Yields 1 very tall 9-inch cake, serves about 20
This recipe, adapted from the one served at Minetta Tavern, is involved, but the results are worth it. If you don’t have four cake pans, bake these in two batches. The cakes can be made ahead – cool thoroughly and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The pastry cream can be partly made a day ahead; refrigerate, then whisk in whipping cream when ready to use.
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 1/4 cups sugar4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups loosely packed sweetened coconut (about 5 1/4 ounces)
3 cups cake flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large eggs)
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup sugar
10 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 to 6 tablespoons dark rum
2 cups toasted unsweetened coconut shavings (about 4 ounces)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy; stop and occasionally scrape. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds and scraping after each addition. Mix in coconut.
In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together; set aside. Add vanilla to milk.
Using half the ingredients at a time, alternate mixing dry and wet ingredients into the butter mixture, scraping frequently and mixing just until each addition is fully incorporated.
Divide the batter equally between the 4 prepared pans and level the tops. Bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating and moving pans from front to back after about 15 minutes.
Cool 10 minutes in the pans. With a thin knife, cut the cake out of each pan by running the knife snugly around the edge to loosen. Invert the cake and cool on a rack.
For the pastry cream: In a bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch; set aside.
Combine the milk, creme fraiche, vanilla bean seeds and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed, non-aluminum saucepot. Stir and bring to just under a boil over medium heat. (The mixture may look curdled, but will come together when cooked with the cornstarch.)
Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then transfer back to the saucepot. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat, until the mixture comes to a boil and becomes thick enough to hold a line when you draw your finger across the back of a spoon or spatula, about 165°. If it becomes lumpy, smooth out with a whisk.
Remove saucepot from the heat, and whisk in unsalted butter. Continue whisking until cool (speed up the process by moving pastry cream to a glass or metal bowl set in an ice bath), then place plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until cold.
Just before assembling the cake, whisk the heavy cream to stiff peaks; fold into the pastry cream.
For the butter cream: Whisk together the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until just beginning to froth. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water (the bowl should not touch the water) and gently whisk until egg whites are hot. You don’t need to whip volume into the whites; just keep them moving so they don’t cook.
When the whites are hot, place the mixing bowl in the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; whip on high speed until egg whites reach room temperature – they will be frothier with a thicker layer of bubbles on top.
Reduce to medium speed and gradually add the softened butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla and beat until mixture thickens to a thick, smooth creamlike consistency.
To assemble: Make the rum syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in dark rum. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, with a serrated knife, horizontally trim away any rounded top from each of the 4 cakes; brush all the cut surfaces with syrup to moisten lightly. On a 9-inch cardboard cake round or serving platter, place the first layer of cake with the bottom side down. Spread 1/3 of the pastry cream evenly on top of the layer. Repeat with the second and third cake layers. The fourth cake layer should be placed trimmed side down. Press gently to settle the layers together.
The cake should be as even as possible; you may need to push and adjust a few layers so the cake stands evenly. Brush the entire cake with syrup, trying to soak evenly.
Brush any crumbs away before you start frosting. With a large palette knife or spatula, start coating the sides of the cake with the buttercream, then coat the top. Smooth out with the palette knife dipped in hot water. Use your hands to mound the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake, brushing away and reusing any that falls onto the platter. Finish with more toasted coconut on top.
Per serving: 597 calories, 6 g protein, 61 g carbohydrate, 37 g fat (23 g saturated), 134 mg cholesterol, 181 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.