Southern Coconut Cake… mmmm!

i’ve made this cake twice now, and it’s just fantastic. made without extract, and using coconut milk instead, it has a really subtle flavor that isn’t overwhelmed by all the sweetened flake coconut pressed into the frosting. speaking of, the frosting is delicious, but it can be a little finicky. it takes hours to cool off and thicken up, so i would recommend making it long before you make the cake. the cream cheese buttercream frosting is really smooth, unlike what you get with a typical cream cheese frosting. so good. but definitely not a cake you make everyday. since you’re stuck with 8 egg yolks when you’re done. i’m thinking i’ll make flan or a caramel custard with the leftovers. we’ll see. on to the recipe!

Southern Coconut Cake


5 large egg whites

½ cup of milk

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 cups of cake flour

2 and 1/3 cup sugar

4 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter (8oz.) at warm room temperature

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 1/2C sweetened flaked coconut for garnishing


Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the ½ cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Add the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake taster inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then turn the cakes out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on an 8-inch cake round. Cover this layer with 1 cup of the buttercream frosting. Spread it evenly all the way to edge of the cake. Then sprinkle ½ cup of shredded coconut on top. Add the second layer and repeat the process. Top with the final layer of cake and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Place the remaining 1 ½ cups shredded coconut on a large baking tray. Pick up the cake and hold it on the palm of one hand over the tray. Using the other hand scoop up the coconut and press it to the sides of the cake. Continue with this process until the sides of the cake are covered. Set the cake on a serving plate and sprinkle any remaining coconut on top of cake. Chill cake for at least one hour to allow frosting to firm up a bit. 

Cream cheese buttercream frosting

12 ounces of cream cheese* slightly chilled

1 stick of butter plus 6 tablespoons of butter (7 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup of confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring

2 teaspoons of granulated sugar

¼ cup of water

3 egg whites

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set aside at room temperature while buttercream is made.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the softball stage 228 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in mixer bowl and have the mixer ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer on med-low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites taking care not to pour onto the beaters, it may splash. When all the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed on the mixer to med-high and beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled and stiff meringue forms.

With the mixer on low, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy.


the move to wordpress

initally, i had thought i would move the family blog to a different wordpress address. but i’m getting tired of posting 2 different things to 2 different blogs, let alone blog hosts, so here we are. i’ve already moved the archives over from blogger, and it was fairly straightforward. i still need to get all the picasa albums moved over, but in the mean time, i’ll be posting everything right here at the cake wife. no more blogger hassles, thank God. from-a-to-zoe will still be accessible, i just won’t be updating it anymore.

zoë is big enough to lick the beaters, at least the frosting ones. we’re not making the move to raw egg products yet. maybe when she’s 5. she was helping me make a coconut cake, and by helping, i mean waiting anxiously to taste the frosting.

then she needed a good brushing, and off to bed she went. lather, rinse, repeat next week. i’ve got homework to do that i forgot about, but making a cake is way more fun. expect more on that later tonight.

she’s a princess… mostly.

grammie sent a princess outfit for zoë earlier this week, and i thought i had lost the pictures. when posting to my cooking blog ( i found them. we’re still trying to unpack the storage unit, so the backgrounds aren’t exactly princess-y. 🙂 she decided princesses like to dance, and so she has. a lot.

fig cake for fall… kinda

since it’s supposedly turning to fall weather (if you call 90 degrees fall) i wanted to make a dessert to use up the figs that keep popping up everywhere. i’ve been on an italian food kick lately, and anything by the hazan family is really doing it for me right now. in that spirit of flavors, here’s my version of dorie greenspan’s “fig cake for fall.” i would argue that the stoneground white cornmeal i used, as well as the local honey, and local figs makes this more of a southern cake than an italian one, but who can argue with the great ms. greenspan? not me. also, since i wasn’t about to go buy ruby port for one recipe, i used tart cherry juice. not quite the same, but close enough.

a fig cake for fall-ish

3/4 cup tart cherry juice

1 cup honey, divided

2 thin slices lemon

16 – 20 fresh figs, stemmed and halved

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the figs and sauce:
stir the port and 1/2 cup of honey together in a small saucepan. toss in the lemon slices and bring to a boil over medium heat. lower the heat, add the figs, cover the pan and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the figs are soft. using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a bowl. raise the heat and cook the poaching liquid until thickened. set the sauce aside. i poured the sauce through a mesh strainer before setting aside, because i’m not a huge fan of seedy sauces. or seedy people.

for the cake:
preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. butter a 9-inch springform pan, add a round of parchment paper and butter and dust the insides with flour, tapping out the excess. (i used a regular nine inch cake pan with no issues, but the parchment paper was a huge help. just flip it out onto a rack when cool, and flip back onto a plate.)

whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. put the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. add the butter. beat butter and sugar together until creamy. add the eggs one by one, beating for one minute in between each. pour in the remaining 1/2 cup honey, add the vanilla extract and beat for another 2 minutes. reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. this step only took about 30 seconds to make a thick batter. pour the batter into the prepared pan. jiggle the pan from side to side to spread the batter evenly, then scatter the poached figs over the top.

bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes. run a blunt knife around the edges and remove the sides of the pan. cool the cake to slightly warm or to room temperature before serving it with the sauce.

chicken bernie

so the kidlet, in all her inability to pronounce french proper names properly, calls this one “chicken bernie.” it’s really chicken veronique, which i’m told refers to dishes garnished with grapes. it’s the shortcut version of a more involved french dish, but it’s pretty dang good. chicken, orange marmalade, tarragon and white grapes… freaked out yet? don’t be. this is a favorite around here, but we like fruit and meat together a good bit. serve with a pilaf, or maybe uncle ben’s if you’re classy, and a green veggie like garlic green beans.

Chicken Bernie

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (approximately the same thickness)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons butter

2/3 cup white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons orange marmalade spreadable fruit

3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup half-and-half cream

1-1/2 cups green grapes, halved


sprinkle chicken with salt and nutmeg. if the pieces you use are huge, try cutting them in half. in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chicken in butter over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
in a small bowl, combine the wine, marmalade and tarragon. add to skillet; bring to a boil. reduce heat; cover and simmer for 4-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 170. it took a heck of a lot longer to reach 170 than 6 minutes, so try to ensure your chicken pieces are of similar thickness.  remove chicken and keep warm.
combine flour and cream until smooth. gradually stir into skillet. bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes longer or until thickened. stir in grapes; heat through. serve with chicken.

peach ginger muffins

so my favorite muffin recipe is from a moosewood cookbook i happen to love dearly. i can’t rave enough about them (there are only a few recipes in that cookbook that qualify for raving, and this is one of them.) i tend to throw whatever fruit i have on hand into the mix, and it usually turns out pretty great. i also never stick to 2 cups of fruit. usually it’s about 3 1/2 cups or so, but watch your baking times as it needs to go longer if you follow my lead. you can make them vegan pretty easily by substituting margarine and some kind of non-dairy milk (almond, soy – i’ve never tried rice milk in these though) and leaving out the egg.

one of my favorite favorite combinations is peach ginger. grate about 1/2T or so of fresh ginger, although depending on your taste you could do more (i always want more ginger, but get sick of grating), and add cardamom and cinnamon to the dry ingredients. sooo good.

Moosewood-esque Peach Ginger Muffins

streusel topping
1/3 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, chopped into small pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

wet ingredients

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups chopped peaches, you can peel if you want to

1/2-1T fresh grated ginger

dry ingredients
2 cups unbleached white all-purpose or pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

preheat the oven to 350°. prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by lightly oiling the cups or placing a paper liner in each cup.

mix together all of the streusel ingredients and blend with a fork until the butter is pea-sized or smaller. set aside. in a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. beat in the egg and then the milk and vanilla; the mixture will look lumpy. by hand with a rubber spatula, fold in the fruit and/or nuts and/or chocolate chips. set aside.

in a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and mix well. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together with a rubber spatula without overmixing. spoon about 1/3 cup of the batter into each muffin cup. sprinkle each muffin with a tablespoon of streusel topping.

immediately place the muffins in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. after about 20 minutes, rotate the muffin tin in the oven to ensure even baking.

remove the muffins and place on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. definitely cool them down to warmish, as they fall completely apart if you try to eat them hot. serve warm or cool completely and store in a sealed container at room temperature. or take them to all your friends and neighbors so you don’t eat them all yourself.

back with a vengeance

so over the next couple of days, i’m going to be posting my backlog of recipes from the last couple of weeks. i’ve made peach ginger muffins twice, 14 mini loaves of homemade white bread, dorie greenspan’s “fig cake for fall”, a chicken dish my 3 year old calls “chicken bernie” which is really meant to be “veronique”, brownies, a boston creme pie cake, cream puffs, and chicken salad, egg salad, and pimento cheese. now, the cream puffs and various sandwich fillings were meant to serve about 40 people, so i will do my best to cut the sizes down when we get to them. they’re more to taste than anything anyway. keep your eyes peeled, because i don’t have homework to get distracted with.