Coconut Weddin' Cake

Alicia baked this cake for the first time when she was actually baking it for the wedding, and we were lucky that it turned out to be everything we were hoping for:  delicately flavored but not bland, sturdy but not a brick, and nicely moist.  We took it off the Martha Stewart website, and changed very little.  Thanks, Martha!

Baking a wedding cake is an all-day event, so make sure you're ready for it:  sleep well the night before, eat a good breakfast so you're not tempted to subsist on cake batter all day, and remember that giant cakes can smell your fear.  Approach the task with as much confidence and bluster as you can manage.  

It also helps if you've got some great friends like Brian Samuelson and Joe Dorsey who'll allow you to spend a whole day trashing their beautiful, huge gourmet kitchen.

Special Equipment:
round cake pans, one of each:  6", 8", 10", 12", and 14", all 3" deep
aluminum foil
2 tin cans, with both ends removed
an offset spatula
a stand mixer (this isn't absolutely neccessary, but it will make your day much, much easier)
a hand mixer
a long, serrated bread knife
a cake turntable
parchment paper, cut into circles that fit into the bottom of each pan
cardboard rounds, cut slightly smaller than each pan
a long, 1/4" thick dowel from a hobby or hardware store

You're going to work in batches.  Alicia used one batch to fill the biggest cake pan, a second batch to fill the 6" and the 12" pans, and a third batch to for the 8" and 10" pans.  This list of ingredients makes enough batter for one batch:

1 lb (4 sticks) room-temperature unsalted butter, plus a bit more for greasing the pans
7  1/4 cups of cake flour, plus more for pans
2 tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (save the can, remove both ends and the label, wash it and grease it with butter inside and out)
6 tbs milk
4 cups of sugar
1 tbs + 1 tsp vanilla extract
16 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter your pans thoroughly, and then place each parchment round on the bottom of each pan.  Butter the parchment paper, then flour each pan.

Put the butter and all but two tbs of the sugar in your stand-mixer's bowl and cream them together at a medium speed, using the paddle attachment. This will take about 10 minutes.  While the mixer's creaming your butter and sugar, sift together all your dry ingredients in a large bowl.  

When your butter/sugar combo is fluffy and pale yellow, add the vanilla and keep beating for about a minute more.  Stir together the coconut milk with the regular milk in a smallish bowl or large liquid measuring cup.  

Begin alternately adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix until well combined.

With a very large bowl and your hand mixer, whip the egg whites together until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining two tbs of sugar, and beat the mixture at high speed until stiff, shiny peaks form.  

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter (it helps to do this in two bowls with about equal amounts of batter and egg whites in each one, since there's such a huge amount of each) and pour into pan(s).  Lift each pan an inch or two above your work surface and drop it once or twice to help release any air bubbles in the batter.  

If you're making the 12" or the 14" cake layer, place the greased empty coconut can vertically in the center of the pan after you've poured your batter in.  Cakes this large have problems with their centers baking evenly, and the metal can in the center conducts heat to help the cake's center bake at the same rate as it's outer rim.  

Pop your pan(s) in the oven for about 30-40 minutes.  You'll know their done if they're a gorgeous golden color and they're firm to the touch.  

Cool completely, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble and ice the cake with Coconut Buttercream Icing.  Those installments coming soon.....