An old-fashioned coconut cake, made with a soft, 2-layer vanilla cake, iced with an old-fashioned frosting straight from my grandmother’s cookbook, and covered in sweet coconut shavings.
My grandmother is currently in the process of downsizing and moving out of her house, and as she’s been packing up, she’s also been giving away a lot of things that she no longer will have room for.
Being a ridiculously sentimental person with far, far too much emotional attachment to material posessions, it’s taking every bit of my strength and willpower to not take home absolutely everything she’s trying to give away, but there are a few items that made their way into my own house.
Zach and I were fortunate enough to bring home her beautiful wooden dining room table, expandable to seat ten people. It’s the same dining room table where I ate dinner through so many Sundays of my childhood, and where my cousins and I gathered to play Pictionary (and, more recently, Cards Against Humanity). As our families grew, “us kids” were often relegated to a kiddie table, but we always gathered back at the dining room table for games and for dessert, one of the most popular being my grandmother’s Coconut Cake.
My grandmother almost always uses box mixes in her baking, so when I asked for her recipe it included simply a box of yellow cake mix. I had to improvise here with my own yellow cake recipe, with the requirements that it be soft, fluffy, and with a distinct vanilla taste. This cake covers all of the bases; it’s moist, tender and the perfect vehicle for the coconut frosting.
This frosting is quite different from your standard buttercream or (my personal favorite) cream cheese frosting. It’s made with shortening in addition to butter (which gives it that beautiful, stark white color), flour, and granulated sugar. It requires being beaten for twelve minutes to ensure that all of the grittiness from the sugar has been dissolved. It’s a light and delicate frosting with a very smooth texture that pairs perfectly with the coarse coating of coconut.
Quite simply, it is absolutely delicious.
I hope that you & yours enjoy this old-fashioned coconut cake as much as my family and I have enjoyed it over the years.
Two other things that I brought home from my grandmother’s: that crystal cake stand and the small crystal bowl, which belonged to my grandmother’s grandmother (or my great great grandmother). I mean, really, how could I not take them?
Old Fashioned Coconut Cake
An old fashioned coconut cake made from a fluffy yellow cake and a frosting recipe handed down from my grandmother.
- 2/3 cups unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3 eggs + 1 yolk room temperature preferred*
- 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup salted butter softened, 1 1/2 sticks
- 9 Tablespoons shortening Crisco
- 1 1/2 cups sugar granulated
- 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour sifted
- 1 cup coconut milk (or just regular milk which is what my grandmother uses)
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 18 oz frozen fresh shredded coconut thawed
Preheat oven to 350F and thoroughly grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (be sure to shake out excess flour).
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating on high-speed for 30 seconds between each addition.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir in vanilla extract and sour cream, stirring until well-combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
With mixer on low speed, gradually add about 1/4 of the flour mixture. Stir until just combined, and then add about 1/3 of your milk. Stir until just combined, and repeat, ending with the flour mixture and being careful not to overmix (this could result in a dense cake).
Divide the batter evenly into your cake pans and rap the bottoms of the pan firmly on a flat surface (to help eliminate any air bubbles).
Bake on 350F for 30 minutes (toothpick inserted in center should come out clean or with few crumbs when tested).
Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, and then run a knife around the edges and invert onto cooling rack. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
In KitchenAid or with hand mixer, cream together your butter, crisco, and sugar until creamy well combined.
Add sifted flour, one Tbsp at a time (I sift it into the mixture), beating on medium speed for 15 seconds between each addition. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl and beat again for 20 seconds.
Add coconut milk and vanilla extract and stir to combine
Turn mixer speed up to medium-high and beat for 12 minutes. Pause once at about the 4 minute mark to scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl.
Once finished, the frosting should not be grainy at all. If it still is, carefully scrape the sides and bottom of your mixing bowl again and stir again on high speed until no longer grainy.
Once your cakes are cool, ice them by placing one layer on your serving dish and applying an even layer of frosting to the top. Sprinkle liberally with coconut.
Place your second layer on top of the first and apply an even layer of frosting around the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle coconut over the top of the cake, and then use your hands to press coconut all around the sides.
*If you only have cold eggs, set them in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes before using
You may also like: