4-layer Coconut Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting & Rosettes / by Judy Kim

by Judy Kim

4-layer Coconut Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting & Rosettes

Yield: 4 layer (9-inch ) cake or approximately 22 - 24 cupcakes

Coconut cake, probably my favorite type of cake. There was this one time when I doubled this cake and some of the layers ended up tasting like churros. If I can figure out a way to duplicate that, I'll let you know. 

Whenever I am piping a new cake design, I always practice on parchment paper. You can scoop up the frosting and re-use it while you're practicing your skills or planning a new design concept.  

Note: The quality of the coconut milk can make a difference. Some brands are a bit too watery. I like to  Vietnamese coconut milk found at Asian food stores



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Cut 2 rounds of parchment paper to fit the base of each cake pan. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans with room temperature butter, place a parchment round in each cake pan and grease the top of the parchment paper. Dust with flour and disgard any excess.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add butter and sugar; beat until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with spatula. Lower speed and gradually add flour mixture. Batter will be thick and pasty.
  3. In a mixing bowl (I prefer a large Pytex liquid measuring cup with a spout for an easy pour) whisk together cream of coconut, coconut milk, rum, orange zest and orange juice. Alternately add shredded coconut and the orange juice mixture to the batter.
  4. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 6 egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter with a large rubber spatula.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Smooth out batter using an off set spatula. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake, it should come out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack. Unmold cakes once they are just cool enough to handle, about 15 to 30 minutes. If the cake is completely cooled it can be difficult to unmold.
  6. Using a serrated bread knife, place one hand on top of cake to hold it steady and cut each layer in half horizontally through the center of the cake into two layers. If cake layers are domed during baking, level cake by using the serrated knife. Those are the best parts of the cake to snack on!
  7. Cake should be completely cooled for several hours before frosting, or made the day before. If you make the cake in advance wrap each cake individually before cutting into layers and wrap tightly with plastic wrap after completely cooled. Store in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.


  1. In a large metal bowl whisk together sugar and egg whites. Set bowl over a pot of boiling water as a double boiler, constantlywhisk until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  2. Pour mixture in bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whip on high speed until it is thick, shiny and white. The peaks should be very firm. If they are not firm, the frosting will not be as stable.  
  3. While the egg whites are whipping, sift confectioners sugar. After you reach stiff peaks, add confections sugar all at once into mixer on very low speed until it is fully incorporated.
  4. Quickly add butter and shortening in 2 to 3 additions. Add vanilla extract.
  5. Switch to paddle attachment and beat on high speed until smooth, approximately 5 minutes. The longer you beat the frosting, the whiter the color will become.  

Note: The buttercream can be stored at room temperature for 4 days, up to 2 weeks in refrigerator, 2 months in the freezer.



  1. Add 1 small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake stand or plate. Optional to place cake onto a cardboard round available at any baking suppy store or online. Place 1 of the 4 layers of cake, cut side up. Cut 5 strips of parchment paper 3-inches wide. Fan out each piece of parchment by tucking in the center of the paper under the cake while covering the cake stand. This will ensure easy clean up of the cake stand after decoration.
  2. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the first layer of cake using an offset splatula. It's easiest by starting with a large dollop of frosting in the center and spreading it out. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Place next cake layer on top and repeat with frosting and coconut. Repeat with the third layer and for the final layer place cut side down (I prefer the bottom piece of the cake rounds as they are flat). Optional: For stability place a bamboo skewer into the center of the cake and trim to height of cake, it will be covered with frosting. Spread frosting in a thin layer on top since it will be covered in roses and 1/4-inch around sides of cake, otherwise you will run out of frosting for the roses. Place remaining frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with 1M pastry tip. To keep this tidy, place the pastry bag in a pint class, fold back the sides and fill with a rubber spatula. Unfold sides upwards and twist to create pressure. In between frosting you can use the pint class to hold the pastry bag. Tip: To keep the pastry bag closed try use Icing Bag Ties.
  3. Practice initial roses on parchment or wax paper so you can scoop up the frosting to be added back to the pastry bag. Hold the pastry bag in your dominant hand and keep the bag firmly twisted, use your other hand to guide the base area near the tip for control. Starting from the center of the rose, press the pastry bag from the top and guide the tip to move in circles until the desired size of rose is created. Keep even pressure but as you approach the final rim of the rose, begin to lighten the pressure to create a tapered finish. You can keep the sizes of the roses uniform or varied.
  4. Remove the parchment paper and any excess coconut flakes that have fallen during the decorating process. 



1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature plus more for greasing pans

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

½ tsp kosher salt

2 tsp baking powder

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs separated, plus 3 whites

1 ½ cups cream of coconut

1 ¼ cups unsweetened coconut milk (prefer Aroy-D coconut milk from Vietnam)

2 tbsp dark rum

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut 



6 fresh large egg whites, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups confectioners sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut, toasted

1 1/2 cups unsweetened large flaked coconut, toasted for extra flavor and rustic look or untoasted for an elegant white cake