Almond cake with chocolate-coconut frosting

Almond cake with chocolate-coconut frosting

Thom’s birthday was on Monday. I made him a cake because that’s what you do when people you love have birthdays, but unfortunately the actual celebration was a lot less exciting than such a cake would indicate, due to the fact that he had a bit of research and writing to do. Having known about his workload weeks prior, I decided to step up my gift game this year and wound up getting him a record player (thanks for the recommendation and pairing’s box, Kasey + Matt) and a vintage receiver because he’d been talking about getting a turntable system since we first met, seven years ago. At the 11th hour I also decided to throw in a pair of those fancy noise canceling headphones because it was the one thing he said he wanted if I was going to buy him a gift this year. HA! If I was going to buy him a gift. Since I had already made the investment in a new music system (and didn’t really feel like dealing with the return process), I figured we’d find a way to squeeze the headphones into our budget the way we found a way to squeeze in all those overpriced lunches in Iceland.

Side note: Somehow we both forgot how insanely expensive everything is in that country.

After he finished his work, we wasted no time cutting into the triple-layered beauty that’s pictured above. I surprised him with unwrapped presents (in my defense, the headphones arrived while we were eating the cake and I couldn’t find wrapping paper big enough to wrap the turntable) and then we walked half a mile down sketchy ass Colfax to fill our bellies with chips and salsa and tacos. He had a margarita, I drank half of it, and then we wandered to the local record shop to acquire some vinyl for his new gift. He walked out with an MF Doom LP and All Hail West Texas by the Mountain Goats. And I snagged the Garden State soundtrack and a Sigur Rós album even though it wasn’t my birthday and I had no business buying anything. He tried to say it was the best birthday yet, but then I reminded him about that birthday I got him a ticket to El Clásico. He retracted that statement but maintained that it was still a damn good birthday. So, mission accomplished.

In other non-birthday related news, vanilla extract sold out considerably faster than I had anticipated. I sat there looking at my inventory page, with a furrowed brow, thinking there was some sort of glitch in the system that was saying I was sold out when I wasn’t. BUT I WAS! So thanks for that. For those of you who missed out, I’m sorry and hopeful that you’ll have better luck next time. The good news is you still have over 12 hours to enter the giveaway on Facebook (psssst, it closes at 8PM MST) so I’ll cross my fingers for ya.

And for those of you who have been asking, there’s a big Iceland post in the works. Until then, I hope you’re staying warm and cozy. Keep your eyes peeled for all the festive deliciousness happening over on eHow.

Real deal vanilla extractCacao powderFrosting in the makingAlmonds and dark chocolateAlmond cake layersChocolate-coconut frostingFrosting the cakeLayer 1Coconut flakesAlmond cake with chocolate-coconut frostingAlmond cake with chocolate-coconut frostingAlmond cake with chocolate-coconut frostingAlmond cake with chocolate-coconut frostingAlmond cake with chocolate-coconut frostingMade a wish

Notes: If you want to give your cake layers a bit more lift, decrease the baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon. I upped it to 3/4 teaspoons because I didn’t want to deal with leveling the layers (which I typically do, but prefer not to with naked cakes). If you don’t have cake flour, you can make your own by replacing 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of corn starch, for each cup of flour. Just make sure you sift it twice. If you don’t have coconut milk (or if you get cans that turn out to be duds), use this frosting recipe from Thom’s birthday cake I made last year. I decided not to go the shortening route because shortening tends to make a nasty mess (and I didn’t want to deal with it), but if you do I strongly recommend using a variety that sources 100% sustainable palm oil. Environmental degradation is not worth the temporary satisfaction that comes from eating chocolate frosted cake. AMIRIGHT? ;)


2 cups unbleached cake flour (see notes above)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted (not hot)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 1/3 cups almond buttermilk

2 cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/4 cup cacao powder
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Slivered almonds
Flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of three round 6″ cake pans with parchment paper and spray with oil; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and both of the extracts. Alternate between adding the buttermilk and flour mixture to the sugar mixture; add one third of the buttermilk, followed by half of the flour and repeat process ending on the buttermilk. Whisk batter just until combined (but don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten). Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 15 minutes then invert onto a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. Start by removing the cans of coconut milk from the fridge, opening them, and scooping the creamy white layer off the top and into a large mixing bowl. If your cans didn’t form the thick layer, you’ll have to scrap the coconut milk frosting and go the traditional frosting route I linked above, instead (some cans of coconut milk are duds, which is why I keep 10-12 cans in my fridge at a time). Discard the water or save for later use in smoothies, if desired. Beat the coconut milk fat on high speed with a hand mixer, just until smooth, then sift in the cacao powder and mix until combined. Pour in the melted chocolate and two tablespoons of maple syrup; beat just until smooth but do not over mix. If your frosting is too thick (it depends on the temperature of your house), add an additional tablespoon or two of maple syrup.

Once the layers have cooled, line a cake stand (or plate) with a few pieces of parchment paper that overlap at the ends. It isn’t absolutely necessary since we’re not frosting the entire cake, but I tend to fling frosting everywhere and prefer to cover the cake stand/plate. Place one of the cake layers in the middle of the prepared cake stand. Spread 1/3 of the frosting onto the top of the cake, then sandwich and repeat process with remaining layers.  Top cake with sliced almonds and flaked coconut, if desired. Refrigerate the cake for 45 minutes, until the frosting is firm. Our house is pretty warm in the winter so the frosting will get super soft if the cake gets left out on the counter. I like to store the cake in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, then remove it an hour before consuming. Cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Yield: 8-10 slices


  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 10 December 2014 at 7:35 AM

    A record player and a pretty cake sound like a splendid birthday to me! My birthday was also on Monday (assuming you’re talking about the 8th) and I would be more than happy to have this :)

  • Reply molly yeh 10 December 2014 at 8:34 AM

    YAY! happy birthday, thom!!!!!!!

  • Reply Laney 10 December 2014 at 8:45 AM

    These photos are AMAZING and what an awesome birthday! I’ve been thinking about getting my beau a pair of those headphones but can’t decide between Sony or Bose. Which did you end up going with? Does Thom like them?

    • Reply Ashlae 10 December 2014 at 7:12 PM

      Hi Laney –

      He’s actually had the Sony version for the past couple of years, but he wanted upgraded to the Bose QuietComfort 25s. So that’s what he got. :) He said they’re more than worth the extra money.

  • Reply valentina - sweet kabocha 10 December 2014 at 9:03 AM

    I love everything in this post : your boyfriend’s birthday tale, your gifts to him – I note down ;) -, the cake and the fact that a post about Iceland will be here soon :D
    And yes, making birthday cakes for them is so gratifying.

  • Reply Grace 10 December 2014 at 9:25 AM

    You’re so thoughtful with your gift giving. I need to step my game up. Happy birthday to Thom! I recently discovered that the Trader Joes Coconut Cream cans are SO perfect for coconut whipped cream, the entire can is that thick creamy layer. After one too many $4 dud full fat cans I decided to try the $2 TJs version and to my surprise it was fantastic (with the exception of not knowing where/how it’s sourced).

  • Reply Kasey 10 December 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Hooray for a new record player and happy birthday Thom! This cake looks BOMB.

  • Reply Melissa @ Treats With a Twist 10 December 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Haha. My friend was just visiting and she was telling me about going down Colfax recently to get cheap ass Mexican food and apparently she just chose the wrong place because her takeout meal was so flippin expensive. Mexican food, people!
    This is pretty much my dream cake too, since I’m an almond joy and mounds gal. Love!
    Happy Birthday Thom!!

  • Reply Viji 10 December 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Even when I had not read a single word from the post, the picture of you holding the cake made me feel like you were walking towards someone whom you love a lot, to surprise him/her on his/her b’day … a beautiful feeling captured so beautifully. Now I know the whole story :) I am so fascinated by that picture!

  • Reply ale 10 December 2014 at 12:47 PM

    Yum! I love cake!!! This looks delicious and it is soon prettyyyyy!

  • Reply Rachael 10 December 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Yummy cake!!! Looks so good!!! And that seemed like such a nice birthday gift! A record player AND headphones! Pretty awesome. And so what it didn’t come with wrapping paper? Wrapping paper gets thrown away anyway!

    I totally want a piece of that cake!

  • Reply Gemma 10 December 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Oh my gosh, that chocolate frosting looks so delicious! Well the whole cake is marvellous but I love the texture of the frosting.


  • Reply Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health 10 December 2014 at 7:29 PM

    you are an awesome girlfriend!! looking ffwd for iceland post.

  • Reply Joyti 11 December 2014 at 1:01 AM

    Oh, happy belated birthday to Thom!

    Love, love LOVE the cake. I need someone lovely to buy me a record player too (in the meantime, a friend promised me a used one so there’s that :)

  • Reply The Vegan Cookie Fairy 11 December 2014 at 8:52 AM

    Happy birthday, Thom!

    That frosting, omg. I think I could happily eat it on its own. I much prefer coconut-milk based frosting compared to regular frosting, it tastes less greasy and sickening (meaning I eat a whole lot more of it, hahaha).

  • Reply Elizabeth Jarrard 11 December 2014 at 9:22 AM

    so perfect. thom is a lucky man!

  • Reply Natalina 11 December 2014 at 1:54 PM

    This cake looks so delicious, I can’t wait to make it this weekend! Where can I find the recipe for the almond buttermilk, there’s no link when I click on it except flickr opens which is weird..

    anyway, keep making such scrumptious cakes ;)

    • Reply Ashlae 11 December 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Hi Natalina –

      The recipe is on a photo I posted to my flickr account. :) Enjoy!

  • Reply Carol 13 December 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Amazing . Looks like nutella!!

  • Reply Mariana @The Candid Kitchen 14 December 2014 at 8:47 AM

    Now that looks like a birthday cake if I ever saw one.

  • Reply Donn 18 December 2014 at 9:10 PM

    Looks amazingly delicious. I can’t wait to bake this over the weekend in time for christmas celebrations. One question, 2 cans of coconut milk, how big are the cans. We stock many different measurments. Ta x

    • Reply Ashlae 21 December 2014 at 7:16 AM

      Hi Donn –

      They’re roughly 13 ounces each.

  • Reply Heather 21 December 2014 at 8:16 AM

    Chips, Salsa, tacos, margaritas, birthday cake, you are talking my language. Sounds like you guys had a fantastic day! This cake is absolutely stunning.

  • Reply kristie {birch and wild} 27 December 2014 at 7:38 PM

    This is an amazing Birthday Cake!

  • Reply Tess 27 December 2014 at 7:47 PM

    Hi Ashlae … thanks for a great recipe! I just made this for my little girl’s first birthday, and it was a total hit! Everyone loved the almond and coconut flavours. The texture of the cake is lovely — moist, and ever so slightly dense (for a cake). Sweet but not too much so, which was exactly what I was hoping for since it was my babe’s first bite of cake ever. Thanks again.

    And FYI for others thinking of making this, I made a couple little changes. I used two 8″ round pans, and cooked for 24-25min I think. And for the flour I used half wholewheat pastry flour and half unbleached flour, subbing in 4T cornstarch for 4T of the flour (as noted in the recipe). (Perhaps the wholewheat flour contributed to my cake being slightly dense, but like I say, it was totally in a good way)

  • Reply Mike @ Canvasli 12 January 2015 at 1:52 AM

    Amazing! What dark chocolate brand did you use?

  • Reply Rachel 13 August 2015 at 8:11 AM

    I’m a serious cake baker and my husband was just diagnosed as allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts, and soy (amongst other things)… which is kind of disastrous for most baking. So I’m freaking excited to have found your blog (via your coconut oil pastry recipe) and realised that the coconut oil pastry wasn’t just a happy coincidence, ALL YOUR STUFF IS DAIRY AND EGG FREE!!! And nuts and soy are more easily substituted or avoided. There are SO many things here I can make him. SO thank you for a wonderful blog. I also love your tone (and your cursing – refreshing), and the fact that you seem to love your husband unapologetically with every fibre of your being, which is my daily experience but which sadly seems kind of rare in the people I deal with. Anyway, long prelude, but thank you, and I look forward to making LOTS of your things.
    There was however, one thing that really confused me in this post:

    “Notes: If you want to give your cake layers a bit more lift, decrease the baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon. I upped it to 3/4 teaspoons because I didn’t want to deal with leveling the layers (which I typically do, but prefer not to with naked cakes).”

    Only because, I’ve always considered baking soda to be a raising agent (along with baking powder – with the presence/ratio of the two depending on the acidity of your other ingredients like buttermilk or cocoa), so I’m having trouble understanding why decreasing it by 1/3 would give you a taller cake. I’m also interested because yours seem to have baked lovely and flat (you’re right, not really needing levelling), which doesn’t usually happen for me, and the internal texture seems to be fluffy enough – I’m not sure you’d want it more fluffy than that for risk it end up dry.

    Anyway, any clarification on that would be much appreciated for this curious baker.

    • Reply Ashlae 13 August 2015 at 9:14 AM

      Hi Rachel –


      Re: Baking soda. When used in conjunction with an acid (in this case, dairy-free buttermilk), it's the baking soda that neutralizes the buttermilk instead of working with the baking powder to leaven (paragraph 3: Decreasing the baking soda decreases its impact on neutralizing the buttermilk, which would then give the layers a bit more volume.

      Hope that helps!

  • Reply Julie 19 October 2015 at 12:05 PM

    I made this for my daughter’s 5 yo birthday – it was absolutely delicious! Moist but not too much, delicate, light, I was so happy with it! I made a 2-layer cake, with homemade strawberry jam between the layers, and a simple dark chocolate ganache on top, plus lots of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries on top of it all. Absolutely crazy good. This is a keeper. Thanks!

  • Reply erin 1 January 2016 at 9:27 PM

    Would this recipe work for 2×8 inch layers?

    • Reply Tim Hordo 5 September 2016 at 11:54 AM

      Hi Erin, I used 2 X 8 inch and it worked very well :)

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  • Reply Tim Hordo 5 September 2016 at 12:12 PM

    Hi Ashlae, thanks for posting this amazing recipe! I wanted to see if it would last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, as you suggested it could. But I’m disappointed that I couldn’t keep it for that long…I ate half last night right after it was iced (I used ganache though instead of frosting) and the other half this morning. Maybe I’ll double the recipe next time to test your theory out.

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