Coconut Cake (Doctored Cake Mix Version)
1 white or yellow cake mix (not prepared)
1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces
Coconut milk to replace the water, reserve excess for icing (1 can should be enough)
2 cups sweetened or unsweetened, shredded coconut, divided
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
shredded coconut (reserved from the cake above)
1 cup toasted pecans
2 sticks butter, room temperature but not too soft
4 oz. cream cheese
remaining coconut milk
2-3 cups (or more) powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 or 9″ round cake pans and line with a round of wax or parchment paper. Grease the wax paper.
Place shredded coconut in the bowl of a food processor and process until all the coconut is finely chopped. Remove half and place in a separate bowl for filling.
Add the dry cake mix to the food processor bowl and scatter the butter over the top. Pulse until the mixture looks like cornmeal and no large chunks of butter remain. With the food processor running on low, add the eggs and coconut milk. Process until the batter is very thick, but be careful not to over process. (Maybe 30 seconds to 1 minute tops.)
Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake for the time recommended on the cake mix box. The cake will be done when the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge to loosen the cakes and turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Place the can of sweetened condensed milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with water. There should be at least 1-2 inches of water above the top of the can. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature to allow the water to simmer. Cook the s. milk for 2 hours, being careful to add more water and keep the can fully submerged. Turn the can every 15 minutes or so to encourage even cooking.
After 2 hours, turn off the heat and let the can cool in the water until cool enough to touch. Remove the can from the water and let it cool completely. Being very careful, remove the top of the can with a can opener and spoon the dulce de leche (or doce de leite) into a bowl and add the reserved coconut and toasted nuts. Set aside until ready to assemble the cake.
Beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and remaining coconut milk until the frosting reaches the desired spreading consistency. (It’s better to err on the side of too thick with this. Place in the fridge to firm up a little if it becomes runny.)
To assemble the cake:
Slice off the tops of the cakes to create a flat, even surface. Place one layer on a cake plate or cardboard round. Spread the filling over the layer, leaving 1/4″ of a border around the edge. Place the next layer, top side down, on the filling. Press down to make the cake level and even.
Chill the cake for about 30 minutes.
Spread a good amount of the coconut frosting on the top and around the sides or the cake. Sprinkle with the dessicated or toasted coconut. Chill cake until ready to serve. But, remove the cake from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving so it is easier to cut into slices.