When we were planning our little Easter dinner (just for the two us), I was most excited about picking out a dessert (surprised, anyone?). I scoured recent posts on tastespotting and foodgawker, I checked out Epicurious and the Food Network, and while there many lovely, tasty looking desserts, nothing was jumping out as quite what I was looking for. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I wanted it to be a little bit different, light and spring appropriate, and not too big since it was just the two of us. Then I went to Smitten Kitchen, clicked on the the cake recipes, and there it was: lime coconut cake. I don’t know what it was about the lime coconut cake, but it just felt right. It conjured pictures of tropical beaches with crystal clear blue seas and I wanted to go to there.
The cake may not actually transport you to Fiji, but it is exactly what I was looking for. It’s light and moist and the coconut adds a really nice, delicate crunch. Also, I’m just obsessed with lime. I just love it and I’ve been on a total lime kick lately (I’ll be sharing another lime treat with you soon…). It’s just so refreshing!
I like coconut, so I don’t know why I never cook with it. In fact, making this cake brought back memories from my bakery days when I worked at Cake Love because that was the last time I worked with coconut (5 years ago!). I was a prep assistant and one of my jobs was to toast the flaked coconut. My boss was always giving me a hard time about leaving the oven door open too long and letting heat out while cakes were in there baking, while I was just trying to stir a huge, hot sheet overflowing with coconut without spilling it all over the place. It always stressed me out, but man it smelled good.
After I’d picked the recipe, it occurred to me that it was quite fitting because growing up, every Easter my mom made a chocolate cake with a white fluffy frosting covered in coconut that she died green. Pink and yellow peeps sat on the “grass,” making this the absolute best cake ever in my seven-year-old mind. The large, toasted coconut topping of this key lime coconut cake make an elegant, grown up dessert (not that there’s anything wrong with green coconut and peeps!!).
Between the toasting of the coconut and the zesting of the key limes, our kitchen smelled great before we even put the cake in the oven. By the time we were pulling the cake out of the oven, our whole apartment smelled absolutely amazing. It’s the perfect cake to bake when company is coming over because they’ll have a smile on their face the second they walk in and get a whiff of the coconut and lime, and they’ll really be smiling when they take their first bite.
Lime Coconut Cake
The recipe says that the coconut toasts to a nice golden color in 8-12 minutes, but my first batch was past golden and well into brown when I checked on it after 4 minutes. My second batch was perfect at 3 minutes. My oven thermometer showed that the temperature was actually just under 350F, so I’m dubious about the 8-12 minutes. Better to check often because you can always cook it longer.
I lost track of how many key limes I ended up using, but it was certainly more than I expected. I probably used around 12-14 total. They’re little, so you don’t get much juice out of each one!
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour*
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespooons fresh key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh key lime juice
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Preheat oven to 350F with a rack positioned in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
Toast all of your coconut (1 cup total) in a small baking pan in the oven, stirring once or twice, until golden, about 3 minutes. Let the coconut cool. Leave the oven on.
Beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and zest with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir together the flour and 1/2 cup coconut (reserve remainder for topping). Stir together the milk, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and the vanilla. At low speed, mix the flour and milk mixtures into the egg mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour.
Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes , then turn onto a cooling rack and discard the parchment. Cool completely.
Whisk together the confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and rum (if using) and pour over cake. Sprinkle with remaining toasted coconut.