Recipe: How to Make Ruth & Dean’s Coconut Cake

Susannah Ruth Bryan, the maker of beautiful cakes at Ruth & Dean in Victoria, is famed for her tall, snowy coconut cakes. The inspiration, she says, comes from the famous coconut cake served at the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. Here’s her Victoria version.




• 2 cups butter, at room temperature

• 3 cups sugar

• 6 large eggs, at room temperature

• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

• 2 1/4 cups cake flour

• 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

• 1/2 tsp salt

• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

• 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

• 1 tsp coconut extract

• Simple syrup (1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, boiled together 5 minutes and cooled)


• 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut and seasonal greenery


• 4 cups coconut milk

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 cups unsalted butter

• 1/3 cup cornstarch

• 1 tbsp vanilla

• 8 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

• 1 tbsp water

Vanilla buttercream

• 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 3 cups icing sugar

• 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

• 4 tbsp whipping cream

• 1 1/2 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 325˚F. Grease two deep, 10-inch round cake pans (or springform pans), and line with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, cream butter with sugar on high speed for 10 to 15 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the cream, vanilla and coconut extract. With mixer on low speed, add a portion of the flour mixture, alternating with cream mixture, and beat until all is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, on the upper rack of the preheated oven, until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and springs back when lightly touched. Cool cakes on a wire rack for five minutes before removing from the pans. Invert cakes on cooling rack to cool completely. Chill cake overnight before trimming and filling.

To make the filling, combine the coconut milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and reduce heat to low. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of water. Add this slowly to the mixture in the saucepan, whisking to combine. Simmer until thickened, about 1 minute longer (when tasted there should be no “chalky” mouth-feel, with the spoon becoming more reluctant with every rotation). Remove from heat.

In a food processor, pulse the coconut until finely chopped. Stir into the warm coconut milk mixture. Cool and chill for several hours. Before using to fill the cake, beat the filling with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

For the frosting, cream all the ingredients together in the bowl of your mixer, on medium, until very light and fluffy. This usually takes at least 10 minutes.

To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to trim and level tops of chilled cakes; discard trimmings. Cut each cake in half horizontally to create two even layers. Place strips of parchment paper over edges of serving plate or Lazy Susan.

Place one layer of cake on the plate, cut side down. Brush with simple syrup and spread with one third of the coconut filling. Top with a second layer of cake and repeat process, ending with a cake layer.

Spread frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake, using just enough to create a smooth surface.

You can finish the cake with a snowy layer of shredded coconut, pressing handfuls of coconut into the top and sides to cover it completely, or simply use the coconut for a platter garnish and top with a sprig of greens and berries.

Chill the cake for at least five hours (or up to three days) after filling and decorating. Bring to room temperature to slice and serve.

This recipe was included in the November/December 2017 issue of YAM.