Making a homemade cake on holidays is a long-standing tradition in the South. I have many memories of going to my Grandmother's house when I was growing up on holidays and seeing the sideboard table in the dining room filled to overflowing with all of the homemade desserts my grandmother and aunts made. Each one had at least one cake that they were "known" for and each one was a labor of love-- all were delicious. I think about that a lot when I'm baking and really think these women have a lot to do with my own love of homemade baking. I wish I could go back now and tell my younger self to collect all of their recipes as some of them are lost to the ages despite my best efforts. My Grandmother has shared hers with me and I will forever treasure them!
This coconut cake is one I made after I was newly married and now has become a tradition in our home for holidays. It is your traditional southern style coconut cake worthy of a holiday or a special occasion. It has a moist crumb and makes a three layer cake (my favorite kind-- they look so tall and impressive on a dining room table), a luscious lemon curd filling, and a marshmallowy 7-minute frosting. The whole thing is covered with sweetened coconut so I love serving this at Easter. It is time-consuming but all of the steps are easy. I found the recipe for the cake in our local paper at the time, The Washington Post, and it tasted just like the cakes I remember from my childhood. First, go buy yourself a large package of fresh eggs because you are going to need a lot for this recipe.** I will also put in the caveat about the eggs for the 7-minute frosting. Because you beat egg whites in a double boiler, there is the risk that they do not cook as thoroughly as they do when baking, etc. so use very fresh eggs and either refrain from serving to the very young, immunocompromised or elderly people, or use pasteurized eggs.** Also, if you don't have a microplane zester, I would highly suggest buying one before attempting this recipe if you want to save your sanity as you will be grating a lot of lemons and a microplane makes that job so easy!
Recipe for: Lemon Curd Filling
Make this the day before or at least 8 hours before you plan on filling the cake. You will likely have leftovers which is delicious on toast, biscuits, scones, or cookies (or I'm sure you'll find a million delicious uses for this wonderful filling).
12 egg yolks, at room temperature
3 tbs grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut in small pieces
In a medium size saucepan, whisk in the first 5 ingredients until thoroughly combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly over medium heat. Cook about 15-20 minutes until thick and bubbly (The original recipe says 20 minutes but I find that on my stove, that is too long, and at med. heat, the curd is very thick at about 14-15 minutes so stir constantly and keep an eye on this). Remove from heat and add butter, one piece at a time, stirring to incorporate. Place in the refrigerator overnight until firm.
Makes 3 1/2 cups.
Recipe adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
Recipe for: Miss Essie Brazil's Three-Layer Coconut Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 cup milk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with baker's joy spray or grease and flour pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and incorporating after each addition, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Use a spatula to stir in the coconut and vanilla extract. Beating the egg whites really makes the cake light as a feather. Its an extra step, but you'll see when you take that first bite that its so worth it!
In a separate bowl on high speed, beat the egg whites for several minutes, until they form stiff peaks. In two or three additions, carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the cake batter. Divide the batter among the 3 pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each layer comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, then unmold the layers onto the racks to cool completely, discarding the parchment paper liners.
Recipe from The Washington Post
Recipe for: Seven-Minute Frosting:
3 egg whites
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 tbs light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In the top of a double boiler, combine the first five ingredients and place over rapidly boiling water. On the high speed of an electric mixer, beat constantly for 6-8 minutes or until icing stands up in soft peaks. Remove from heat, add the vanilla extract and beat about 1 minute more or until of desired spreading consistency. Use immediately.
To Assemble the Cake:
Spread lemon curd over 2 layers of the cake. Top with the third. Spread 7 minute frosting all over cake until completely covered. Use sweetened coconut for the top and sides of cake to garnish before the frosting is set. Enjoy! The cake is best served on the day its filled but it can be made one day before serving.