American Cuisine · Cakes · Desserts

Coconut Cake with Saffron Cream

Paella step aside; saffron’s earthy and subtly sweet flavor does wonders in dessert too.

Saffron: you tempted me with visions of paella and Moroccan noodles but I managed to ignore your taunts because you were way too expensive. You’re like the movie star of spices– highly unobtainable and envied by all.

Then I saw you at Trader Joes, looking like one of those ordinary spices at that ordinary price. The thought of taking a picture of you crossed my mind…

I’ve finally found the protagonist to my dense coconut cupcake; the cake recipe is so light and fluffy it practically melts in your mouth. The cake is time-consuming to make but so, so tasty. My recommendation? Make it for those special occasions, you know, for those people that deserve special treatment.

The recipe makes one 9 x 13 cake (cut in half to make a more refined rectangle). If making cupcakes, fill cupcake molds 3/4 full and bake for 25-30 minutes.



  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated

Saffron Cream

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • small pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter


  • 1/3  pound cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut flakes. You can choose to toast them to create that “macaroon” flavor or keep them untoasted.


1. MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 250°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan and line the bottom with wax paper or parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour with the baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the coconut milk with the vanilla and coconut extracts.

2. In a bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between additions. With the machine at low speed, add the dry ingredients in 4 batches, alternating with the coconut-milk mixture.

3. In a large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the machine on, gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar until the egg whites are thick and glossy. Scrape the beaten whites into the cake batter and fold until just combined.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-55minutes (starting checking at 40 minutes), until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool to room temperature.

5. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE SAFFRON CREAM: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, coconut milk and saffron and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in half of the hot saffron milk. Scrape the mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the saffron cream is thickened and just comes to a simmer, 4 minutes. Transfer the cream to a heatproof bowl and stir in the butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream and refrigerate.

6. MAKE THE FROSTING: In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the butter until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat well. Refrigerate until chilled but still spreadable, about 10 minutes.

7. Unmold the cake and discard the wax paper. Using a large serrated knife, slice the cake in half crosswise to create two 9-by-6 1/2-inch layers. Transfer one layer to a platter and spread the saffron cream on top. Cover with the second cake layer, flat side up. Using an offset spatula, spread the cream cheese frosting all over the top and side of the cake. Press the coconut onto the side of the cake and sprinkle the rest of the coconut on the top. Garnish with dark chocolate scribbles or flaked dark chocolate, and/or raspberries. Serve right away or lightly chilled.

Make Ahead

The unfrosted cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature overnight, or frozen for up to 1 week. The frosted cake can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

Adapted from


One thought on “Coconut Cake with Saffron Cream

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s