Is it wrong that I post two desserts in a row? Do you hate me? I can’t help it. I have a really good reason.
Yesterday, my second born turned fourteen. His requested dessert was a nod to his southern daddy. He wanted a “coconut cake.” I decided immediately that he’d have the honest-to-goodness, big, white, fluffy Coconut Cake. And I have to admit, with all the cakes I’ve made, this one daunted me ever so slightly. It’s a CLASSIC in big southern, swirly letters. It’s THE cake for Christmas time. It’s south of the Mason Dixon and sweeter than tea. And honestly, even with a pair of southern grandparents and a hubby who hails from Ol’ Virginny, I felt unqualified.
I turned to the bible of southern cookery: Southern Living. Specifically, the 1995 Best of Southern Living Cookbook. They held my hand through the cake and frosting portions, but I did my thang on the lemon filling because I feel very much on home turf when we’re talking lemon filling territory. I’m a lemon curd girl through and through, and absolutely, positively refused to do anything other than a real-deal, pure lemon curd in between the layers of that lovely vanilla butter cake.
Once I baked the layers, I felt like I hit my groove and my cake mojo returned full force. This ended up being one of the most fun cakes of all time. It ABSOLUTELY requires the use of a hand or stand mixer and I’ll tell ya, my Kitchen Aid stand mixer made this cake happen very easily. It whipped the egg whites I folded into the cake batter. It whipped the egg whites and then the boiled frosting to fluffy, marshmallow-y perfection. My poor arm would’ve fallen off whipping it by hand, I have no doubt.
When I was done with the cake, I stood back and thought, “DANG! I did my grandma proud!” And then I wondered just how long my babies would stay sugared up after a slice of this decadent, gigantic, snowball of coconut love. I bribed the birthday boy into letting me slice into it to see how it looked. The bribe? I let him eat the piece. He’s such a helper.
His reaction confirmed that he is a descendent of some certified DAR ladies and their gentlemen, because he ooooed and aaaaahed and generally exclaimed in a young-manly way over the white confection that sat on his plate.
After eating his enormous wedge of cake, he was jet-powered for at least an hour of sledding down our most imposing and intense hill. He proclaimed twelve inches of recently acquired snow “almost as pretty as the cake!”
I for one would be a-okay with sledding down a hill covered with this frosting.
Classic, fluffy, gorgeous, snow-ball, southern Coconut Cake: vanilla butter cake filled with puckery lemon curd and topped with marshmallow-y boiled frosting and flaked coconut. There's a reason this is a southern institution in the dessert world!
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2-3 cups flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans and set aside.
- Beat the butter in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat well. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add one third of the mixture to the butter and beat on low until well combined. Add 1/2 of the milk, beat 'til well combined. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the other half of the milk, then the remaining third of the flour mixture, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl down as needed.
- Beat the egg whites and salt to stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter, to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Smooth the tops. Bake for 30-38 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cakes springs back when pressed lightly in the center with your fingertip.
- Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to finish cooling completely.
- When the cakes are absolutely cooled, you can trim them to level them. Place three or four strips of parchment or waxed paper over a cake plate to protect the plate while frosting and garnishing the cake. Place a trimmed, level cake in the center of the cake.
- Add the lemon curd to the center of the cake and spread to within 3/4-inch of the edges. Place the second trimmed, leveled cake over the first. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour to help it set up.
- Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir it constantly until it clears, then remove the spoon from the pan and heat to boiling. Do not stir it, but bring the mixture to 240°F on a candy thermometer or instant read thermometer. While it is boiling up to temperature, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. When the syrup is up to temperature and the egg whites are at soft peaks, keep the mixer running at low speed and slowly drizzle in the syrup, beating constantly. Turn the speed up to high and whip to stiff peaks.
- After removing the plastic wrap, pile the boiled frosting on top of the cake and spread around the sides using an offset spatula. While rotating the cake plate, even the icing on the top and sides. Press handfuls of the flaked coconut against the sides and sprinkle it evenly over the top. The cake can be sliced and served immediately, or refrigerated, lightly covered, before serving.