Let’s start with the basics: What is coquito?
Coquito is often described as a Puerto Rican eggnog but I’ve always felt like that comparison doesn’t do it justice. First of all, it’s MUCH better than eggnog. And secondly, it usually doesn’t have egg in it (some families’ recipes do use egg, but most don’t).
Coquito is a coconut-based drink that usually has sweetened condensed milk, regular milk, lots of rum and a hint of spices like cinnamon and cloves.
My family is not Puerto Rican so I didn’t have it until I was a teenager, living in South Florida. I remember someone handing it to me at a party and I was like, DANG WHAT IS THIS?!?!
It’s way better than eggnog in my opinion. The texture and weight is way lighter than eggnog (my usual issue with drinking it), which I love. The combination of rum and coconut is just the best, especially with the spices added in.
I took those flavors and implemented them into this cake! I thought of doing a tres leches but I’ve made a lot of tres leches cakes in the past so I was looking to do something a lil’ different.
This cake is kind of like a soaking cake because of the rum syrup that is brushed it on top. When we were developing this cake, we sort of asked ourselves, How do we put the rum into it? We thought about a lot of options but none of them sounded all that great. Soaking it in a rum syrup sounded like the absolute best way. The butter in the rum syrup, adds a nice gentle richness. It’s like a buttered rum…but not.
The sheet cake itself is a nice fluffy coconut cake that uses coconut cream (a must in coquito). I used the brand Goya. This can is usually sold at liquor stores (a lot of mixed drinks use cream of coconut) or you can check any grocery store in the Hispanic Section.
I also used coconut extract because it really packs that coconut flavor punch that we love so much. (I tested it without the coconut extract and the flavor didn’t come through enough; you really need that!)
When the cake comes out of the oven, the entire cake gets brushed with this delicious rum syrup.
And then a nice fluffy coconut frosting is added to the top.
You can make the topping in whatever style you like, but I went with a “string of lights” made from buttercream and large Jordan chocolate-covered almonds as the “lights.” FUN, NO?
If you’re like nahhh…I would suggest adding some toasted coconut flakes or regular coconut flakes. Or maybe some gingerbread cookies as decoration. MAKE IT FUN!
This time of year is about fun!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup white rum or dark rum, I used white rum but if dark is all you have, use it!
- 1 cinnamon stick
Coconut Sheet Cake:
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup milk
- 6 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup cream of coconut, from brands like Coco Lopez or Goya
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
Coconut Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons cream of coconut, we’re using it in the cake and buttercream
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- Green and black food coloring gel, we’re going for dark green
- Jordan Chocolate-Covered Almonds, you could also use chocolate covered sunflower seeds that are in various colors
To Make the Rum Syrup:
- To a saucepan, set over medium heat, add the butter and when melted, add the sugar, water, rum and cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then immediately turn to low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to steep while you make the cake.
To Make the Coconut Sheet Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray (or rub with butter) and line with a sheet of parchment. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk until combined.
- To the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment (or you can use a large bowl with an electric mixer), add the butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. In a measuring cup, pour in the milk, egg whites, cream of coconut and coconut extract; whisk until combined.
- Turn the mixer to low speed and, alternating between the dry ingredients and the liquid ingredients (the egg white mixture), add to the butter/sugar mixture until the batter is relatively smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and transfer to the oven to bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. And then brush with the rum syrup. I like to do it when it's warm so the cake absorbs the rum syrup. Allow to cool in the pan and then transfer to any serving tray you like.
To Make the Frosting:
- To the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl with an electric hand-mixer), add the butter and sifted powdered sugar. Beat on low, until smooth, about 1 minute. Next, add the cream of coconut, coconut extract and heavy cream. Beat on medium speed for a full 2 minutes; this will result in super fluffy frosting.
To Decorate the Cake:
- Set aside about 1/4 cup of buttercream and place it in a bowl. Using black and green food coloring gel, add food gel until it turns a dark green color (we’re going for the color of Christmas tree lights—we’re artists!).
- Add the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a #5 round tip. And add swirls in different directions, mimicking the cord of the lights. Arrange the almonds on the “cord” to replicate as “lights.” Slice and serve.