Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pearl Mae Oakley's Coconut Cake

Pearl Mae Oakley's Coconut Cake - made September 19, 2010 from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

This is another recipe from Southern Cakes which has a whole section on coconut cakes. The recipe calls for making this as a 2-layer round cake but since my round cake pans are still packed in boxes and I haven't moved yet so they're not getting unpacked anytime soon, I made it as a 9 x 13" cake instead. My 9 x 13" pan isn't getting packed until the very last minute for this reason alone. You never know when I'm going to feel like baking a cake.

What I find a little odd about this cake is, for a coconut cake, there's no coconut in the cake itself. Instead, it's in the frosting. Therefore, in my mind, this is really a vanilla cake and you can choose to frost it with whatever frosting you want. I did make the frosting that's included with the cake and it didn't quite turn out the way I expected. I followed the directions to the letter and am baffled how this could be a frosting used for a layer cake. The milk/sugar mixture never turns into anything thick enough to be considered frosting or even icing. It has more of a consistency like a glaze. You don't typically "glaze" a 2-layer cake and expect the layers to hold. Adding all the coconut does give it some cover but it's not going to hold together like if you frosted it with a buttercream frosting or something of similar consistency. So I was very glad I made it as a 9 x 13" cake instead.

Nevertheless, the cake itself was quite good and makes a nice vanilla cake - good flavor and texture. I happen to love coconut so if I made this again, I would likely add some coconut to the batter and make it a real coconut cake. Regardless though, I have to confess, I like the coconut cake recipe from Mrs. Fields better.

Yellow Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs

Coconut Icing
2 cups sugar (or 1 cup if you are using sweetened shredded coconut)
1 cup milk
Butter the size of an egg (¼ cup)
About 3 cups grated fresh coconut or sweetened shredded coconut

1. To make the cake, heat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and use a fork to mix them together well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.
2. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with a mixer at high speed until creamy. Add the sugar gradually, stopping to scrape down the bowl, and continue beating until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well each time, until the mixture is thick and smooth.
3. Add about one third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat well with the mixer at medium speed. Then add about half the milk to the batter, beating well. Continue beating as you add another third of the flour mixture, the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour mixture. Beat well until very thick and smooth.
4. Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans, dividing it evenly, and place them in the oven. Bake at 350˚F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden, spring back when touched lightly in the center and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.
5. Remove from the oven, and cool the layers in the pans on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cake onto wire racks or plates, top side up, and cool completely.
6. To make the icing, combine the sugar, milk and butter in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring now and then, until the sugar dissolves and everything melts into a smooth, velvety icing, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the grated coconut and set aside.
7. To complete the cake, place one layer, top side down, on a serving plate, and spoon about half the icing over the cake. Place the second layer over the first, top side up, and spoon the remaining icing over its surface. Work slowly, allowing the icing to soak into the cake a bit. Continue spooning icing over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides as it will. Let stand for about 1 hour before cutting.


  1. Since you're the pastry chef, I wonder, could you substitute coconut milk for some or all of the liquid (milk) in the recipe and get more of the coconut flavor in it? Not sure it would be worth it since you noted that Mrs. Fields' recipe is better anyway. Coconut recipes are another one of those that catch my eye. ;)

  2. Kimberly, you probably could although you might have to thin the coconut milk a little with water if it has a thicker consistency than whole milk. However, in all honesty, if you wanted a better coconut cake, I'd go with the Mrs. Fields recipe or Rhondalyn's Italian Cream Cake. I've made Mrs' Fields' coconut cake for people who don't like coconut and they love that cake.