Island nations such as Hawaii, Samoa and the Cook Islands revere the ancient taro crop, where it is used to make a variety of dishes, most commonly poi (a thick taro paste). Many of the islands combine taro with coconut in their sweets, including Samoan fa’ausi (sweet taro dumplings in coconut milk) and Hawaiian kulolo (a taro and coconut-milk pudding). Our layered cake is a contemporary version of similar coconut cakes commonly served in the region. 






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (62 votes)


  • 160 g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ lemon, zested
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 300 g (2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 250 g shredded coconut
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk

Taro filling

  • 600 g taro
  • 60 g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) coconut milk

Cream cheese icing

  • 375 g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 90 g unsalted butter, chopped, at room temperature
  • 80 g (½ cup) icing sugar
  • 80 ml (⅔ cup) thickened cream


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Grease and line the base and side of a 20 cm springform pan. Preheat oven to 160°C. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest on high speed until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine flour and 175 g coconut, and fold into butter mixture alternately with milk until just combined. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks, then fold into batter, in 3 batches, until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 ¾ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand cake for 5 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, to make filling, thickly peel taro and cut into 3 cm cubes. Place in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 12 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash. Place butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar has melted. Stir in coconut milk and mashed taro, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until cold.

To make icing, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy. Add cream and beat on low speed until combined.

To assemble, cut cake horizontally into 3 layers, starting from the bottom. Place top layer on a platter, cut-side up, and spread with half the taro filling. Place next layer on top and spread with remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer, cut-side down, and press gently to lightly compress layers. Spread top and sides of cake with icing and decorate with remaining 75 g coconut.

As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 12, pg65.

Photography by John Laurie