cake. Press about 2 cups of shredded coconut around the top and sides of the cake. Carefully remove the foil or wax paper from the edges of the platter. If desired, use jelly beans and shoestring licorice to create a bunny face on the top. Refrigerate to keep fresh.

**If desired, you can double or triple the custard recipe. Then, slice each cake round in half and spread custard between each layer for a taller, multi-layered coconut cake.

Alternately, you can skip the custard layer and cut the second cake round into bunny ear shapes. Frost the ears onto the other cake round for a full, single layered bunny-faced cake.

3 responses »

  1. You do make good things LOL

    This sounds delicious and is so adorable!

  2. What wonderful treasured memories from your childhood and your earless bunny cakes looks great.
    🙂 Mandy

  3. The Mad Caker

    Kudos for NOT using a mix, and for doing something tres ‘gourmand’ with the filling. Amazing that your kids will eat coconut. Mine wouldn’t.

    One of the first cakes I ever made as a child (maybe age 8?) was out of the first Betty Crocker Children’s Cookbook I’d received as a gift from a neighbor, and it was a Coconut Bunny Cake!

    Unbelievable! I think I found it online: (Actually a fun idea site – apparently you could have folded up a plain piece of paper, and stuck the ears in that way!).

    The basic recipe I use to riff my own versions from these days is this more grown-up one: It’s really good, but I never use white flour in anything!

    Happy baking!


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