Bobby Flay’s Ultimate Coconut Cake

January 3, 2010 · 10 comments Print This Post

Bobby Flay's Ultimate Coconut Cake

Bobby Flay’s Ultimate Coconut Cake

The Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay is either hit or miss as far as I’m concerned, all depending on what’s being made (thrown down?).  The other night, the throwdown was about coconut cake.  I’ve been known to eat coconut right out of the bag, and never pass up an opportunity for a good cake (emphasis being on the word good), so I was glued to the TV.

Bobby’s opponent makes an Ultimate Coconut Cake for the cafe he works at, and they mail order them for $100 each.  Both cakes looked yummy, however Bobby’s won,  so I’m going with that cake…for now…

The recipe needed some tweaking, based on both my own experience and some of the comments from readers on the Food Network’s web site, so this is different then what the Food Network has on their site.  Yeah, there’s a laundry list of ingredients, and it does take a while to make, but the time and effort is well worth it.  I’ve gotten positive comments from people who said they didn’t like coconut, or anything made with coconut, so most people should love this cake.

Comments I got from people, most whom are used to my high standards of cooking, after tasting this cake:  “Wow“  “Holy #*@!, that is f’ing good!” “That is really, really good” “Can you make one for my wife’s birthday?“  Personally, I think this is one of the best tasting cakes I have ever made.  This might even come close to knocking off my Strawberry Cream Cake as my all-time best…

Bobby Flay’s Ultimate Coconut Cake


Toasted Coconut
  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
Coconut Simple Syrup
  • 1  cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Coconut Custard:
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites for the cake)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut Filling:
  • 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above), cold
  • 3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
Coconut Buttercream:
  • 24 tbsp (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above) (cold)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature (reserved from the custard)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold

Combine the milks in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the vanilla and coconut extracts. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Simple syrup

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring every 3 minutes, 8-15 minutes.

Buttercream frosting

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the coconut custard and salt and beat until combined and smooth.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Butter and flour 2-9″ round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper, then butter/flour the parchment.

Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pan and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.


Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

Assemble Cake

Using a bread knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers.  Put the bottom half of one cake aside.  Place the bottom of the other cake, cut side up, on a serving plate, or cake decorating stand (recommended).  Brush the bottom cake layer with 1/3 of the simple syrup.  Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake, and using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2″ border around the cake.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the toasted coconut. (editor’s note: the coconut between the layers prevents them “binding” together)

Repeat with 2 more layers, but don’t apply the simple syrup to the 2nd to last layer.  As the simple syrup application might be a bit confusing to some, every layer gets an application of simple syrup, except the 2nd layer from the top.

Brush the reserved bottom half of cake with remaining simple syrup (don’t use too much, or the cake will be soggy), then place it cut side down on the cake.

Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.  Gently press the coconut on the top of the cake into the frosting.

Chill for 4 hours before serving to allow the custard filling to set.

Serves 12.

Notes and observations:

  • This case can be served immediately, but will cut easier and cleaner after it chills.  Of course, after all the work I put into this case, I wasn’t about to wait a few hours for a texture thing, so I chowed down immediately after frosting.  A little messier, but yummy!
  • The time to toast the coconut will depend on the moisture content of the coconut you buy and can vary from brand to brand.  Once the coconut starts to brown, keep a close eye on it, as it will go from slightly brown to burnt almost in the blink of an eye.  I’ve had coconut toast in as little as 6 minutes, but usually around the 10-15 minute mark, which is why I stir it every 3 minutes.  Here is a photo of what your toasted coconut should look like
  • To help dispense the simple syrup, I bought a condiment squeeze bottle at Walmart for $.97.
  • In order to get the layers correct, you can place 4 toothpicks in the cake prior to cutting; a toothpick at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock.  This helps keep your cutting angle on track so your cake halves look better.
  • Sprinkling the coconut on the sides/top of the cake is much easier if you put the cake on a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan/roasting pan.  You will have to sprinkle the sides 3-4 times in order to get enough coconut on them.
  • You baking the cake, you want to error on the side of overbaking the cake, as you will increase the amount of moisture in the cake when you brush the cake with the coconut simple syrup (thanks Nicole!)

Original recipe:

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

ErinsFoodFiles January 14, 2010 at 1:45 am

I caught a bit of that episode too! I never saw the end to see who won though. This seems like an amazing, decandent cake! I’m jealous you took the time to make it, and jealous of those you shared it with!

Myrtice Legra July 27, 2011 at 2:41 am

I’ve been coming here for a roughly a week now and have decided to make my first post to say thank you.

Nicole August 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

I made the cake and followed the recipe exactly, and it wasn’t good at all. The cake was way too soft, so I would chill before assembling. The frosting was horrible though. It tasted like straight butter with a hit of sugar.

Tom August 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm

@Nicole – I’ve made this cake 6 times, but baked it 8 times (I screwed up twice and had to rebake the cake). It sounds like you made the same mistake I made by underbaking the cake. If anything, you want to error on the side of overbaking, as you can somewhat compensate for an overbaked cake by using more of the coconut simple-syrup when you assemble the cake. Thank you for bringing this up; I’ve updated the bottom of the recipe to indicate this note.

As far as the frosting, it’s a straight forward buttercream frosting with the addition of a coconut custard; not sure what to make of the taste of frosting when you made it.

Nina January 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thank you so much for posting your corrections/additions to Bobby Flay’s recipe. I was assigned to bring this exact cake to a Bobby Flay night at a friend’s Gourmet Club. After reading the comments on the Food Network site, I was concerned. Your changes were great. I decided not to use imitation coconut extract (I couldn’t find the natural stuff)…instead I just added more of the Malibu rum. :) That filling is to die for…I could have eaten the whole bowl with a spoon. Wow. I’m so happy with how the cake turned out. It’s chilling in my fridge, and I know it’s going to be a huge hit tonight. Thanks again!!!

Tom January 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm

The cake is a lot of work, but so worth it, especially if you like coconut!

I really need to make another one of these, if for no other reason than to get a better photo. The one I have listed in the blog post really doesn’t do it justice.

angela August 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Where can i find the recipe for your strawberry cream cake

Robert Ross July 29, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Is this better than the Pastry Queen? I’ll have to find out.

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