Top | Ellen Kanner
Florida Coconut Cake
(recipe, Ellen Kanner)
Many thanks go to my cousin Sharon Johnson for this family recipe for coconut cake. The cake has been her favorite since she was a child, and remains a beloved indulgence. Both the cake and the icing recipes are adapted from the Joy of Cooking.
My great-aunt Minnie isn’t here to vouch for the recipe, but I believe the idea of raspberry jam between the cake layers must have come from her. It’s a gastronomic bridge between the Old World tastes she brought with her from Bohemia and the tropical flavor of coconut she discovered in Florida.
- 2½ cups sifted cake flour
- 2¼ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. almond extract
- ½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1¾ cups sugar, divided
- 4 eggs, separated
- Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
- 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
- ¼ cup seedless raspberry jam
- 2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
- Lightly oil two round 9-by-2-inch cake pans or three 8-by-2-inch cake pans. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Make the cake: In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla and almond extracts.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually pour in 1½ cups sugar, scraping down the sides. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
- Pour in a third of the flour mixture, followed by half the milk mixture. Beat at low speed to combine. Repeat, alternating the flour and the milk mixtures.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the four egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and the pinch of cream of tartar, if using. Gently fold one-fourth of the egg-white mixture into the cake batter to lighten it. Then add the remaining egg whites and fold, still using a light hand.
- Divide the batter into the prepared cake pans and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Set the cake layers on racks and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife blade around the edges before inverting. Let the cakes cool right side up on the racks.
- Make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter for a minute, or until smooth. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Continue beating for another minute, until the frosting is glossy.
- To assemble a two-layer cake: Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread with the raspberry jam to the edge of the cake. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sweetened coconut over the jam. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread the cake sides and top with the cream-cheese frosting. Smooth the frosting, then gently press the remaining coconut onto the frosting.
- To assemble a three-layer cake: Use the raspberry jam and 2 tablespoons of the sweetened coconut flakes between the first and second cake layers, and the cream-cheese frosting with an additional 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes on top of the second layer. Top with the third and final cake layer. Spread the remaining cream-cheese frosting on the top and sides. Smooth the frosting, then gently press the remaining coconut onto the frosting.
If not serving right away, keep the cake covered and chilled.