A sweet, soothing and exotic coconut cake traybake

Squares of cake soaked in coconut milk with tangy cream-cheese icing

Growing up, my mother was the only girl of five children, and as a teenager, her four brothers loved her weekly Saturday baking ritual. The aroma of freshly baked cakes lured them in at tea time, and like scavengers, they raided the 1970s Tupperware, leaving only crumbs.

When my mother married, she brought a big red cookbook with her, and as it happens, it was the only cookbook I remember seeing growing up. The book was a collection of recipes for home cooks, untitled and worn at the spine. I remember three recipes that were made on a loop in our house – carrot cake, Victoria sponge and coconut buns. Those pages were sticky and splattered from repeated use.

I vaguely remember our Saturday bakes, creaming margarine with a wooden spoon by hand as we didn’t have an electric beater. This was made all the more laborious as my mother always forgot to take the margarine out to soften before baking, and so the creaming felt like it took hours.

This week’s recipe is an ode to those coconut buns, and a variation on one of my Mum’s favourites. It is sweet and exotic in flavour, but soothing and nostalgic all at the same time. I like to bake this cake in a square tin and cut it into squares. It is the perfect tea-time treat. It will also work perfectly in a 20cm round tin if you prefer a thick wedge of cake.


The slightly unusual aspect to this cake is that the sponge is soaked in a mix of coconut milk and sugar, with the optional extra of coconut rum, warmed together and poured over the baked sponge. This allows the sponge to absorb all of those tropical, bright flavours. It also adds another hit of coconut, as well as keeping it perfectly moist.

The icing is a classic cream-cheese one, which pairs so wonderfully with the sponge and coconut, and lends a gorgeous tang to the cake. I love this cream-cheese icing recipe and use it for lots of bakes. It works particularly well with carrot and red-velvet cake too.

The iced cake will keep for a few days in an airtight container, or it can be frozen until needed.

Recipe: Coconut cake traybake