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Treat guests to a rich Coconut-Cream Cake

Wed., Dec. 13, 2006, midnight

Luna’s six-layer Coconut-Cream Cake will steal the show at any dinner party.

You’ll need three 8-inch round cake pans for this recipe the restaurant shared in the December edition of Bon Appetit magazine.

Coconut-Cream Cake

For the coconut-custard filling:

3 large eggs

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

4 cups half-and-half

4 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

For the cake:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (see note)

For the buttercream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

4 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted

For the coconut-custard filling: Beat eggs, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Place half-and-half and coconut in heavy large saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan; add bean. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Gradually whisk coconut mixture into egg mixture. Return to pan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture boils, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard bean. Whisk in butter. Transfer to large bowl; press plastic wrap onto surface and chill until cold, at least 3 hours. This can be made oneday ahead. Keep chilled.

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms of pans with parchment. Spray parchment.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until creamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with coconut milk in 2 additions. Divide batter among pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely. Using serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place cake halves on baking sheets in single layer and freeze 1 hour for easy assembly.

For the buttercream: Whisk cream, egg yolk, vanilla extract and cornstarch in small, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture just begins to boil. Transfer to small bowl; cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours. The vanilla base can be made one day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and salt in large bowl until fluffy, about 7 minutes. Gradually beat in cold vanilla base until smooth.

Place 1 cake round on plate. Spread 1 cup filling over. Repeat with 4 more cake layers and remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer, pressing to adhere. Spread buttercream over sides and top of cake. The cake can be made to this point one day ahead. Cover loosely; chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Press toasted coconut onto top and sides of cake to cover.

Note: Coconut milk is available at many supermarkets and at Indian, Southeast Asian and Latin markets.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: Unavailable


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