My Grandma loved coconut cake. It was her cake of choice for birthday, mother’s day, etc. And usually someone would bring one to Christmas, too. She liked the big, tall kind that you get at the grocery store that comes in the big plastic container with the cherry on top. Those cakes were basically just butter cakes with a marshmallow-type filling that had coconut inside it and then coconut pressed all along the sides.
At the age of 89, my Grandma passed away this past Tuesday morning. She lived a happy, long life. I mean, 89 years! That’s fantastic! And the bulk of those 89 years she was healthy and happy. Having a grandparent around for 28 years is a blessing that a lot of people don’t get in their lives, so, I am very thankful for that. And thankful for all the memories I have of her.
With that being said, though.... this has been a really hard week for me and my family. My heart is completely broken and unfortunately, there really isn’t anything that can make it better, besides time.
So, I’ve tried to figure out how to deal with the grief. And that’s where the coconut cake comes into play… it was a nice distraction… first, I spent an hour or so at work on friday (sorry, boss, I know I should have been working, particularly since I missed a lot of work this week) trying to find just the right recipe (more on that later). And then the recipe took me to the grocery store Friday after work… seeking out the ingredients and then once home: the measuring, stirring, and baking… But, it wasn’t just a distraction, it was also therapeutic.
I entered into the recipe with trepidation… I knew this had the potential to be a disastrous situation. I mean, here I am, mourning the loss of my grandma, trying to bake her favorite cake two days after her funeral. I had to remember, that this cake wasn’t a tribute to my grandma, so it didn’t have to be perfect. It was more of an honor to her memory and a celebration of her life and the way she lived it.
The cake that I finally decided on, seemed like the perfect recipe. It appeared to be much like the simple, basic cakes she loved from the grocery store. It’s not your fancy restaurant type of cake. Though don’t get me wrong, this cake sounds divine and I will certainly be making it one day… it wasn’t the right recipe for this occasion. I wanted to come up with a regular coconut cake recipe to make on special occasions to honor her.
This recipe seemed to headed in the right direction. I didn't want to make a huge cake, so I halved the recipe and tweaked it a bit for my tastes. I ended up with one cake pan layer that I split into half and then iced. It turned out delicious and you know what? It kinda worked. Making this cake and sharing it with my mom and dad made me feel a little better. And I know that this would be a cake that grandma would love.
Coconut Cake - Grandma Style
This recipe is adapted from the above linked recipe for Nee Nee's Prized Coconut Cake on Recipezaar. I only made a half recipe, and half a recipe only fit in one 9 inch cake pan, so instead of a 3 layer cake full recipe, I think this is actually only a two layer cake full recipe, FYI. I'm posting the full recipe.
Also, FYI, this is what I consider a traditional coconut cake. Very sweet and very moist. If you don't like your cakes full of sugar and sweetness, then you won't like this cake.
Oh, and another FYI... this recipe is easy, but it dirties up a lot of bowls!
For the Cake:
2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
1 lb Powdered Sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk (i used lite)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut
1/4 tsp coconut extract
For the layers: (you might need more of this, depending on how many layers you make your cake)
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup light karo syrup
6 tbsp of water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut flavoring
2 cups of coconut (I used frozen kind-defrosted)
Additional Coconut for outside of cake (the dry shredded kind)
For the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, combine boiling water to butter and sugar. Cream well with mixer (2-3 minutes). Add 4 egg yolks (reserve all the egg whites in a separate bowl), one at a time, beating well with each addition. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together 3 times.
Alternate adding your dry ingredients with the coconut milk to the creamed mixture. Add vanilla and coconut extract. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat your egg whites till stiff and then fold them and the coconut into the cake batter gently by hand. Pour into cake pans and put in the over for about 20-25 minutes.
Take the cakes out and allow to cool.
Combine the coconut milk and powdered sugar in a bowl. Whisk till smooth. With a pastry brush, brush the mixture over each layer before you but a layer of frosting down. The more generous you are with this glaze, the moister your cake will be.
Combine egg whites, sugar, syrup, walter, salt and cream of tartar. Place in a double boiler over boiling water. Beat with a hand mixer until mixture stands with peaks (approximately 7 minutes or so). Remove from heat, add vanilla and coconut flavoring and continue to beat until thick enough to spread. Place a layer of the icing on top of the glazed layers and then sprinkle with the defrosted frozen coconut before placing the next cake layer and repeating process.
Frost entire cake in icing and cover with shredded coconut. Put in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. The cake gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.