"World's Best Cake" with Banana & Coconut

Test Kitchen-Approved

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: http://www.sweetpaulmag.com/food/worlds-best-cake-from-sweet-paul-eat-amp-make.
Sarah Jampel

Serves: 8 to 10
Prep time: 1 hrs 20 min
Cook time: 25 min


  • 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.

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Reviews (312) Questions (2)

312 Reviews

Laura E. 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: http://www.bakersroyale.com/worlds-best-cake/
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.
Lyla March 30, 2018
You can also substitute milk for 1/3 c water and 1 1/2 teaspoon butter
Raspberry G. February 18, 2018
Woohoo! Oh my gosh I made such a beautiful, fancy looking, delicious cake? Thanks so much for the recipe. I read it over and over again before making it. It turned out perfectly. I thought there was too little liquid when making the batter as well, but nope. It turned into dense, yet not dry torte-cake. My husband who usually steers clear of sweets, had 2 large servings! My picky, experienced baker Mom loved it too! Score! 😊 I love nuts, so I'm hoping to make it with almonds or hazlenuts next time. Cheers and good luck to all! P.S. I cut mine the longest lengthwise and ended up with a 'log' torte that made serving super-easy. I used 2 spatulas to place it on top of the whip cream. Make sure that your cake has really cooled down or else your top will probably start sliding down with the whip cream and create the mess that some had. I listened to Mom and waited it out. 😉 Beautiful!
Valerie D. February 10, 2018
Wow it worked perfectly ! I did cook the cake for about 5 min before adding the meringue. Wow , ça a super bien fonctionné ! J'ai quand même faire cuire le gâteau environ 5 minutes avant d'ajouter la meringue.
Lauren W. February 9, 2018
Just made this for my friend's birthday — Best Cake for my Best Friend. Add me to the list of those who had no problems with the recipe, and I am no pro. I actually think it's pretty straightforward, easier than many other cakes I've made, and it came together very quickly. I say this only to assure people who are nervous about trying it that they should go for it. I made minor changes — I did pre-bake the cake just a bit, I beat the egg whites until they were frothy before adding the sugar, and I swapped the banana/coconut/cardamom for lime curd and raspberries. Not sure it's the best cake ever, but it was very good and much more interesting than a standard cake — very tall and impressive. Next time, I'll try it with a custard filling and strawberries.
Z May 5, 2018
I agree, this was the first cake I ever baked from scratch in my life, I'm a rank amateur at best. It turned out great, and wow, is it dramatic when everything is done and it's ready to serve. I texted photos of it to my friends who are coming over tonight. LOL. Unfortunately, I have to give most of it away since I don't eat dairy/animal/processed food. But it was a great experience!
Gary S. January 28, 2018
Is there a type-o in the recipe - in the listing of ingredients? 1/3 cup milk as the only liquid other than eggs cannot be right. 1-1/3 cups milk, perhaps?
Andrea January 28, 2018
No error. Reread recipe 10 1/2 TABLESPOONS BUTTER & 5 LARGE EGGS
The small amount of milk is correct..
Andrea January 28, 2018
The EGGS & BUTTER provide the liquid.
70&holding December 20, 2017
If you are Italian you know this cake, with just a few adjustments! I have been enjoying it for years, and baking it myself for 30+ years. It is the best cake!!
There are recipes today that use, box cake mix, box pudding, cool whip.
May Peace Joy Health & Love be your gifts this holiday season!!raf
Beth November 18, 2017
I found this recipe tonight and have not had time to make this cake yet. I'm not a chef, nor have I attended culinary school, but I have been cooking and baking for many years. Along the way, I have come across some basic rules that apply whenever baking.
Use an oven thermometer. Even if you have a brand new oven that is top of the line, it could be cooking higher or lower than the temperature you set for baking.
Also, check the doneness of your cake in this scenario. How? Use a toothpick, insert it about half into the cake and if it comes out clean then your cake is done. If batter is still clinging to it, the cake has not finished baking. Keep in mind that the cake will have residual heat after it is removed from the oven so it will continue to cook a little more once you remove it from the oven. Leaving it in the pan will hold the heat longer. Therefore, I always take things out before the toothpick is completely clean because, in my opinion, it will end up being overbaked.
I always read a recipe several times before I make it. In this type of setting, I read over some of the comments. I suppose I will read over all of them first after reading the comments that I have gotten to read.
This cake sounds delicious. If it doesn't come out right the first time, I wouldn't consider it a fail. Life is about learning. In order to do that, please leave your I'm better than you attitudes out of comments. It does not improve a recipe or help other bakers. Have a Wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving.
Jani P. November 19, 2017
Thank you for your post. Not only do I appreciate your experience and suggestions but the tone of your post. Kind. When I figure out what to use instead of milk/cream I'll make it. I need a substitute for those two ingredients. Have a wonderful holiday and again, thank you.
Tisa G. November 5, 2017
Zoe, I am a very experienced baker, I do have an oven thermometer, my oven is calibrated to the correct tempt, I did have soft peaks and yet the cake was raw after 25 min
John S. November 14, 2017
The cake was incredible! Thank u for posting the recipe and also showing us how to keep it together when someone shoots down everything around them.
I have been a chef for several years and know all too well what it is like to be proud of something you have made to only have someone shoot it down. Why?
Instead of rediculing someone's idea, how about ranting about something meaningful.
I loved the cake and this sight.