Caution: You are about to embark on reading a long post. It might as well be a novel, with some pretty pictures and an awesome recipe to break up all the monotony of texttexttexttexttext. Consider yourself warned (but hopefully not intimidated!).
Once upon a time, little Kim (not to be confused with Lil’ Kim) decided to take a chorus class when she was a 6th grader in middle school. Never-mind the fact that she couldn’t (and still can’t) sing. Going instrument-less seemed to be the better alternative to orchestra or band.
All was fine and dandy in little 6th grade Kim’s class until a few weeks before the winter concert. In the spirit of the holidays, the chorus teacher, Ms. Arth, selected an arrangement of “Sleigh Ride” which had waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to many pages of sheet music for her to flip through and simultaneously play the piano. Upon this realization, she asked the class, “Who here knows how to play piano?”
At this, little Kim sheepishly raised her hand, as did a few other kids. Ms. Arth surveyed the room, then announced, “Kim! You’re going to be my Page-Turner!”
Oh goodness. What did little Kim just get herself into?
In the weeks leading up to the concert, Kim would stand beside Ms. Arth at the piano each time the class rehearsed “Sleigh Ride,” waiting for the exact moment to turn the page. Some days she’d get it right. Some days, her fingers couldn’t separate the pages or she’d somehow cause a page to fall. On those days, Ms. Arth would freak out in front of the whole class.
As the concert grew closer, little 6th grade Kim’s stress level continued to grow.
On the night of the concert, Kim’s anxiety was at an all time high. This was in no way helped by the fact that she was listed in the program as “Page-Turner.” What if she screwed up such an important job?
The pressure was on.
When it was time to perform the song, little 6th grade Kim walked up to the piano and stood with her back to the audience. The auditorium was chilly – unusually so. Ms. Arth started to play. It wasn’t long before Kim noticed that the pages weren’t sitting still on the music ledge – they were being rustled around by the fans in the auditorium. As the pages nearly blew off the ledge and to the floor, Kim threw her hands to the pages, ensuring that they stayed in the proper order and, more importantly, in front of Ms. Arth.
Thankfully, the song sounded good from start to finish. More importantly, there were no interruptions (from what the audience could tell). Kim took a big sigh of relief and gave herself a pat on the back. Good work, little 6th grade Page-Turner Kim. Your work here is done.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how that story relates to chocolate cake (and also, why I just spent the last 5 minutes talking in the third person). In short, we all deserve a pat on the back every once in a while – even if, in retrospect, what we once felt was a big accomplishment is now something so insignificant and laughable. (As for speaking in the third person… I plead the fifth.)
On August 13, TMB turned 2 years old – its 2 year “blogiversary,” if you will. What a difference two years makes! I’ve mixed up the design quite a few times, eliminated “.wordpress” from the URL, baked way more yeast breads, and improved on my food photography (see: Old vs. New vs. Newer). Not to get all cheesy (probs. too late), but it’s really rewarding to see how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve been able to teach myself (largely by observation of the rest of the food-blogging universe) in the past two years.
In the two years that I’ve been working on this blog, I had yet to make a layer cake or celebration cake. Shame on me! This cake more than makes up for the absence of such a recipe. Whether or not you have a birthday or occasion coming up that calls for an extravagant cake, make this. It’s cause for celebration in and of itself.
This cake is a combination of several recipes I’ve made in the past (the cake layers, the coconut filling and frosting). The cake itself it rich, chocolaty, super tender, and not overly sweet. The coconut filling comes from a coconut cake recipe that I always request on my birthday; the filling is sweet and creamy, with a buttery accent that is definitely detectable. And of course, it is chock-full of coconut. The almond layer adds an interesting texture and helps cut the sweetness of all of the components. Cream cheese frosting envelops this whole masterpiece – sweet, creamy, tangy, indulgent. It’s everything cream cheese frosting should be. And of course we can’t forget the beautiful chocolate glaze. This is not just for looks, oh no. The ganache-like glaze gives a velvety chocolate finish to each and every bite. Summed up: this cake is like the most decadent, wonderful Almond Joy you’ve ever had.
Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to everyone who has helped keep this blog up and running the past two years. To my fellow bloggers, I consider you my teachers. Each time I read one of your posts or ogle at your mouth-watering photos, I am inspired and pushed to keep improving my cooking, baking, photography, and blogging. To my readers, thank you for your kind words, enthusiasm for my recipes, and giving me a reason to continue documenting my baking adventures. You guys are the best!
Below, I’ve made a few notes that should help with baking this cake as this recipe is more in-depth than those I typically share.
Tools of the Trade
- Long serrated knife (I actually used this watermelon knife – worked great!)
- Tart pan removable bottom
- Cake rounds (8 or 9 inch, in this case)
- Cake turntable
- Piping bag (no tip necessary)
- Offset spatula (I like the small ones)
- Making this cake requires time; in order to assemble the cake successfully you must allow each component enough time to cool down. I recommend baking the cake first, making the filling while the cake is baking, and then making the almond crunch thereafter. The frosting and chocolate glaze should not be made until you are at that point in assembly.
- Cake can be baked a day or two in advance, than wrapped tightly and refrigerated until ready to assemble. Same goes for the filling and almond crunch.
- You can expedite the cooling process of the coconut filling by putting it in a dish with a reasonably large surface area, and then nesting it in a larger vessel filled with ice. Be sure to give it a stir every once in a while.
- Not all of the almond crunch will be used in filling the cake. I snacked on some along the way; I also used the extra for garnish.
- The more you handle the almond filling, the more it will stick to your hands. Return to the fridge if you need to firm it back up.
- Do not skip the crumb-coat step!
- Enjoy the process! Yes, this cake requires a lot of work, but you should enjoy working your way to the end result. I promise it’s worth it!
Four-Layer Chocolate Cake with Coconut and Almond Filling
Barely adapted from Ina Garten
- Butter, for greasing the pans
- 1 ¾ C. all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 2 C. sugar
- ¾ C. cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 C. buttermilk, shaken
- ½ C. coconut oil, melted (I used Trader Joe’s)
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 C. freshly brewed hot coffee
From Sheila Lukins’ USA Cookbook
- 1 ¼ C. heavy cream
- ¾ C. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. coconut cream (I used Goya)
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. whole milk
- ½ C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
- 1 C. sweetened shredded coconut
- 2 C. sliced almonds
- ¼ C. brown sugar
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ C. heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp. Amaretto
Cream Cheese Frosting
Slightly adapted from Sheila Lunkins’ USA Cookbook
- 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temp.
- ½ C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 pound (16 oz.) confectioners’ sugar
- 3 Tbsp. whole milk
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
From Baked Explorations
- 8 oz. dark chocolate (60 to 72% cocoa), coarsely chopped
- ¾ C. (1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened and diced)
- 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Prepare the filling: Place cream, granulated sugar, and coconut cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Stir the cornstarch and milk together in a small bowl until there are no lumps. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the simmering cream until smooth and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, 3 minutes. Add the butter and the coconut and continue cooking, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until thickened, about 2 hours. Keep refrigerated until ready to assemble the cake.
Prepare the almond crunch: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper; butter the parchment. In a bowl, mix together all ingredients until almonds are evenly coated. Spread into an even layer on the baking sheet, and bake for 10 – 12 minutes, being sure to toss the almonds every 3-4 minutes to prevent from burning. Remove from oven when sugar melts and becomes bubbly and almonds become a bit more crisp. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare the cream cheese frosting: Place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with the mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add the salt, confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth and soft. Set aside.
Assemble the cake: Once cakes have cooled, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. This will make the cakes much easier to slice in half. After the layers have chilled, remove from freezer and set one on a cutting board. Take serrated knife and slice horizontally, keeping the knife as level as possible. To separate the top from the bottom, slide the tart pan bottom under the top piece of cake and remove (this is a great trick from Bon Appetit). Repeat process with second layer of cake.
Place cake round on the turntable. Take one of the four layers and center it on the cake round, being sure to place it flat side-down. Fill the piping bag with some of the frosting. Pipe a circle of frosting around the outer edge of the bottom layer of cake; this creates a barrier that will keep the filling in. Take 1/3 of the coconut filling and spread it within the barrier created by the frosting. Sprinkle a generous amount of almond crunch over the coconut filling. Lay the next piece of cake on top, being sure to keep it as centered as possible. Repeat the filling process two more times.
Crumb coat the cake by frosting it with a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting. This will prevent crumbs from getting in the final exterior of the cake. Once frosted, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and proceed with frosting. Use most, if not all, of the remaining frosting to get the most smooth and even result (don’t worry – it won’t be too much frosting; the proportion of frosting to cake is perfect). Once satisfied with how the frosting looks, return to the fridge for another 30 minutes.
Prepare the chocolate glaze: Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat.
Glaze the cake: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cake on a wire rack over the baking sheet. Slowly pour about ¾ cup of the glaze over the cake. Use an offset spatula (preferably small) to smooth it out to the edges. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from refrigerator and slowly pour the rest (or desired amount… I’d recommend most) of the glaze over the cake. It should run down the cake in thick streams. You should be able to control the size and length of the streams by the pour. Garnish with remaining almond crunch if desired. Chill entire cake for about 20 minutes, or until glaze is set, then transfer to serving plate/ pedestal.
To serve: Remove cake from fridge and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes (or preferably until it comes to room temperature). This will make it easier to slice. The cake is also at its best (flavor and texture-wise) at this temperature.