'World's Best Cake' With Banana & Coconut

May 20, 2015
33 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

Follow these instructions and you'll have an impressive, towering dessert without having to worry about burning a meringue, shaving down layers of cake to make even lines, applying a crumb coat, or dirtying more than two bowls. Because not even "the best" is good enough for me (yes, I'll bring this up with my therapist later), I added banana, toasted coconut, and ground cinnamon and cardamom for even more elements of flavor and texture. Paul suggests adding sliced fresh strawberries, but I like the creamy, soft banana slices; the coconut and spices add some mental interest to the purely physical pleasure of eating a large slice of cake.

Is it the world's best? I can't say it is, but I also can't say it isn't. It's up to you to decide that for yourself.

Slightly adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine: —Sarah Jampel

Watch This Recipe
'World's Best Cake' With Banana & Coconut
  • Prep time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10
  • 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (170 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, and up to 1/2 cup (I like the large flakes, but you can use smaller flakes, too)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 banana, sliced (up to 2)
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the middle. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing some to drape over the sides of the pan.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 2/3 cup of the sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Working on low speed, add the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt and mix well.
  4. Mix in the egg yolks and the milk until combined, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Clean and thoroughly dry the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Pour in the egg whites, making sure there are no specks of yolk, and add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Beat to soft peaks—be patient, it will happen. If the egg whites aren't reaching soft peaks, wait until the mixture ribbons back onto itself. Spread this carefully on top of the cake layer.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown and puffed. About 15 minutes through baking, cover the meringue with coconut flakes (this way, the coconut can adhere to the still-damp meringue but it will not burn in the oven.)
  7. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the whipped cream: Pour the cream into a medium bowl and scrape in the vanilla seeds, discarding the pod. Beat to soft peaks with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes.
  8. Carefully transfer the cool cake to a cutting board. Cut the cake in half crosswise with a serrated knife. Place one half of the cake on your serving tray of choice and cover with the cream and banana slices. Place the other half, meringue side up, on top.
  9. Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill and soften for 1 hour before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Allison Elms
    Allison Elms
  • marti
  • Amanda Lowther
    Amanda Lowther
  • Ridge Hill Kitchen
    Ridge Hill Kitchen
  • Alison Shiu
    Alison Shiu
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.

327 Reviews

[email protected] March 28, 2021
There is a reason this cake is called World's Best Cake. I have made this cake many times and it is never a disappointment. It is so easy but so impressive besides being delicious.
Allison E. May 3, 2020
This recipe was soooo good! My family loved it! I’ll definitely be making this more often
marti March 11, 2020
I love baking and read this recipe about four times through to make sure that I understood. Everything but the actual cake itself turned out . I baked it with the time specified, checking my oven temperature to make sure that it was accurate. When I tested the cake it was raw batter. So, Put it back for 10, then another 10 then another 8 minutes to see if I could bake it.. the meringue was browning and toasted the coconut. but the cake was still iffy. I waited and let the cake completely cool before assembling ... it was a mess. I tried bite of it and threw it away.
I think that the cake should be baked separately at first maybe the 25 min testing the cake then adding the meringue and the coconut . Another thought was using lady fingers instead of the cake and proceeding with the rest of the cake. Very disappointing .
Marketa M. February 25, 2021
I have similar experience. I had hard time bake the cake. after 25 minutes (350F) the batter was still raw, but I put another 12 minutes at convention baking and then was good.
DJKP March 1, 2021
Ours did not bake either, and when it did it was stodgy.
Dana March 19, 2021
I had the EXACT same outcome as you did! I’m going to throw it away. What a disappointment!!!!
Kristy March 29, 2021
I tried making this for a small dinner party tonight and had the same result. I don't understand how that batter could possible cook through in 20 minutes. It's not even close.
Dana March 29, 2021
I have to write because I didn’t throw it away. I ended up baking it Three Times (!) and although it was really good (!) there’s no way the thing could be done in that short amount of time! It truly was good, but you had to alter the cooking time.
Amanda L. February 2, 2020
It was really good but not close to the “world’s best,” of course. :)
Very very sweet. Nice blend of textures and flavors. I love cardamom and it showcases it well. I’m proud of it. A little dainty for the super bowl, but I knew that going in.
Amanda L. February 2, 2020
So....mine looks awesome and I just followed the directions for the most part. All the complaints scared me so I baked 5 min longer and left off the bananas. I let the cake cool over an hour before moving forward. In addition to the whipped cream I put a layer of raspberry jam on one half of the bottom layer before topping with the cream. I’m a little concerned that the whipped cream is not sweet (just heavy cream and the stuff inside the vanilla bean, but I figure all the sugar in the other parts will do. Now I patiently wait an hour to serve as my fiancé’s bday cake at a super bowl get together. I’ll report back on the taste.
Linda B. November 9, 2019
I don't know why this recipe is getting so much hate. A person has to really read the instructions a few times before jumping into throwing it together. Its just not that simple. Some people in this thread couldn't figure out how to cut the cake in half. I'm not trying to be insulting to anyone but I am not a professional chef and had no problems with this cake and have made it a few times. It is The Worlds Best Cake!
Scott November 8, 2019
IMHO, why even post this insane recipe when 300+ reviewers complain, praise or have difficulty in making it come out right? It appears, after my reading ALL the reviews thoroughly & carefully, only master professional bakers can ace it. And the novices that did, in fact, have it turn out right, were simply “lucky.” Best cake in the world: German chocolate cake with condensed milk, coconut & pecan frosting, Another BEST, google it, “C’mon over cake!” Simple, non fail, eaters will adore it and come back for more! And NOTHING beats a real strawberry shortcake, NOT biscuits with strawberries dumped on them. (Be sure to “real” butter the cake when you cut it in half) and use only fresh berries from a local grower NOT Driscoll’s poor imitations. And of course, real whipped cream but not too sweet. My 2¢.
Vickie S. August 24, 2019
Just reading over varied reviews. I moved into my house about a year ago. It has a new electric stove with convection-option oven. None of my recipes work the same anymore. I am just doing hit and miss baking, going by the aroma to guess if the baked food is done. It is very discouraging. Reviews online of this stove/oven confirm my experiences of uneven temperatures and bake times, including where in the oven the baking pan is placed! So, recipes are now just guidelines hoping for the best. And this was a very expensive appliance.
Brandy S. October 1, 2019
Do you have an oven thermometer? It really helps to know what's going on in your oven and adjusting the temperature accordingly.
Ridge H. November 18, 2018
Every time I glance at this impressive cake, I start getting hungry. It looks delicious and I plan to make it soon.
joankaufman October 5, 2018
I don't have a vanilla bean. Can I substitute vanilla and if so, how much?
Stephanie September 11, 2018
I made it with strawberries because not much time left in season it was wonderful. I'm going to try bananas next.
Sue August 19, 2018
It is suggested by “Zoe” that you read all 300+ comments before attempting to make this cake. After approximately 250 comments you will find “Zoe’s” suggested changes to the recipe to increase your chances of success. Sounds like many people had success & produced an amazing cake, & many people did not have success & like me produces a cake that was raw. You can either read 300 comments & hope for the best or move on to a recipe where the first few reviews are not about a fail!
Parnel August 21, 2018
Awesome Review! Thanks for saving me the time and disappointment. I’m moving on.....
kathy August 16, 2018
The cake does not cook in 25 minutes!!!! Can you cook it for say 10 minutes first, before adding the meringue???
Alison S. August 12, 2018
I baked this cake for over well over the 25 minutes suggested. Probably closer to 40 minutes and although the meringue was golden and puffed the inside cake was completely raw. It tasted good but I think next time I'll bake the cake part separately and only add the meringue part way through baking
Hopsmom June 4, 2018
How far in advance can this cake be made? Morning of? 1 day ahead? Thank you.
Karen R. May 27, 2018
I have been baking for well over 25 years, some even from scratch & following a recipe. This may sound very strange but it has always worked perfectly for me.
Whenever I am baking something following a recipe from scratch I make sure that I don't have any distractions ... usually when it is late in the day/night when no phone calls will come in works for me the best. I pull out all the ingredients, all the measuring utensils, bowls, mixing utensils, cookware, cook book, & then preheat the oven.
It is at that point when I "turn off my brain". I know it sounds completely silly & impossible but I somehow do it by just concentrating on following the recipe & doing my best to not think about anything else, including thinking ahead to the next step in the instructions. So long as I keep my thoughts on the exact place in the instructions of the recipe, whatever I am making turns out exactly how it is supposed to turn out. This happened to me when I made a cake with the name The Chocolate Lovers Ultimate Chocolate Cake". The first time I "didn't have a clue of what I was doing". However, I jumped ever so slightly ahead to the next ingredient & the measuring of that ingredient just once & the cake was a complete disaster. Not only did the cake not raise quite right, when I tried to cut it in the correct way as per the instructions, the cake collapsed & then turned out not being cooked all the way through in spite of the poke test passing before I pulled it from the oven. I know that I followed the recipe absolutely perfectly but it still was a complete failure.
Just remember, just because what works one time doesn't mean that it will work every time. If a system works for someone else that doesn't mean it will work for you. However, if something works for you, don't let anyone try to talk you out of continuing to do that thing that works for you.
Also, don't be afraid to try something new, even if it is only altering a recipe to better suit your tastes or to prevent an allergic reaction. It will either work or it won't. Technically you can't fail, it will just show you if you idea will work or not. You will be learning a new thing whether it works or not. Either way you can share your results or keep them to yourself, it's your choice, after all.
When I finally re-locate that cook book, I will be sure to pass it along to you all.
Happy baking everyone!
Heather C. May 8, 2018
I recognized this recipe right away. It was in the early Rombauer Joy of Cooking. I was making it when I was 15, for my mother’s bridge club dessert. It’s a great recipe and I’m happy to see it’s being rediscovered!
Jaqueline C. September 13, 2018
you should give tips since you are familer
Heather C. September 13, 2018
My tip would be, get yourself a copy of the Joy of Cooking, 1953 edition, look up Meringue Cream Cake Cockaigne, and follow the recipe. I never had a failure.
ha September 29, 2018
I'm looking at a copy of JoC, 1953 ed. There's nothing in it called "Meringue Cream Cake Cockaigne." There is this one however on p. 655. Where it mentions "following cream fillings" refers to one of about 4 or 5 basic whipped cream fillings that follow the recipe. What this has in common with the Food52 recipe is that the meringue is baked with the cake. Sorry for the potato quality; I had to PDF it from the book and do a text recognition. Also, yes, there are no bananas.

Blanch and shred:
(l/3 cup almonds)
1 1/2 cups sugar
Beat until soft: ¼ cup butter
Add ½ cupful of the sifted sugar gradually.
Blend these ingredients until they are light and creamy. Beat in one
at a time:
4 egg yo1ks
½ teaspoon vanilla
Sift before measuring:
1 cup cake flour
Resift with:
2 teaspoons tartrate or phosphate baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with:
5 tablespoons cream
Beat the batter until it is smooth.
Spread it in two greased 9 inch layer
pans. Cover it with the following meringue.
Whip until stiff:
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
Add the remaining cupful sifted sugar
very slowly, teaspoonful at a time.
Beat constantly. When all the sugar
has been added continue to beat for
several minutes. Fold in:
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spread the meringue lightly over the
cake batter in both pans. Stud one
meringue with the blanched shredded
almonds, placing the shreds very close
together. Bake the layers in a slow
oven 350° for about 40 minutes. Remove the
layers from the oven. Permit
the cakes to cool in the pans. Shortly.
before serving the cake place one
layer, meringue side down, on a cake
plate. Spread one of the following
cream fillings over it, reserving 4 tablespoonfuls
for the top. Place the almond
studded layer, meringue side up, on the
cream filling and place the reserved
filling in the center on top.
Heather C. September 29, 2018
ha... Hm. My bad, could've looked that up but relied on memory. I should know better. Thanks for the right name.
I used sliced bananas once, with whipped cream. Unless the cake is assembled at the last minute and eaten up right away, berries are a better choice. They don't darken and get mushy.
This is still a family favorite. Making it tomorrow for my 2nd daughter's 57th birthday lunch here. Yum!
Z May 5, 2018
I made this cake and not only was it my first "World's Best Cake," it was the first cake I ever made from scratch. It turned out great. I followed all the directions. I used about 3/4 sliced almonds and 1/4 coconut because I bought the coconut out of a bulk bin and didn't buy enough. (1/2 cup is not nearly enough for the top of a 9 x 13.) But this cake is huge even for four people. I'll end up giving away slices, which is fine, because I don't eat a lot of dairy/animal/processed foods, so I'll have a thin slice and serve it then give the rest away. I might try making it as a half-recipe next time? Just cut the ingredients in half maybe? Not sure you can do that with baking a cake, though. This cake is quite dramatic, though, when it's finally done. LOL.
Kate May 5, 2018
I’ve made the adaptation of the Sweet Paul world’s best cake (Verden’s Beste Kake) attached many times in two 8-inch round pans rather than the 6-inch pans called for, which were so small that the top layer almost slid off:
The almonds on top are wonderful, but I’ve never tried using coconut. I am going to try the almond-topped version with the spices listed here and the bananas. Line your pan(s) with parchment paper that hangs over the pan enough to lift the cake out so you don’t have to use a spatula. Another baker recommended mixing part of the meringue into the cake batter, which I disagree with. This recipe makes a wonderful yellow cake and diluting or “lightening” it really takes away from how good the yellow cake is as directed.
Also, I think someone mentioned needing to replace the milk. I have a family member who cannot tolerate dairy, so, for her, I use lactose-free milk in the cake batter, and I whip coconut cream (drain off the watery liquid in the can) to replace the whipped cream between the two layers, and the cake is still very good.
IKeepTrying April 15, 2018
Inexperienced baker here. I'd like to try this and have printed it out and have reading it thoroughly many times. I've never attempted a meringue and I don't have any appliance with a whisk attachment. Can I use a standard hand-held egg beater? Should I be practicing making meringues before trying it on the day I bake the cake? I'll be using a Nordicware aluminum 9 x 13. The comments have been great and so helpful.
chachaboom April 28, 2018
You can do a handheld mixer, but from my experience the more tines it has the faster so it may take awhile. I would suggest using a pinch of cream of tartar and just being patient. If you have ever made home made whip cream it is a lot like that. You won’t really need to practice, just make sure the bowl is clean and dry and keep an eye on the stiffness. Of course, you can always practice and make meringue cookies.