Coconut Column Cake
Makes three 9-inch layers
2 1/2 cups freshly shredded coconut (about 2 coconuts)
3 1/3 cups sifted cake flour, plus more for pans
2 1/4 cups superfine sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup canola oil, plus more for pans
11 large eggs, separated, plus 3 whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped, bean and seeds reserved
1/4 cup canned cream of coconut
2/3 cup store-bought sweetened shredded coconut
2 wooden skewers (8 inches long)
6 cups Coconut Meringue Buttercream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line two baking sheets with cooling racks. Spread freshly shredded coconut evenly over racks. Place in oven, and bake, turning coconut occasionally, until dry, about 90 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool completely.
Increase oven temperature to 325 degrees. Line three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, 1 3/4 cup superfine sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup water, canola oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and vanilla-bean seeds. Add oil mixture to flour mixture and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to large mixing bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until foamy, about 1 minute. Continue to whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup superfine sugar and whip until stiff peaks are formed, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into cake batter to lighten. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and spring back in the middle when pressed, about 40 minutes. Immediately turn cake rounds onto a wire rack to cool. Remove parchment paper.
In a small saucepan combine 1 cup water, vanilla bean, 3/4 cup sugar, and cream of coconut. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute; strain and reserve. Discard vanilla bean.
Carefully level and trim each cake layer with a serrated knife. Place one layer on a 9-inch cake round, and brush with 1/3 of coconut syrup. Spread with 1 cup coconut buttercream and 1/3 cup sweetened coconut. Top with second layer, coconut syrup, 1 cup coconut buttercream, and 1/3 cup sweetened coconut. Add the remaining layer of cake and brush with remaining 1/3 cup coconut syrup. Insert two 8-inch wooden skewers through top of cake to secure layers. Trim with kitchen skewers until level with top of cake.
Using an offset spatula, ice cake with 2 cups buttercream to give the cake a "crumb coat." This thin layer of buttercream will seal the cake. Spread the icing from the center outward, making sure to push the buttercream over the sides of the cake. Smooth the buttercream. More icing will cover the crumb coat later, so it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth at this point. Chill in the refrigerator to set the buttercream, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Use the remaining 2 cups buttercream to cover the top and sides of the cake. Carefully draw a small offset spatula up the sides of the cake to create the lines of the column. Garnish with fresh toasted coconut and a dusting of confectioners' sugar. Serve at room temperature