Last Christmas, or maybe last Easter, my Nona gave me a stack of her tried and true recipes. Some were carefully typed on a typewriter; some were just clippings from the backs of packages or magazines; and some were carefully printed into a small spiral bound book shaped like a rolling pin and titled “My Favorite Recipes.”
This book has the best recipes if you ask me. Her famous chocolate chip cookies (which are shockingly just the Nestlé recipe, and lest I not believe her she also provided me with a wrinkled clipping of the Nestlé bag) and her peanut butter cookies. My grandfather’s favorite tomato soup cake (side note: does anyone remember the book Thunder Cake? That was a tomato soup cake).
There is also this recipe for “White Cake” and underlined in the top right corner it says fresh coconut cake. My mother proclaims that this is her favorite cake.
Here’s a little tidbit about me: I hate coconut. It smells delicious, but it tastes like soap and suntan lotion.
Of course, I’ve also recently discovered that I might have been wrong all along. I found a white coconut at Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and after watching all the youtube videos on how to open it discovered that holy crap fresh coconut is amazing. It tastes nothing like artificial coconut, or those awful sweetened flakes you can buy. It’s like a completely different food.
I also discovered that shaving fresh coconut is nothing short of a nightmare. Not having a box grater I spent a painstaking 20 minutes carefully shaving chunks of coconut on my mandolin slicer, fairly certain the entire time that this would be the task that caused me to lose a digit.
I survived. And I toasted my paltry little lump of coconut. And I promptly discovered that freshly toasted coconut tastes exactly like potato chips.
And that is why there is barely enough toasted coconut to cover this cake. Because I hoovered those chips wicked fast before I remembered they were for an actual project.
This recipe is a gem. I’ve only changed it slightly from my grandmother’s original, swapping out Crisco for butter, toasting my coconut and the marshmallow frosting. Also I tinted it purple, because #RIPPrince.
This is a cake best eaten the day it’s made or the frosting gets a little dried out and the coconut loses it’s crisp. But it’s still delicious the next day so don’t fret, we definitely had a giant slice for breakfast on Sunday. Toasting the frosting is totally optional but if you can do it, you won’t regret it.
- 1⅔ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs + 2 yolks
- 2½ cups cake flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3½ tsp baking powder
- ½ fresh coconut water from a fresh coconut, or milk
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 3 tbsp boiling water
- 2 egg whites
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6 inch pans or two 9 inch pans and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a 2-cup measuring cup combine the coconut water, milk, and vanilla. Stir.
- Once the butter and sugar are fluffy add the eggs one at a time beating thoroughly between addition.
- Working in three batches add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, alternating with the coconut water mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredient. Beat thoroughly between each addition.
- Portion batter evenly between pans and bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cool in pans in wire rack for 20 minutes before turning out of pans. Let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
- After cakes are removed turn oven up to 425F. Prepare a large sheet pan with parchment and set aside.
- Grate fresh coconut using a box grater or mandolin until you have about 2 - 3 cups. A single coconut should be enough.
- Spread coconut in an even layer on the sheet pan and toast for 10 - 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to prevent uneven toasting and browning.
- Let cool on sheet completely before using.
- Combine all ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture is no longer grainy.
- Once mixture is smooth when rubbed between two fingers, pour into a clean stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. The mixture should be cool to the touch when fully whipped.
- Once the cakes are cooled, level and remove any hard, crusty edges.
- Place the first layer on the cake plate and cover with a generous ¼ cup of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers.
- Frost the outside of the cake with a thin layer to keep the crumbs in and let set in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Use the remaining frosting to generously coat the cake.
- Place cake over a large sheet pan on a cake stand or upturned bowl. Carefully press toasted coconut onto edges of cake.
- Using an offset spatula dipped in hot water, make swirls in the top of the frosting.
- Gently toast top of cake with a butane torch.