Brazilian Coconut Cake via Chef Leticia

Leticia Schwartz

Chef Leticia Schwartz is the author of The Brazilian Kitchen, the cookbook that made Brazilian cooking accessible to the masses. She is also a Fairfield County resident, and if you have had the opportunity to take one of her cooking classes, you already know that her recipes are worth coveting. In Chef Leticia's blog she posted the original version of this recipe for Toalha Felpuda, a heavenly delicious Coconut Cake from a store in Rio de Janeiro. This recipe can not be found in her cookbook, and it takes this classic cake to a whole other level. 



Chef Leticia's Toalha Felpuda, (Brazilian Coconut Cake)

In this version, I added 2 more egg yolks on the genoise, and I used a Swiss   instead of the Italian meringue, and I used a little bit more of coconut milk to soak the cake. The essence of the cake is absolutely the same, but the components work a little bit easier in this version. 

Serves 8 to 10


6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

2 large egg yolks

1 ½ cups (250g) potato starch, sifted (***)

1 ¾ cups (350g) sugar, divided 

¾ cup (225 ml) coconut milk, heated and cooled (to soak the cake)


Coconut Pastry Cream:

3 egg yolks

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 2/3 cup (400ml) coconut milk

2 tablespoons (25g) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup + 2 tablespoons (150ml) heavy cream

¾ cup (50g) unsweetened grated coconut


Coconut Meringue:

10 egg whites (350g)

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cup (100g) unsweetened grated coconut, preferably fresh

1. Set an oven rack in the middle position. Pre-heat the oven to 325˚F. Butter a 10X2 inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter again, and dust with flour shaking off the excess.

2. To Make the Cake: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk all 8 yolks with ½ cup (100g) of sugar until it has thickened and turned pale yellow.

3. In another bowl also fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle the remaining sugar and beat until soft peaks forms. 

4. Using a rubber spatula, fold one third of the whites into the yolk mixture, then the remaining egg whites.

5. Slowly sprinkle the potato starch over the mixture and fold carefully with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the potato starch from accumulating or making lumps.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake rotating the sheet about two thirds of the way through the baking time until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

7. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cake out and let it cool completely on the rack.

8. To Make the Coconut Pastry Cream: in a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and cornstarch.

9. In a saucepan bring the coconut milk to a simmer. Whisking constantly, pour the hot coconut milk into the bowl with the yolk mixture, gradually at first to temper it, and then more quickly. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture should thicken to a pudding-like consistency, about 3 minutes.

10. Transfer the coconut pastry cream to a bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes to cool a bit.  Whisk in the butter and vanilla. 

11. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until nice and fluffy. Fold into the coconut cream pastry cream. Finally fold in the dried coconut. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the cream to prevent a crust from forming, and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

12. To Make the Coconut Meringue:  Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt and place in the bowl of an electric mixer set over a pot of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk constantly until the mixture is warm to the touch; it should look slightly foamy and the sugar completely dissolved.

13. Bring the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on medium – high speed until the mixture is fluffy, glossy, and completely cool, about 10 minutes. 

14. To Assemble the Cake, use a long serrated knife to trim the top and sides of the cake. Cut the cake into three equal horizontal layers. Set one layer cut side up on a cardboard and brush deliberately with coconut milk. Scoop about half of the coconut pastry cream and spread over the cake with an offset spatula. Top with another layer, brush with coconut milk, and spread the remaining coconut milk. Set the third layer on top, cut side down, and give a very thing coating of the meringue to capture any loose crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes, until the meringue is set, and spread the cake with the remaining meringue. Gently press the coconut all over the cake to coat completely. 

(***) Different brands of potato starch weight differently. If using Bob Red Mill brand, add 3 tablespoons of potato starch to reach exactly 250g.