Portion control alert! I promised I would flag those recipes that are so good they break my 1-taste-test piece rule. Well, here you go. It’s either that or I had the slowest taste buds in the world that I had to keep trying “just one more bite” of this cake. Yup, it was that good. I had a piece when it was lukewarm and the frosting was still melty. To die for. I had a second piece when it was completely cool and the icing had set “just to make sure”. And to put my mind completely at ease, I had another one before I packaged up the rest to take into work. Granted, they were small-ish pieces but I probably didn’t need 3 over a 24-hour period. I just wanted them.
Why was this so good? First the texture was perfect: soft, cakey and moist plus the coconut I added to the batter gave it a little more chewiness, the good kind. Second, the butter-vanilla overtones were delicious. Unlike chocolate which can be rich enough to stop me at one piece, a really good vanilla cake doesn’t have that kind of failsafe. You just want to keep eating and eating. And eating (hello, third piece of cake).
What will really kill you is how easy this was to make. Since it falls into the Texas Sheet Cake class, it’s a simple matter of boiling the butter and water, adding the rest of the ingredients and mixing then pouring into the pan. That’s it. No waiting for butter to soften or eggs to come to room temperature. You can mix this up in the time it takes your oven to preheat. Just don’t add the eggs while the mixture is still hot or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your batter. Don’t underbake this either or it’ll be too gummy. I baked it just over 30 minutes because I baked it in a 9 x 13 pan, not a sheet pan, since I think a thin slice of cake is hardly worth dirtying up a fork. The toothpick test can fool you so go by how brown the overall top of the cake looks as well as making sure there’s a bit of spring in the center when you push down lightly with your finger on top of the cake. If the cake doesn’t spring back even a little bit and instead remains sunken, your cake’s not done yet.
I cut back on the powdered sugar in the icing but it was still a bit too sweet for me. Go by taste and your preferences but I would recommend less than the 4 cups of powdered sugar in the recipe. I was also generous with the vanilla and vanilla bean paste but that’s because I like vanilla. And when, not if, I make this cake again, I wouldn’t toast the coconut for the garnish on top and instead go with untoasted, sweetened flaked coconut. I didn’t like the texture contrast with the toasted coconut but I liked the coconut itself, just wanted it to be as chewy as the coconut in the batter.
I had three people at work tell me after that this was the best thing I’d ever brought in and/or it was their favorite dessert. If that doesn’t convince you to try it, remember me and my jaded taste buds ate 3 pieces, offset by only 2 workouts.
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup coconut, optional
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or less if you don't like frosting to be too sweet)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Toasted coconut, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large saucepan, bring the butter and water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract. Add the flour, salt and baking soda; stir until just combined.
- Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and top springs back when lightly pressed.
- To make the frosting: in a medium saucepan, bring butter and milk to a boil. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Pour over warm cake and garnish with toasted coconut.