'World's Best Cake' With Banana & Coconut

May 15, 2021
40 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10
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

What You'll Need
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'World's Best Cake' With Banana & Coconut
  • 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)
  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
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  • Amanda Lowther
    Amanda Lowther
  • Laura Edgerton
    Laura Edgerton
  • Alison Shiu
    Alison Shiu

336 Reviews

Jen March 18, 2024
After reading many reviews, I decided to bake the sponge for 15 min, then added the meringue for 15, then the coconut for another 3. The sponge was almost done at 15, so it was way overdone in the end. I reduced the sugar to 7/8 c and it was totally fine. I’m going to give it another try baking the sponge less first (10’ 15’ 3’ ?) and filling with more banana and whipped cream. Other than overdone, it tasted good and looks impressive. I will probably upgrade my rating.
Le_dove April 30, 2022
This does make an incredible cake. I bake the cake on its own first. Then cut in half and bake the top half with the meringue and coconut.
And this is cheating but you can use a cake mix. The cream, bananas and coconut meringue are the real show stoppers here.
NMP March 21, 2022
After reading many notes, and some googling, I decided to brave the recipe and it turned out! I did bake the cake for 15 minutes before adding the meringue layer, baked for another 18 minutes before adding the coconut flakes, then another 7 minutes to crisp them up. Let the cake rest in the pan for 20 minutes before pulling it to finish cooling on a rack. If I make it again, I might add the dry ingredient to the cake mix last, as others mentioned, to see if the cake comes out a little fluffier. I'm definitely a novice cake maker, and learned a few things in the process.
judy October 29, 2021
I find that what F52 claims a method or food is the BEST for any reason to watch out. They do this from cookies to egg frying. for me, when I have tried their "according to so many tests" recommendations, for example, I really don't agree. And I am a lifelong baker and foodie. Home cook for sure, not professional, but I guess we all like different things. This cake, though lauded by many in the reviews, would not even appeal to me. give me a good Tiramisu, or berry shortcake, as one reviewer extolls, or German Chocolate Cake , or Boston Cream pie... or a very good crepe Suzette. So to each their own, I guess. Happy baking of your favorite best cake.
Erica L. April 15, 2022
I believe the claim of world’s best comes from recipe author, not Food52
Le_dove October 14, 2021
I love this cake so much. Looks great and is so delicious. I do bake the cake layers separately and then put it all together. Works perfectly every time.
[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.
CookMind April 7, 2023
I had exactly the same experience today, but I am not going to throw it away! I can see many others too noticed that the specified times and order of adding ingredients in the recipe are not all accurate. Can F52 please adjust the instructions? Don't they test these things out before writing them for the world to follow?
CraftyFarmGirl May 13, 2023
I had the exact same experience, as well! So frustrating. Am a very good baker. Followed recipe to a T, but my coconut was almost burnt 5 minutes before the cake was 'supposed' to be done, so out of the oven it came. It was so raw inside. By the time I nuked it literally three times, THEN threw it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, it was STILL raw except around the edges, which were delicious. I think they need to change the recipe to adjust the cooking time and method. As everybody else has suggested, cook the cake a lot longer, then add the meringue and coconut much later. The flavor was great. Cake was like lead.
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.
Fencetiger December 30, 2022
How did it go?
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.
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.