This is called The Ultimate Coconut Cake – and I have to say, it truly is.  Ultimate in every sense of the word.

This is an “OMG I can’t believe I’m eating this” cake.

This is an “OMG I’ll never be able to finish this slice” cake.

This is an “OMG I’m going to die – but with a smile on my face” cake.

And, It’s really good.

I was given the task of making a combination Mother’s Day and Birthday cake for all the moms plus Victor’s mom’s birthday on May 11th.  The request was a coconut cake because Nonna really likes coconut (who knew?!?)  So…  I went looking for a great recipe.

I thought it really needed to be fairly traditional – no key lime fillings, rum fillings, and the like.  I went to Epicurious to see what they had and found a cake called The Ultimate Coconut Cake from a restaurant in South Carolina..   It sounded intriguing, but in reading the reviews, one woman stated this was NOT the real cake from The Peninsula Grill in South Carolina, but the recipe was posted on Martha Stewart’s site.  Over to Martha and I found it.  Much better than the Epicurious version.

I have to say up front that this is NOT a recipe for the faint of heart.  The entire cake calls for 2 1/2 pounds of butter, 6 1/2 cups of heavy cream, half a dozen eggs, and 12 cups of coconut.

It is one of the richest cakes I have ever made in my life – and while it was worth every artery-clogging calorie, I will probably not be making it again any time soon.  If ever.

But OMG it was good.

There are 5 recipes for the entire cake, recipes for the cake, the filling, the icing, the simple syrup, and the instructions for putting it all together.

Because we had to travel 100 miles north, I made the cakes on Friday and froze them.  I made the filling Friday as well, since it has to be made at least a day in advance of assembly.  The frosting I made this morning.

Ultimate Coconut Cake

Robert Carter
The Peninsula Grill, Charleston, South Carolina



  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes
  • Coconut Cake
  • Robert Carter’s Simple Syrup
  • Coconut Filling
  • Coconut Cake Frosting

Directions for assembly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread coconut flakes in an even layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden, 5 to 7 minutes; set aside to cool.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level; discard trimmings. Cut each cake into 3 even layers. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan.

Place one layer on the cake plate. Brush with about one-fifth of the simple syrup. Spread over 2 cups of filling. Place a second layer on top. Repeat process with the next four layers and top with last remaining layer.

Spread top and sides of cake with frosting, keeping in mind you may not need to use all of it. Press toasted coconut into sides of cake; remove parchment paper strips. Chill cake at least 5 hours and up to 5 days. Slice immediately; bring to room temperature before serving.

Coconut Cake

Yield Makes two 10-inch round cakes


  • Nonstick cooking spray with flour
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, preferably European-style
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray two 10-inch round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until creamy, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl using a spatula.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together cream, vanilla, and coconut extract. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture, alternating with cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing cakes from pans.

Simple Syrup

Yield Makes enough for one cake


  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar


Place water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Coconut Filling

Yield Makes enough for 1 cake


  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 9 cups shredded sweetened coconut


Place cream, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together cornstarch, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon water. Add to cream mixture, bring to a boil, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute.

Place coconut in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coconut is finely chopped. Remove cream mixture from heat and stir in coconut until well combined. Transfer to a large baking dish; let cool.

Cover filling with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Just before using, place mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes

Coconut Cake Frosting

Yield Makes enough for 1 cake


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped


Place butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until creamy.

With mixer on low speed, slowly add vanilla extract, seeds from vanilla bean, and confectioners’ sugar. Continue beating until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.

It’s worth making once – if you have a really big crowd.  This is definitely not the type of cake you would make for a weeknight dessert with the immediate family.

And I followed the recipe.  I didn’t try to cut butter or cream, substitute lighter versions of anything.  This is the type of dessert that you make just as it is designed to be made, or don’t bother.

Oh…  and I found out while putting it together that the cake was featured as a Bobby Flay Throwdown!  Food Network stated:

Bobby takes on a South Carolina chef known for his calling card, a six-layer, 12-pound, luxuriously rich Ultimate Coconut cake. When Bobby goes cake to cake, who will take home the win?

I didn’t look at Bobby’s recipe.  This one was good enough for me.

And I did have to show a picture of the table and the mess.

It was worth it.