Not all cake and cupcake recipes are created equal – particularly in difficulty – but a book that incorporates various skill levels is a nice addition to a cookbook collection. In “100 Best-Ever Recipes: Cakes & Cupcakes,” from the editors of Fine Cooking, you will find recipes that appeal to beginner bakers and some that offer challenges to those with more experience in the kitchen.

Both easy and more elaborate recipes mostly have long ingredient lists (more than 12 is the average) and detailed instructions that typically run for more than a page. The recipes were contributed by 40 people, ranging from Fine Cooking editors – the monthly recipe-focused magazine is based in Connecticut – to notable pastry chefs and cookbook writers.

The book organizes the recipes into categories – from snacking cakes (for example, moist apple crumb cake) and “cool and creamy” (say, Boston cream pie) to fruit and special-occasion cakes. Every recipe has a photo so you get a clear sense of what each cake is supposed to look like.

The Coconut Cream Cake caught my eye because I was looking for a challenge and found one with the blowtorch technique for this meringue-topped cake.

The blowtorch turned out to be the hardest part because I had no experience using one. Even though the recipe provided step-by-step instructions, I struggled to avoid burning spots while also ensuring the meringue came out light rather than the texture of marshmallows. That aside, the cake was super creamy and moist. This was a time-consuming recipe – it took me about two hours, and it has three separate and involved components – but the hand-holding instructions were helpful. It’s a tasty challenge for an experienced baker. — GAETANA ALMEIDA



This cake requires a lot of eggs, so check your supply before you begin. You’ll also need three (9-inch) round cake pans.

Serves 16


1 cup unsalted butter, softened, more for the pans

13-1/2 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder


1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature


6 large egg whites, at room temperature


2 cups heavy cream

3 large egg yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt


3 cups granulated sugar


1-1/2 cups egg whites (about 10 large), preferably pasteurized, at room temperature


1. Position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat oven to 350 F.

2. Butter three 9 x 2-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment round. Butter the parchment.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In a 1-cup liquid measure, mix the coconut milk and vanilla.

4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.


5. Add about one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add half of the coconut milk and mix until incorporated. Continue adding the flour mixture and coconut milk, alternating the 2 and ending with the flour. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Pour the batter into a large bowl.

6. In a clean mixer bowl and using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a spatula, gently stir a large spoonful of the whites into the cake batter to loosen it, and then fold the remaining egg whites gently into the batter.

7. Portion the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Level the batter with a spatula. Set two pans on the top rack and the third on the lower rack. Stagger the pans on the oven racks so that no pan is directly over another. Bake, swapping and rotating the pans’ positions after 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes total. Cool on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment, and cool completely.


1. In a medium bowl, whisk 11/2 cups of the cream and the egg yolks.

2. Combine the sugar and flour in a medium saucepan. Add the cream mixture and cook, whisking, over medium heat until smooth, 2 minutes. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking, until thickened to a pudding consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the coconut, butter, vanilla and salt and let cool to room temperature.


3. With an electric hand mixer, whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks. With a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the filling.


Put a cake layer on a flat serving platter or a cake stand lined with strips of waxed paper to keep it clean while icing. Top the layer with half of the filling, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula almost to the cake’s edge. Repeat with a second cake layer and the remaining filling. Top with the last cake layer.


1. Put the sugar and egg whites in the metal bowl of a stand mixer (make sure it’s clean) and set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar melts completely, 3 to 4 minutes. Rub a small amount between your fingers to make sure all the sugar grains have melted.

2. Transfer the bowl to the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk at low speed until the mixture becomes completely opaque and begins to thicken, about 4 minutes. Raise the speed to medium and beat until thickened to soft peaks that barely hold their shape and flop over when the beater is lifted, 5 to 7 minutes. Finally, raise the speed to high and beat until glossy and thickened to medium-firm peaks that stand up stiffly but curl slightly at the tip when the beater is lifted, about 4 minutes more.

3. Using an offset spatula, apply the meringue thickly over the entire cake – don’t worry about spreading it smooth or you’ll overwork the meringue (you may not need all of it). Then, repeatedly poke your fingertips into the meringue, pulling it into spikes all over the cake. Remove the waxed paper strips.

4. Using a kitchen torch, brown the meringue by holding the torch 2 to 3 inches from the meringue and waving the flame over the cake until it’s browned all over.


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