This Christmas cake will make your friends gasp: three white cake layers covered with a light snowfall of flaked coconut. This recipe came from my Great-Aunt Molly, who always used fresh coconut milk in her cake. If I’m feeling unusually energetic, I do the same (see Tip). Otherwise, I substitute coconut cream, which is a lot easier to manage.
My cousin Vera Mitchell Garlough used to make this cake with her mother and sister. Vera wrote: “Mama used the standard boiled frosting from her Searchlight Cookbook, 1931 printing. The method called for boiling sugar and water until it made a thread when dripped from a spoon, then adding the very hot syrup very slowly to stiffly beaten egg whites, beating all the time. Then, we did not have the luxury of an electric mixer in our home so sister Barbara and I, while young girls, learned to make this frosting as a team. She poured while I beat, then she beat while I poured—using an old wire whisk. Somehow, it became stiff and always turned out right and we never scalded ourselves with the hot syrup. In later years, when she bought a double boiler, Mama used this standard recipe, which I use today.”
It’s challenging to press coconut into the sides of the cake. When pressing the coconut in, the icing invariably sticks to my fingers and mars the frosting’s finish. I’ve discovered that throwing small handfuls of coconut toward the side of the cake makes it adhere quite well—a messy but effective technique for creating a gorgeous-looking cake.
For those who want to follow Aunt Molly’s original recipe, here are her directions for extracting coconut meat and liquid from a fresh coconut: “First buy a fresh coconut. To select the best one, shake it to listen for a lot of milk inside. Prepare the coconut by first making a hole or two in one end with a hammer and ice pick. Stand the coconut up over a small bowl or glass measuring cup to catch the milk as it drains out. Next, crack the hard outer shell with a hammer, then pry off the pieces. The inner white coconut meat can then be grated [with a handheld microplane grater]. Refrigerate both the milk and grated coconut until ready to use.”
To make the whipped cream filling:
To make the frosting:
To assemble the cake:
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food
Reprinted with permission from The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style by Rebecca Rather with Alison Oresman, copyright © 2007. Published by Ten Speed Press.