This recipe might be more aptly called a Milk Soaked Coconut Love Bomb. Eating this was like diving into billowy, dewy clouds of coconut deliciousness. But I’ll go ahead and tell you that this isn’t a 30-minute dessert. It wasn’t overwhelming or even all that difficult, but it did take some time and effort to put together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately — this phenomenon of Cooking Hard Stuff. After wrestling with how to present certain dishes and wringing my hands about whether anyone will even try the ones that are a little more fiddly, I have something to say. In fact, I have an essay for you. It’s called:


Maybe this is counterintuitive, but I want to start by telling you that I understand choosing not to Cook Hard Stuff. I do it all the time. During the week, I make oatmeal breakfasts and simple soup dinners that I can squeeze into my schedule. I make gigantic batches so that I can avoid cooking at all most weeknights. I stock up on fast recipes to make when I’m too exhausted to stand at the stove. And I take plenty of shortcuts in the kitchen (evidence: 1, 2) when I feel like it.

But I also carve out time on Friday nights and Saturday mornings (and sometimes a few other times during the week) to Cook Hard Stuff. Hard stuff like recipes that take a couple of hours to make, recipes that require techniques I’ve never tried before, recipes that require precision or focus, or even just recipes that are new to me and therefore a little intimidating. It’s not because I enjoy slaving away, either. It’s because the work I put into every new “hard” recipe I try is repaid tenfold in what I reap from the experience.

You should cook hard stuff because it can bring joy and a feeling of accomplishment to your everyday life.

First, you should know that cooking is not just about feeding ourselves any more than playing the piano is just about having some music to listen to or rock climbing is just about finding transportation to the top of that pesky cliff. We don’t throw ourselves into new endeavors to produce results, but to benefit from experiences. If all you want is a result, toss the knitting needles and buy yourself a sweater. Dump the rest of your paints and go buy a few prints to put on the wall. Hang up your running shoes and get in the car.

But it turns out the point is the rhythm of the knitting, the mixing of the paints on your canvas with each new brushstroke, and the few seconds shaved off of your time each run. The point is what happens to you during the process. And a lot can happen to you during the process of Cooking Hard Stuff.

One thing that can happen to you is that you might gain confidence. Cooking Hard Stuff forces you to be resourceful. Your cake comes out sloped, so you have to pick up that serrated knife and level a cake layer for the first time. Your recipe calls for cutting fat into flour, so you have to find a good video demonstration online for how to do it. Dipping cake balls with a spoon turns out to be a royal disaster, so you have to try dipping them with a fork, a skewer, and a toothpick until you find a way to save your hard work. Each finished recipe isn’t just something to eat: it’s a tiny triumph that rewards all of the struggling behind the scenes.

The first time I made the coconut pastry cream in this trifle, it was 2009 and I’d just started this blog to chronicle my kitchen experiments. My heart kept time with my furious whisking while my eyes flitted back and forth from recipe to saucepan, recipe to saucepan. It felt like a gigantic undertaking. When I made it again this weekend, I was surprised to find that it was quick and easy. I’ve been making pastry creams now for years. The recipe hasn’t changed, but my skill level and confidence have.

Another thing you might gain in the process of Cooking Hard Stuff is grace. It’s not always going to be a tidy story of overcoming challenges to create towering French desserts. Plenty of times, your recipe’s going to flop. Just a few days ago, I dumped an entire stockpot of soup right down the drain (trust me, there was no salvaging it). And according to your Facebook comments, you’ve all had similar experiences.

A recipe flop may feel like a waste of time, but actually, facing obstacles that thwart your plans is one of the most valuable aspects of Cooking Hard Stuff. Personally, nothing has changed my ability to weather frustration with grace as much as regularly exposing myself to manageable failures. I’m not going to pretend like I spouted inspirational platitudes when my cake toppled and had to be turned into a trifle (I threw an outright fit), but I can see myself becoming a better person over time. I love that.

Finally, you might find that Cooking Hard Stuff creates a new culture in your home and a new mood in your family celebrations. It’s fun to rally around a special accomplishment — particularly when said accomplishment is a big ol’ cake.

I don’t play the piano or knit. I’m willing to give anything an earnest try, but not every hobby is going to be right for me. In the same way, I don’t expect that every one of you should Cook Hard Stuff on a regular basis. (In fact, I haven’t even mentioned that Cooking Hard Stuff is a luxury that plenty of people don’t have due to location, income, transportation, supplies, and background knowledge.) I’ll keep on writing about the simple recipes, too. But if you haven’t tried Cooking Hard Stuff and you’re able to — and especially if you’ve just been thinking of cooking as a quick means of getting dinner on the table — I hope you’ll accept a little challenge from me.

THE COOKING HARD STUFF CHALLENGE: Pick a recipe that you normally wouldn’t try. Maybe it takes a little longer than you usually spend, or has a few more steps than you usually do. Pick a weekend in the month of March and set aside time to tackle that recipe. When you finish, even if it’s not perfect (remember that the goal is the process, not the product!), snap a photo and send it to me at julie ‘at’ willowbirdbaking ‘dot’ com with a little summary of how your experience went. In the coming weeks, I’ll share tips for Cooking Hard Stuff, and at the end of the month, I’ll post a roundup of the Hard Stuff everyone cooked.

Need some ideas? Try baking your own homemade croissants (there’s even a phototutorial), making breakfast cereal from scratch, making those awesome coconut pie bars, or baking a fancy layered cheesecake.

Make me proud, y’all.

Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from All Recipes (cake) and Zoe Bakes (coconut pastry cream)
Yield: serves about 10 people

This is a coconut lover’s dream. Dive into billowy, moist clouds of Tres Leches Coconut Cake, coconut pastry cream, fresh whipped cream, and toasted coconut. This dessert is best made at least a day in advance so the flavors can meld and the cake can soak up all its coconut love. Even though there are several steps to making this trifle, the end product (and the process!) is totally worth the effort.

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Three Milks Sauce Ingredients:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk, minus 1/2 cup
3/4 cup coconut milk

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:
1 can (14 fluid ounces) coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons icing sugar
toasted coconut for assembly and topping

Note: This trifle actually tastes better if it can sit in the fridge for a day, so feel free to make it in advance. To toast coconut, spread it on a baking sheet and bake it at 350 degrees F for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until it’s toasted and browning. Transfer it to a plate to cool before using it.

Make the coconut pastry cream: Mix the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat it over medium heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. When the coconut milk mixture gets hot, temper the egg yolks by scooping up 1/2 cup of milk and slowly drizzling it into the yolks while whisking. This prepares them to be added to the hot mixture without becoming scrambled eggs! Now add the tempered yolks back into the coconut milk mixture that’s still on the stove and whisk for 3 minutes on medium-high, or until the mixture turns thick and bubbles. Make sure to whisk constantly for the full 3 minutes so your pastry cream doesn’t separate later. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter and then the coconut. Pour the cream into a shallow dish to let it cool.

Cover the cooled cream with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream, which will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the pastry cream for an hour as you do the following steps. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen it up. Whisk the 1/2 cup of heavy cream to medium peaks in a chilled bowl. Stir in a third of the whipped cream into the pastry cream to lighten before folding in the rest.

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 9-inch cake pans (I use Wilton’s Cake Release and put a circle of parchment paper, also greased, in each pan). In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the 3/4 cup sugar until they are light and doubled in volume. Mix in the coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts, flour, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl (don’t use the same bowl as the yolks, because with any fat in the bowl, the whites won’t beat up), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form (but not until the whites become are dry). Fold the whites gently into the yolk mixture until no streaks remain and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake them at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before running a knife around the edge of the cake layers and inverting them onto a cooling rack. Cool them completely.

Make whipped cream: Whip the 2 cups of cream and icing sugar together in a chilled bowl to stiff peaks.

Assemble the trifle: Whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and the coconut milk for the Three Milks Sauce. Place one cake layer in the bottom of your trifle dish and poke holes in it with a fork. Pour about 1/3 cup of the milks mixture over it and let it sit for around 30 minutes. Top it with all of the coconut pastry cream, a generous layer of toasted coconut (saving some for sprinkling on top), and half of the whipped cream.

Poke the other cake layer with a fork (you do this before you put it in the dish because it’s kind of hard to poke it once it’s on top of the splushy cream). Place it on top of the whipped cream layer in your trifle dish and pour another 1/3 cup of the milks mixture over it (you’ll have quite a bit of the milks mixture leftover, since your trifle would be too mushy if you used all of it. One resourceful person on All Recipes said she whisked an egg and some spices in, dipped bread in it, and used it to make French toast.) Cover the trifle and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. After chilling, frost the trifle with the remaining whipped cream and top with the remaining toasted coconut. Let the whole thing sit overnight in the fridge before eating — it gets better with time! Give it a whole day in there if you have the time.

See all the Cooking Hard Stuff Tips:
The Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge
Tip #1: Read and visualize the recipe.
Tip #2: Mise en place.
Tip #3: Make a schedule.
Tip #4: Try, try, try again — or share your success

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79 Comments on Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle

  1. Susie
    March 6, 2012 at 1:04 am (12 years ago)

    I am never sure about coconut….I live in the tropics with coconuts all around me but nobody seems to like coconut desserts! I will have to try this sounds delish.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:07 am (12 years ago)

      Oh, too funny! I’d be munching on coconut something or other all the time. I hated it as a kid, but I’m making up for lost time πŸ˜‰ Thanks, Susie!

    • Julie
      August 8, 2017 at 10:02 am (7 years ago)

      Do you have a way to print your recipes????

      • Julie Ruble
        August 8, 2017 at 11:41 am (7 years ago)

        The newer recipes have a print button on the recipe card; however, on older recipes I haven’t always been able to add it yet. I typically copy them and paste them into a text document or email to print if I need to (or work from the screen). Hope that is helpful!

  2. Kelly
    March 6, 2012 at 1:07 am (12 years ago)

    I want to do this!! But I don’t know what to make. Would I be cheating if I tried croissants again? I never did send you a picture. I really want to make this trifle but I don’t have a trifle bowl. I’ve done 3 of your cheesecakes. *thinking really hard*

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:18 am (12 years ago)

      I would totally count another go round of croissants! Think of it as RE-tackling a challenge to capture your bravery on film πŸ˜‰

  3. Kelly
    March 6, 2012 at 1:24 am (12 years ago)

    Great! And maybe this time I will measure correctly and not end up with mini but yummy croissants. Did I ever tell you that I made a joconde imprime entremet? That was surprisingly easier than I expected it to be.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:40 am (12 years ago)

      No, you didn’t! That’s totally on my list. Making the designs in the sponge is just an irresistible idea! Bravo, Kelly!!

  4. Heather
    March 6, 2012 at 1:48 am (12 years ago)

    Ohhhh, I really *want* to take the challenge especially trying the coconut recipes as my husband loves coconut and he deserves the effort. I would have liked to make this for his homecoming as he’s been working away in China, but with 2 littlies hanging on me it might prove a bigger challenge. I will make a determined effort to try it before the end of March (when he’s home to look after said littlies)! I am in the process of knitting a hat for my daughter though, do I get points for that? πŸ™‚

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm (12 years ago)

      You TOTALLY get points for that. LOL. Aw, I love the idea of having a big coconut surprise when he comes home! The coconut bars (previous post) are a little less work — 30 minutes of stirring, though, so probably best for a naptime if there ever is one at your house! — but still fancy πŸ™‚

      Thanks, Heather!

  5. June g.
    March 6, 2012 at 2:04 am (12 years ago)

    Get out! This looks so decadent! My two favorites combined, I just had a vision of my face deep in the bowl;)

  6. Cookbook Queen
    March 6, 2012 at 2:08 am (12 years ago)

    Love your Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge!! I don’t know what it is about difficult recipes (it’s just ingredients, after all) but it’s so intimidating!

    This trifle looks majorly good.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm (12 years ago)

      Thanks, Kristan! I know what you mean — I’ll admit to closing a recipe with a too-long list of ingredients from time to time! There’s definitely an initial hurdle to jump over, and it’s hard when you don’t even know if you’ll like the hobby. That’s how I feel about running. And honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever make that leap. LOL.

  7. Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen
    March 6, 2012 at 9:21 am (12 years ago)

    I love “cooking hard stuff.” It’s so rewarding cooking something you’re unfamiliar with and having it turn out well.

    I was always afraid to make pie crust for some reason, and last summer spent 5 hours making a peach pie from scratch. It was definitely hard because there were a lot of steps (one of Cooks Illustrated’s notoriously long recipes) but very worth the effort!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm (12 years ago)

      Pie crusts can be so scary! They’re another thing, though, that once I made about 3 pies in a row, I felt comfortable with. It’s amazing how your comfort level radically changes as you make a recipe a few times.

      I know just what you mean about ATK’s recipes. They’re so great but they’re so involved that I can totally see people being turned off at first!

  8. Margita
    March 6, 2012 at 9:48 am (12 years ago)

    Is there any recipe available which can substitute Three Milks Sauce, since I only have regular milk in my country… Perhaps custard?

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm (12 years ago)

      Hi Margita, The other milks are canned, so look for them in cans just to double check. If you can’t find them, I think I’d steep some coconut flakes in some regular milk in the fridge overnight and just do a “one milk” sauce with that. You might use a little less of it when soaking your cake, though, because it’ll be thinner and more liquidy. I think it’ll still be delicious, though. Substitute heavy cream for the coconut milk in the pastry cream.

      • Margita
        March 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm (12 years ago)

        OK, I’ll go for a “one milk” version then πŸ™‚ No heavy cream here either, but we do have coconut milk in cans, so I’ll be good with that one… Thanks a lot!

        • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
          March 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm (12 years ago)

          Sure thing! If you have coconut milk too, you could do a coconut milk and regular milk mixture for the “three milks sauce” (and still use a little less). Might have to buy some already-whipped cream for the whipped cream layer, though. Hope you enjoy!

  9. Maria
    March 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm (12 years ago)

    Love this trifle!

  10. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    March 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm (12 years ago)

    I would dive right into this trifle if I could. It looks so…soft and fluffy!
    I love the idea of this challenge and will do my best to partake!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm (12 years ago)

      Hooray! Thanks, Amanda! Can’t wait to see what Hard Stuff you cook up! πŸ™‚

  11. Candy
    March 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm (12 years ago)

    Love this post! I set aside time on the weekends to cook the ‘hard stuff’ and even made my puff pastry from scratch recently. I agree that this process helps us grow.

    PS – trifle looks divine!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 7, 2012 at 4:22 am (12 years ago)

      Thanks, Candy! Puff pastry is one of those things where I can REALLY tell the difference between store-bought and homemade. I still use store-bought for convenience most of the time, but making it by hand is a great experience AND a special treat in terms of taste.

  12. Deanna
    March 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm (12 years ago)

    I love making hard stuff. Its my favorite kind of cooking. Homemade croissants are the best, as long as you remember the salt. Which I forgot once.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 7, 2012 at 4:14 am (12 years ago)

      It’s definitely exhilarating to pull ’em out of the oven! πŸ™‚ Thanks, Deanna!

  13. Joanne
    March 7, 2012 at 1:37 am (12 years ago)

    Cooking Hard Stuff, to me, feels like when I’m training for a marathon. It’s exciting to run ridiculous amounts of miles and it’s scary and there’s an adrenaline rush…and it’s just the best, Same with doing something daring in the kitchen. Love. It!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 7, 2012 at 4:14 am (12 years ago)

      Amen! Except that I’ve never trained for a marathon. But I’ll trust you on that! πŸ™‚ Maybe someday…

  14. Kaitlin
    March 7, 2012 at 5:59 am (12 years ago)

    Great post. I was just thinking about this the other day!

    It’s such a joy to pour hours into something – even if it doesn’t turn out just so – because you learn sooooo much in the process πŸ™‚

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm (12 years ago)

      Thanks, Kaitlin! I know what you mean. In fact, things almost always turn out slightly different than I’d envisioned, but it’s neat to see how they’ll end up.

  15. Tanya
    March 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm (12 years ago)

    Oh my god. I have been craving some sort of coconut-tres leches dessert all week. I literally just ran to the kitchen to check if I have enough eggs to make this (I do)! Thank you for answering my prayers!

  16. Tanya
    March 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm (12 years ago)

    Also, about the learning grace part – totally agree. I’ve become so much better at dealing with the occasional accident and flop. I’m glad you wrote a post about this, I never contemplated how cooking has affected me as a person before.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm (12 years ago)

      Aw, happy to pass the introspection mirror. I think it’s amazing to look back and see how I’ve changed! And of course, I can see how I still have a ways to go πŸ˜‰

  17. starre
    March 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm (12 years ago)

    just a quick ? in the cake and sauce you say coconut milk. Is this canned or the kind you can buy like milk now in the fridge section.

  18. FallsconsMate
    March 9, 2012 at 12:49 am (12 years ago)

    i SO want to Make Hard Stuff. but its hard to find good stuff once you have to convert to make it ok for diabetics. bleargh.

    maybe i’ll just get the fresh apple cake recipe from mama. or figure out how to make friendship tea sugarless.

    or maybe just figure out how to use my oven. explaination: too many years using crap electric apartment ovens and now we have a HOUSE and a gas stove!! which i havent cooked on in decades. ohhhh boy. πŸ˜€

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 9, 2012 at 5:39 am (12 years ago)

      That does make it tough! That apple cake sounds heavenly, though. I hope you can find something! You could also cook a hard something that was savory to make it a bit easier!

      Ahh, the gas stove — a blessing and a curse! LOL!

  19. Marj
    March 9, 2012 at 4:03 am (12 years ago)

    This looks so delicious!! I plan to make this for my friend who has a serious coconut addiction. I know she is going to love this dessert!

  20. Jessica @ bake me away!
    March 11, 2012 at 5:42 am (12 years ago)

    Amen!! Cooking Hard Stuff is one of my favorite things to do which is what led me to blogging and then joining the Daring Kitchen. It’s so much fun to play with food that getting to eat it when you’re finished is just an added bonus.

    And holy cow, my life requires coconut pastry cream. Beautiful trifle!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 11, 2012 at 5:50 am (12 years ago)

      Thank you, Jessica! I credit my time with Daring Bakers for introducing me to the thrill of Cooking Hard Stuff — what a fun group!!

  21. Suzy
    March 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm (12 years ago)

    I love the idea of a Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge! I still owe you a batch of homemade croissants…or maybe my first cheesecake? So many possibilities…I’ll keep you posted!

  22. Alq
    March 18, 2012 at 4:01 am (12 years ago)

    I am lazy. I adore shortcuts. But I also like to make Hard Stuff, and have been yearning to make griyot again, which I currently class as hard stuff because of the various steps, and I’m still struggling with the rice and beans. I made it at the end of last year, and sadly didn’t have enough time for everything to pickle/marinade as long as it should have. I’ve still got half a very large jar of piklis, which comes out every so often, and needs topping up. However, despite the lack of time, the husband still wolfed down every last morsel he could of it! He doesn’t normally do spicy, but he did this! I’m also thinking that this coconut trifle would be a wonderful (and mouth cooling) dessert following this.

    (The recipe I used was this one –

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 18, 2012 at 4:38 am (12 years ago)

      I love shortcuts too — partly because sometimes the finished product IS the most important thing to me (rather than the process), and partly because sometimes I want to focus on one part of the recipe and another part is more of an obstacle than a fun addition. But I also love a challenge πŸ™‚

      That recipe looks amazing!! It’s a great “Hard Thing” to cook, I agree! And the coconut trifle really would be ideal right afterwards πŸ™‚

  23. Emily
    March 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm (12 years ago)

    Oh my! This looks heavenly!

  24. Stacey Napier
    April 9, 2012 at 12:32 am (12 years ago)

    Made this yesterday for Easter (today) and it was FANTASTIC! Thank you for sharing!

  25. Courtney
    April 9, 2012 at 2:45 am (12 years ago)

    Made this for Easter and everyone kept telling me how it was the “best dessert ever”! The steps were very easy to follow and I really did have to agree, it was an incredible dessert. Thanks so much!! Can’t wait to try some more out!

  26. Mercedes
    April 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm (12 years ago)

    I love tres leches and how gooey it is, and adding coconut and making it as a trifle is pure genius!

  27. Sarah @ Miss CandiQuik
    May 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm (12 years ago)

    I love tres leches cake and I love anything coconut. I have yet to try a tres leches version w/ coconut milk, this needs to happen asap! Thanks!

  28. BryanJ
    June 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm (12 years ago)

    Julie, this recipe calls for both “coconut milk” and “unsweetened coconut milk.” Does that mean the coconut milk not labeled as unsweetened is sweetened?

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      June 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm (12 years ago)

      I meant for it to say the same thing, Bryan — the unsweetened canned coconut milk (like Thai Kitchen or a cheaper off brand). Sorry for the confusion! I’ll fix that.

  29. Crystal
    June 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm (12 years ago)

    I saw this on Pinterest and made it this weekend. Delicious! I picked up a box of “coconut milk beverage” in the organic section (near the almond milk, soy milk, etc.), just in case I didn’t find coconut milk elsewhere, and totally forgot to look for regular coconut milk in the can. It turned out great with this semi-substitution anyway. The recipe takes a lot of time, but it’s not terribly difficult! Thanks for posting it.

  30. Angela
    August 27, 2012 at 2:47 am (12 years ago)

    I have made this twice now, and love it so much, everyone else who tried it loved it so much too. Yay, for hard stuff and time consuming stuff, the end results are awesome. This is now my favorite go to desert to impress, thank you so much for this post πŸ™‚

  31. Jimi
    December 23, 2012 at 4:46 am (11 years ago)

    Help! Obviously I’m not a sponge-cake maker! What is the secret? I baked them 20 minutes, thought they were done. When I went to remove them from the pans they were very sticky…like glue! I guess that was all those eggs. We’re they simply not done? Or did I do something wrong mixing them? Everything else appears fine. I won’t taste it until tomorrow. I threw out the sticky cakes and baked up a Betty Crocker French vanilla Cake. That worked in a pinch! I still think it will taste wonderful. I need to study up on sponge cakes! Thanks for posting.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      December 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm (11 years ago)

      Hi Jimi! What happened with the toothpick test? A few moist crumbs?

      Sponge cakes are a little moister than most, so I always grease the pan with Wilton’s Cake Release AND use a round of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan AND grease those with Wilton’s Cake Release. I then loosen with a table knife around the edges and remove them.

  32. Petrea Tomko
    March 4, 2013 at 12:36 pm (11 years ago)

    Hi, Julie,

    My question is about the coconut extract. All I can find is coconut artificial flavoring, which I am reluctant to use having used it in the past. It imparts a real artificial flavor to my palate – finishes with a bitterness that contradicts the coconut flavors coming from other products in the recipes. King Arthur Flour has a coconut flavoring, but I have been able to find out if that is really an extract. What did you use?

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      March 5, 2013 at 4:10 am (11 years ago)

      Hi Petrea,

      I share your feelings about coconut extract where it’s the primary flavor, but here it just props up the natural coconut and I don’t notice any artificial taste in the finished product. Nevertheless, if you’ve used it in finished recipes before and don’t love it, I say leave it out and go with either something more natural or just the fresh coconut altogether. I did use the extract here.

      Let me know what you try!

  33. Jamie
    March 13, 2013 at 2:13 am (11 years ago)

    I just made this today for my mother’s birthday party tomorrow. Can’t wait to try it! It turned out great. I even tempered the eggs correctly! I agree – sometimes it is good to make the hard recipes. They are well worth it in the end.

  34. Savannagal
    April 29, 2014 at 2:31 pm (10 years ago)

    Maybe I’m missing something, but you say to pour about 2/3 of the milks mixture over the first layer cake. Then pour another 2/3 of the milks mixture over the 2nd layer cake. Leaving a lot left over to be used for some other purpose. If I used 2/3, that would leave only 1/3 left. I can’t pour another 2/3 over the 2nd layer cake, much less have any left over. What am I missing?

    • Julie Ruble
      April 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm (10 years ago)

      Oops, just a typo πŸ™‚ Should be 1/3 and 1/3.

  35. Erica
    March 22, 2015 at 12:52 pm (9 years ago)

    How thick is the Coconut Pastry cream supposed to be?

    • Julie Ruble
      March 22, 2015 at 5:37 pm (9 years ago)

      Hi Erica! Once it’s totally completed, the coconut pastry cream is like a custard. It’s stiffer than whipped cream but not as stiff as the cooked base before you fold in the cream (which is very thick, especially after chilling — almost a gelatinous solid that you have to beat up to loosen.)

  36. Lisa
    June 30, 2015 at 8:35 am (9 years ago)

    this was a hit!! So good! Will be making again and again!!

  37. Analee
    October 3, 2015 at 8:55 pm (9 years ago)

    I love you Julie! I’ve been stalking your blog for awhile now and never say a word. Just silently lurk, and bake the stuff. I seriously want to make every single thing on your website. Seeing as I’ve just recently moved to Interior Alaska – where good restaurants are in very short supply and too expensive – that that time may not be in the all-that-distant future.
    I made this, and it was fanTAStic. Absolutely heavenly. My whole family -and the company I was feeding that night – LOVED it.
    Thank you for being the run-around busy sort of person that you are so that I can benefit from your talents. Just wanted to let you know how appreciated you are from my little corner of the world.


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  1. […] to plan on making the gratin in June to celebrate my first year of blogging. Β Then I read a blog post Julie at Willow Bird Baking wrote about Cooking Hard Stuff. I thought it was timely in regards to […]

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