For the cake:
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing cake pans
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit each of two 9-inch round cake pans. Grease the pans with butter, fit the parchment into the pans, then grease the parchment.
To make the cake: Sift the cake flour, baking soda and salt into a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, cream 12 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a a time, beating well after each addition. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix well, then add half of the buttermilk , beating on medium speed and scraping the sides of the bowl down, using a rubber spatula. Repeat, alternating the remaining dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, the coconut and 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts and mix well.
In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites, slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, until the whites form stiff peaks but are not dry. By hand, fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until it is incorporated. Fold in the next third of the egg whites; when incorporated, gently fold in the last third. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, for 30-35 minutes. Set the cakes on racks and allow them to cool completely before removing them from the pans.
To make the frosting: In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, 8 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla at medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating at low speed until blended. When all the ingredients are incorporated, beat the frosting at high speed until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted walnuts.
Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, bottom side up. Ice the sides and top. Place the other cake round on top, rounded side up, and ice the top and sides. Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to firm up the frosting. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving, and press the remaining 1/2 cup toasted walnuts into the frosting on top.
Makes 10-16 servings.