Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake

by Julie Ruble on April 23, 2012 · 86 comments

I was floored to see that Willow Bird Baking is a finalist for SAVEUR Magazine’s Best Baking & Desserts Blog. Thank you so much for making this happen. If you’d like to vote for Willow Bird Baking (there are only 3 days left), you can do so here. You all are truly wonderful.

I watched the side of the VHS tape disappear into the gaping maw of the VCR, waiting for the whirring confirmation that it was well-received before skipping back to the kitchen. I knew there was plenty of time during the previews to complete my next task, so my haste was more due to my excitement than any real need to hurry.

It was time to prepare a culinary masterpiece. I began opening cupboards and surveying their contents with gusto.

This was my absolute favorite time of day. Or, really, night. Everyone in the house was asleep except the lone insomniac (that would be me, and I didn’t mind a bit). I had probably spent “bedtime” reading delicious horror stories or maybe one of my favorite Lucy Maud Montgomery books. Now, wide awake, I was ready for midnight movies and munchies.

My 10-year-old version of mise en place began collecting on the counter: a jar of salsa, some cheddar cheese, and, for lack of tortilla chips, some sliced bread. I deftly stirred the salsa and cheese together like a chef, microwaving it for a few seconds at a time until I had a passable bowl of queso. After pouring a huge glass of Coke (full sugar! the memory makes me want to brush my teeth!), I set up a chair as my personal table, sat down on the floor, and tuned in to the movie.

(I should mention, since my mother is reading, that I was not sitting in the living room. I’d have been an absolute fool to step foot on that pristine beige carpet with a morsel of food. It was my mom’s anniversary gift from my dad and she kept that rug spotless for over a decade until they put in hard floors throughout the house. So, just so we’re clear, I was watching the living room television from the kitchen doorway.)

I picked the movies I watched based on how many food scenes they included. The Little Princess was a great choice because of the Indian feast scene in the attic. The Secret Garden had some nice garden picnic scenes. My favorite midnight movie, though, was Bedknobs & Broomsticks, which included a scene with a cat eating gorgeous sausages. He smacked and gnawed on each plump link with such satisfaction — I loved to eat along with that one!

No matter how much I’d eaten, whenever a food scene came on, I had to make sure I had something to munch on. I sometimes paused the movie to make another bowl of faux queso or to scavenge through the pantry for a sweet dessert.

I’ve grown up in a lot of ways, but I still love to eat a meal while watching food scenes from a movie or cooking show. I’m also still an incurable night owl, though I have to be more conscientious with my midnight snacks nowadays. And of course, I still love to concoct absurd things in the kitchen. This Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake was my crazy creation for Mike’s birthday party last weekend.

This cake would make Dr. Frankenstein proud. It’s a layer of good stuff on top of a layer of better stuff on top of a layer of insane stuff on top of brownies. Basically. Or, to be more specific: there’s some heavenly chocolate mousse and some decadent coconut cream involved. The best part is that even though it looks intense, my 10-year-old self could’ve whipped this thing up with ease. You can even use a brownie mix for the base if you’re short on time.

But actually, the real best part is the taste. As if the ingredient list didn’t clue you in, this thing is delicious.

How about you? Are you the early bird or the night owl?

Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake



Recipe by: Cobbled together from Epicurious, Pinch of Yum, and various other sources
Yield: 10-12 servings

This “cake” actually doesn’t include a single bit of cake. It does include brownies, coconut cream, chocolate mousse, whipped cream, chocolate bits, and toasted coconut. It’s one of the many desserts on Willow Bird Baking born out of the “more is more!” mentality.

Brownie Layer Ingredients:
1 recipe of your favorite brownies (baked in a 9-inch springform pan)

Coconut Cream Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao)

Chocolate Mousse Layer Ingredients:
2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao)
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1 1/2 teaspoon cold water

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
3/8 teaspoon gelatin
1 1/8 teaspoon cold water
toasted coconut

Directions:
NOTE: This cake sounds complicated, but is remarkably easy! If you can bake a pan of brownies and push some buttons on your microwave, you can make this baby. It’s even easy to divide up the work, since many of the steps can be done on separate days. You can make the brownie and coconut layer one day, make the chocolate mousse layer on day two, and top and serve the cake on day three. Enjoy!

Make coconut cream filling: Combine the half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it for 4-6 minutes, whisking well after each minute, until it’s thickened (I tried this microwave trick for the first time in this recipe, and it does work well if you’re short on time, though I think you might end up with a slightly better creamy texture if you whisk the mixture constantly in a saucepan over medium-low heat; not sure how long it’ll take on the stove with this volume, but just whisk until thickened.) Once the mixture is thickened, add coconut and vanilla extracts and the untoasted coconut and stir. Pour half of this filling over your brownie layer, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of bittersweet chips, and then pour the rest of the filling. Stick the whole thing in the fridge to chill until firm, about 2 to 4 hours.

Make the chocolate mousse: Place the bittersweet and semisweet chips in a medium bowl. Bring 1/3 cup cream to boil in heavy small saucepan or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave. Pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes before gently whisking it to a smooth ganache. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Place cold water in a small dish and sprinkle gelatin over it to soften for 10 minutes. Heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave and whisk it with a fork to dissolve the gelatin. In a chilled mixing bowl, beat 2/3 cups cold whipping cream and icing sugar in to stiff peaks, adding gelatin mixture and vanilla extract halfway through. Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture and pour the mousse onto set coconut filling. Chill until set, about 6 hours or overnight.

Make whipped cream topping: Place cold water in a small dish and sprinkle gelatin over it to soften for 10 minutes. Heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave and whisk it with a fork to dissolve the gelatin. In a chilled mixing bowl, whip the cream and icing sugar to stiff peaks, adding gelatin mixture halfway through. Top the cake with the whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

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{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

pat April 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm

This looks and reads delicious! Can’t wait to share it with family and friends.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Thanks, Pat!

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Bridget April 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Just voted! Good Luck!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Thanks so much, Bridget!

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Kelly April 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I want to lick the screen.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Thanks, Kelly! They need to invent scratch & taste computer monitors!

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Joanne April 24, 2012 at 1:28 am

I love eating while I watch just about any tv or movie, food scene or not. but really…I just love eating, especially crazy fabulous concoctions like this! I’m positively in love!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 24, 2012 at 1:35 am

Thanks, Joanne! I’m with you: eating rocks!

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Adrienne @ How to Ice a Cake April 24, 2012 at 2:56 am

Oh wow. I would love to dive face first into this. You think this could pass for breakfast? I’m definitely an early bird and this with a cup of coffee sounds like a good start to the day to me :D

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 24, 2012 at 3:02 am

Oh, yes; breakfast of champions! :D I know I’d sure feel joyous about the day while eating this (okay, but maybe I’d need a nap or two afterwards.) Thanks, Adrienne!

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Angela @ the fairy bread chronicles April 24, 2012 at 6:55 am

OH. MY. GOODNESS. This is absolute genius!

My favourite movie is the 1970s ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, exactly because it includes so many ‘food’ scenes! The room full of lollies? YES. And don’t get me started on the lickable wallpaper…

This cake looks like a perfect viewing companion for that movie!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Oh you are SO RIGHT! What a great food movie :) Thanks, Angela!

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Jenny @ BAKE April 24, 2012 at 10:00 am

I wish I was a night owl, I’m usually passed out in the sofa by 10pm whether I want to or not! This cake looks like pure sin! I love your photos too! you completely deserve to win!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Thank you, Jenny!

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

I absolutely need to try this (swapping out the coconut of course)!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Of course! LOL! Thanks, Lauren.

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Julia April 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm

My jaw just dropped. This is beautiful, amazing, decadent.
With desserts like this, you NEED to win!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Aw, thanks so much, Julia!

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Jenni April 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Haha, we would have been best buds when we were little. I just “might” have all three of those movies in my cabinet right now. :) Unfortunately we would have never watched them together because I have always been an early-to-bed kind of girl. :)
This cake is simply amazing, by the way! All of the best flavors wrapped up into one stunning package! Awesome job!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I love it! Movie twins! :) Thanks, Jenni!

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Sydney Jones April 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Oh. MY. GOD. Julie, what are you trying to do to me? This looks insane, the craziest part is I think I can eat the whole thing :) All the best with your votes, so well deserved. I’m rooting for you :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

LOL! Thanks, Sydney!

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Anna @ hiddenponies April 25, 2012 at 3:48 am

I was a night owl until my kids came along and like to get up urrrrrrrr-ley :) This looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it! I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t love this.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Thanks, Anna!!

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Kate Mobile April 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm

This looks AMAZING! I definitely want this for my birthday.
I found you through Pinterest, and voted for you in Saveur. Good luck! I hope you win!

(I also love that you are using the Thesis theme. Just so you know, when you tweet from your blog it shows up as @diythemes rather than your own Twitter, so you may want to change that. Your site looks GREAT.)
Best,
Kate

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Thanks so much, Kate! That’s so kind of you.

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Kate Mobile April 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

PS. You should also get a Pinterest button on your site asap. :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I actually have Pinterest links at the bottom of each post, but I agree that I need the visual one :)

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Rachel@Time for Good Food April 26, 2012 at 1:16 am

This looks so yummy! So happy to have discovered your blog on Pinterest. Can’t wait to dig in, and best of luck with the Saveur contest!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 26, 2012 at 1:31 am

Thanks so much, Rachel!

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Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe May 1, 2012 at 5:50 am

What an utterly divine cake! Mike is a lucky boy!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

Thank you, Amanda!

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Jamie Bohn May 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for posting! This looked so heavenly and divine I decided to make it for a service auction in our church to raise money for our youth group activities…if I can make it turn out as beautiful as yours, I should have no problem sending it off to one lucky consumer ;) I’m hoping in a way it doesn’t go because I really, really want to have a slice for myself! Guess I’ll have to make it again, haha!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hooray! I hope it sells, but I also hope you get some ;) Thanks, Jamie!

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Lora May 5, 2012 at 2:45 am

This looks INSANE! Nice work. This is a little weird, but of all the food scenes in all the movies out there, my favourite is in Goodfellas, when they go to visit Joe Pesci’s mom and she makes them breakfast. It always makes me want to eat along with them.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I love that movie! I want to watch it again just to see that scene — I think I remember the one you’re talking about!

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Chelsea May 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I’m working on this cake right now! I’m making it for a friend’s birthday. She’s from the Bahamas and she loves coconut and chocolate!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I hope she loves it, Chelsea!!

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Rikelle May 10, 2012 at 4:38 am

Gorgeous pictures. Found you through Pinterest. This looks so good. I am now obsessed and must make this – diet be damned!! Thanks for sharing!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 10, 2012 at 4:42 am

Thank you, Rikelle! I hope you love it!

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Skye May 11, 2012 at 2:34 am

I can not wait to try this! I’m always looking for great desserts to make for family events. It looks so freaking delicious!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 11, 2012 at 2:36 am

Thanks, Skye! I hope everyone enjoys it :)

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Cathy May 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

I thought this looked amazing, so I pinned it to Pinterest. Yum!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 26, 2012 at 4:57 am

Thank you, Cathy!!

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Vicki June 10, 2012 at 2:42 am

Found you through pinterest. What a divine mouthwatering recipe. I have shared on my blog linking here.

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Amber June 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

When I saw this in pinterest, I kind of fell into dessert love. It’s absolutely lovely. Sadly, both of my attempts have been complete failures! No matter which method I use, or how long I heat and whisk, I cannot get the coconut cream filling to thicken. Any hints?

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking June 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Oh no, I hate that! I’ve used both attempts in different recipes successfully. Hmmm. Let me think on it and I’ll help you troubleshoot. Can you describe how you did the microwave method? Did you stop and stir after each minute? The considerable amount of cornstarch is what thickens the mixture when heat is applied (like a gravy, except moreso because of the proportions.) Anything funny about your cornstarch or the amount you used as you look back? Let’s think on it. Let me know.

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Gayle September 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I was trying to think what could cause the problems she is having with the cornstarch not thickening the coconut cream filling. Would it be possible that the cornstarch is “old”? Would that make a difference? You know how sometimes we have staples in our cupboard that we buy for a recipe and then it sits and sits and sits and waits for the next use?

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking September 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm

That might be it, Gayle. I don’t know! Hope she figured it out!!

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Dena December 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I made this super wonderful cake for Christmas (everyone loved it!). At first, I thought the coconut cream would never set up. It was taking what seemed like FOREVER, so I turned up the heat a little and that seemed to help. I think it took at least 15 minutes of whisking in all before the mixture thickened.

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Julie Ruble December 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! It really does take awhile — bolsters those arm muscles! — but the texture from mixing it up on the stovetop is so worth it :)

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Janice Fuda July 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

HELP! I’m making this cake right now but, it seems some of the ingredients for the Mousse layer are not mentioned in the directions! I assume the vanilla and pinch of salt go in the ganache but where does the icing sugar go??? I’m guessing the regular sugar gets whipped w/the whipping cream.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking July 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hi Janice! I just noticed that and fixed that section — I don’t know what happened! Make your ganache as stated and then when whipping up the cream, the icing sugar and vanilla go into it. I fixed the instructions above.

The regular sugar and pinch of salt were artifacts from another part, I think, but the good news is I don’t think it will hurt if you already added them :)

So sorry about the mixup — thanks SO much for mentioning it so I could adjust!

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Nicky July 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I fell in love with this when I saw it and decided I had to make it. Now, I can’t make it for just me because chocolate and coconut are my kryptonite and I’d eat the whole thing given half a chance. I am throwing a huge barbecue for my husbands office on the weekend and I really want to make this as one of the desserts I serve, but I would prefer to make a bigger one. Do you think I would be able to times the recipe by half and use a bigger springform pan? Or would you double it just to be sure? I can’t recall how big the springform pan, but I believe it may be 12″. Thanks for posting this recipe!

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Aishath August 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Hi, im thinking of making this cake but I don’t get half n half so what can I use as substitute?

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Gayle September 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I just answered this same question on another blog!! I thought just adding half whole milk and half cream would do it, but BOY was I wrong. When I want to have a White Russian and have no half and half but have heavy cream in the house, that is what I do and it tastes good. But baking is a more specific science. So, I looked on GOOGLE and on 5 different sites they all recommended the same substitution, so here goes:
TO MAKE 1 CUP HALF AND HALF
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled
Directions:
Mix well and use in place of half and half

Happy Baking!!!

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Gayle September 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I am not a big fan of coconut, but this recipe looks good enough to make and think about hiding from my hubby, so I can pig out on it all by myself!! :-) All kidding aside, it looks so good and I know that I have a can of coconut milk in my cupboard and most of the other ingredients are things I keep in the house, since I love to bake!
Keep up the good work!!

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Mona October 14, 2012 at 11:22 am

I’m confused, but what is icing sugar?

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm

It’s also called powdered sugar, 10X sugar, and confectioners’ sugar.

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Bethany October 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm

This recipe is AMAZING!!! I just made it last Sunday for our church’s annual pie baking contest (yes, this can also pass for “pie!”), and I won first place! It tasted sooooo delicious. Already can’t wait to make it again! Thank you for this awesome recipe! :D

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm

YAY, that is so exciting, Bethany!! I love that! Congratulations — a recipe’s only as good as the baker, after all :D

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Gail October 22, 2012 at 2:52 am

Just saw this roll by on Pinterest and the toasted coconut caught my attention! Looks amazing — I love to put together multi-part desserts. Have you heard of Whip it? Small packet you add to whipping cream to stabilize it? I like its texture better than gelatin-stabilized whipped cream. Can’t wait to toast up some coconut (even for the filling) and indulge!!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 22, 2012 at 3:02 am

Ooh, no, haven’t heard of Whip It, but it sounds like something I need to try! Thanks for mentioning it! Hope you love this indulgent dessert :)

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Debbie G November 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Just made this and while I found this to be quite easy, was wondering why gelatin was needed for whipped cream? I had problems with that part of recipe…gelatin lumped up would omit next time send follow traditional recipe. Also mousse layer was on small side. Maybe my spring form pan was to big.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking November 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Debbie, the gelatin stabilizes the whipped cream so it takes longer to deflate (whipped cream is on the transient side!) but feel free to omit it if you’ll be serving the dessert immediately. Also, if your mousse layer was small, you can double it up next time to have a bigger layer. Hope that’s helpful!

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Debbie G November 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Thanks for the tip about the gelatin. I will probably double the mousse and learn how to work with the gelatin…lol. We loved every bite we ate, the different layers went from sweet to bittersweet then back to sweet again..mmmm!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking November 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

There’s also a gentler way to dissolve the gelatin! Instead of microwaving the water with the gelatin in it, you can dissolve the gelatin over cool water and then whisk in warm water gradually to dissolve it. This was the first time I tried the microwave trick!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking November 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm

P.S. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!!

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Amanda January 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm

This looks positively amazing! I have it pinned and hope to try it very soon, yum!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking January 14, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I hope you love it, Amanda :)

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Karly February 3, 2013 at 7:46 am

I made this for my bday cake and it was sooo yum!
I used extra coconut extract tho since I love the flavour.
I also used nigellas no cook chocolate mousse recipe cos it’s easier and yum (made by melting chocolate, butter, marshmallows together then mixing with vanilla whipped cream).
I will definitely be making again!

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Nikki February 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I’m going to make this over the weekend..it looks amazing! What size box of brownies do you recommend?

Thanks!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Ooh, I didn’t know there were different sized boxes, so I have no idea :) I used the box of Ghirardelli brownies, though, if that helps!

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Nikki February 13, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Very helpful..thank you!

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Holly March 2, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I’m making this for my birthday cake this week. You used canned coconut milk – right? Thanks for sharing!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 2, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Yep! Happy birthday, Holly!! I hope you love it!

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Beth March 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

What type of pan did you do this in?

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

A 9-inch springform.

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Amy May 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I am making this as we speak for my husband’s birthday tonight. I can’t WAIT to dive into it (I suppose after he does since he’s the birthday boy). I DID have to make an alteration on the gelatin for the chocolate mousse layer. For some reason, when I followed the directions for heating the gelatin, mine got super gooey and sticky (think gum stuck to the bottom of the table). I ditched that batch and instead, used 2 tsp water and only microwaved for 10 seconds. I’ll let you know how/if it turns out, but as far as mixing it in with the cream for the mousse, I cannot imagine having stirred a gum-like substance into light, fluffy cream. Anyone else have this issue? Maybe its a microwave issue? I will probably have to make a similar alteration for the whipped cream layer.

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Julie Ruble May 8, 2013 at 12:47 am

Hope he loves it, Amy! My gelatin didn’t turn into goop, hm! There is a gentler way to do it — instead of heating the gelatin itself, after you soften it on the cold water, you mix in hot water while whisking. That might work better for you.

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Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen June 14, 2013 at 1:22 am

I just came across this on Pinterest and I’m too stunned for words. Just thought I should come by to let you know :)

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Julie Ruble June 14, 2013 at 4:03 am

LOL Thanks, Valerie :)

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Christine @ Chew Nibble Nosh December 7, 2013 at 11:01 pm

This looks amazing, and will be perfect for a family birthday celebration next week! I’m assuming you add the gelatin to the whipped cream to stabilize it, right? If that’s the case, how far in advance do you think I can put this whole thing together?

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Julie Ruble December 8, 2013 at 12:29 am

Yep! Whipped cream — even stabilized — isn’t too stable, though, so I’d recommend no more than a day in advance. Hope you enjoy!

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Kathy Greco December 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I made this for Christmas Eve and it was a huge hit! Everyone loved the coconut cream layer the best. Thanks!

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Julie Ruble December 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I’m so glad to hear that, Kathy! Merry Christmas :)

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