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.
10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons)1 2/3 cups sugar, divided1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (170 grams)1 teaspoon baking powder1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom1 pinch salt5 large eggs, separated1/3 cup whole milk1/3 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 cream1 vanilla bean1 banana, sliced (up to 2)
- 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.
- 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.
- Working on low speed, add the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt and mix well.
- Mix in the egg yolks and the milk until combined, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill and soften for 1 hour before serving.