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Coconut soak is key to the cake at Rooster’s in Charlotte

The coconut cake at Rooster’s in Charlotte gets its flavor from a coconut milk syrup that’s poured over the cake.
The coconut cake at Rooster’s in Charlotte gets its flavor from a coconut milk syrup that’s poured over the cake. Jennifer Lover

After trying to re-create Rooster’s signature coconut cake without any luck, Myra Amler, the band director at Saluda Trail Middle School, wrote for help. The dessert reminds her of a tres leches cake, “but better because it has coconut.”

Owner Jim Noble ( put me in touch with executive chef Mike Pappas for help.

“It’s the coconut soak that really brings this cake home,” Pappas said.

Please note that this cake is meant to be WET. The vanilla chiffon base absorbs the 4 cups of coconut soak like a sponge. It firms up a bit as it’s refrigerated overnight, but feel free to adjust the amount of soak based on personal preference.

Another tip is to pay close attention to the size of the springform pan. Mine is a German brand, and while the label claims it’s 8 inches, it’s really closer to 7 1/2 on the inside. I only filled it with enough batter to reach about 1/2 inch from the top, and I used a little less soaking liquid and filling. I made a couple of cupcakes with the leftovers and they were delicious.

Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.


Two locations: 6601 Morrison Blvd in SouthPark, 704-366-8688; and 150 N. College St. uptown, 704-370-7667.

Rooster’s Coconut Cake

5 eggs, separated

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup cake flour

1/3 cup plus 2/3 cup sugar, divided

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Coconut Soak:

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup sugar

Coconut Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipes)

3 cups shredded coconut for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch springform pan. Whisk egg yolks, water, oil and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth.

Sift cake flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt on top of wet ingredients and mix in.

Beat egg whites on medium-low speed with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Gradually increase speed to medium, then medium-high. When the volume has increased by about four times, slowly add in 2/3 cup sugar at the side of the bowl. Continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter.

Pour batter into the prepared springform pan and bake 20 minutes. Rotate pan and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely in pan.

Make the coconut soak: Combine the coconut milk, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Assemble cake: Remove cake from pan and cut in half horizontally. Place bottom half back into the pan, cut side up (assembling in the springform pan will keep the cake together). Pour half of the coconut soak over the bottom. The cake will be very wet. Cover with coconut filling. Place next layer on top, cut side up, and soak with remaining liquid. Refrigerate overnight. Remove cake from mold and invert onto a cake plate or stand. Cover with cream cheese frosting, then press handfuls of coconut around the top and sides.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (3 8-ounce packages), room temperature

6 ounces butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl of a stand mixer until lump free. Beat in vanilla. Slowly beat in confectioner’s sugar until fluffy.

Yield: Enough for 1 (8-inch) cake

Coconut Filling

3 cups shredded coconut

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup whole milk

Beat coconut, sour cream and vanilla with a mixer.

Place sugar and flour in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk milk in slowly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Once thickened, add to the coconut mixture and beat on low speed until slightly cool.