Coconut custard, rhubarb and dulce de leche cake

3:10 pm on 8 July 2016

This is one of my favourite cakes to make and eat. It consists of a coconut cake, coconut milk custard filling, rhubarb for tartness and a drizzle of rich dulce de leche. The coconut custard isn’t a filling I use often, but I really enjoy it for a change. It has a generous amount of toasted thread coconut folded through it for texture and to enhance the flavour. The praline icing is also an unusual addition and adds a lovely hint of burnt sugar caramel, which goes nicely with the dulce de leche between the layers of the cake.


Melie's Kitchen Cake

For the coconut cakes

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup plain unsweetened yoghurt

For the stewed rhubarb

  • 360g rhubarb, cut into roughly 3cm pieces
  • ⅓ cup caster sugar
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the toasted coconut custard

  • 3 egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • 65g butter, cubed
  • 1 cup thread coconut, lightly toasted until golden

For the praline icing

  • 2 quantities of Toffee Powder (see page 167)
  • 2 quantities of Vanilla Butter Icing (see page 162)

To assemble and decorate

  • ¾ cup dulce de leche or tinned caramel
  • ½ cup toasted thread coconut
  • 60g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • roses and edible flowers to decorate (optional)


Preheat the oven to 175°C. Grease two 20cm round cake tins and line the bases and sides with baking paper. Set aside.

To make the coconut cakes, cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on a high speed for about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat on a high speed for about 3 minutes until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and add the flour, baking powder and salt, beating until just combined. Add the coconut milk and yoghurt and beat on a low speed until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins and smooth over the tops.

Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside in the tins until cooled. Carefully turn out and peel away the baking paper. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and set aside.

To make the stewed rhubarb, combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Heat until the juices from the rhubarb are released and the mixture starts to boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the rhubarb is tender. Put about 3 tablespoons of the rhubarb in a small bowl for the garnish, then put the remainder in a separate bowl. Cover both with cling film and refrigerate while you make the other components.

To make the toasted coconut custard, use electric beaters to beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and pale. Add the cornflour and whisk until combined. Set aside.

Heat the coconut milk in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat until it starts to simmer. Remove from the heat and slowly pour a third of the hot coconut milk over the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream while whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently, whisking constantly, until thickened and the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until fully combined. Fold in the toasted thread coconut. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate until it is at room temperature. Once cooled and ready to use, beat briefly with a spoon or whisk until smooth again.

To make the praline icing, fold the toffee powder into the vanilla butter icing until fully incorporated. Transfer half of the praline icing into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm circle tip and cover the remainder with cling film. Set aside at room temperature until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Slice the domed top off each cake if necessary to create a flat surface, then slice each cake in half lengthways to form four even layers. (Refer to page 72 for levelling tips.)

To assemble the cake, place a cake layer on a flat serving plate or stand. Pipe a ring of icing around the top of the cake layer, about 5mm in from the edge. Spoon a third of the toasted coconut custard into the centre of the layer and spread out evenly within the cake ring. Spoon over a third of the larger quantity of stewed rhubarb and spread out evenly. In a small bowl, whisk the dulce de leche or caramel until smooth and, using a spoon, drizzle a third of it over the rhubarb. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat the same icing and filling steps as above, taking care not to press down too hard. Place the third cake layer on top and repeat the same steps. Place the final cake layer on top and press down very lightly so that it is flat on top. (Refer to page 72 for layer-filling tips.) Refrigerate for around 10 minutes to help set the layers for ease of icing.

Spread a very thin layer of praline icing around the outside of the cake. Using a palette knife dipped into hot water, smooth around the outside of the cake. To do this, hold the knife in place so that it is just touching the icing and then, using your other hand, slowly turn the plate that the cake is on. (Refer to page 74 for crumb-coating tips.) Refrigerate for 10 minutes to let the icing set slightly.

Using the palette knife, spread a thicker layer of praline icing around the outside of the cake. Dip the palette knife into hot water and smooth over the icing. Once you have smoothed over about a third of the outside, dip the knife back into hot water and repeat the same process until the entire cake is smoothed over. Dip the knife back into hot water and smooth down any icing above the top of the cake so that the top edge is flat and even. (Refer to page 74 for icing tips.)

Using your hands, pat the toasted thread coconut around the entire bottom third of the cake then gently tap the plate against the bench to remove any excess. Pipe little dollops of praline icing around the bottom of the cake. Melt the chocolate and decorate the top outside edge of the cake with chocolate drips as shown on page 76. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate drips have set.

Put the remaining praline icing into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm circle tip. Pipe the icing around the edge of the top of the cake in three rings of dollops. Spoon the extra rhubarb into the circle in the middle of the piped icing and spread out to the edges. (Refer to page 76 for decorating tips.) Decorate with roses and edible flowers, if desired.

This cake is best eaten the day it is made, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. If it has been chilled, allow about 20 minutes to soften at room temperature

Recipe from Melie's Kitchen by Amelia Ferrier, published by Random House NZ, RRP: $40.00. Photography by Tam West

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm

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