A Southern Grace: a birthday cake

April 15, 2013

a birthday cake


I said farewell to my 20s a few days ago. There were gifts, there was laughter, and by Georgina, there was cake.

Some people's faces take on a look of pity when I tell them that I made a birthday cake for myself, but to be honest, at this point, I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, who knows what I like and want better than I? And since I have the know-how and ability to make it, there's no reason I shouldn't. It's like a present to myself.

This year's creation was all coconut, all the time. Soft, fluffy white cake was made with shredded coconut folded into the batter. My filling was a coconut-flavored pastry cream with, you guessed it, more shredded coconut added. The frosting was the woefully-underused seven minute variety smothered with a blanket of toasted coconut. I guess you could say I was in the mood for coconut.

While the number of steps and ingredients may seem daunting, rest assured that no aspect of making this cake is particularly hard. You can take care of the pastry cream, cakes, and garnish well in advance, though the frosting needs to be done shortly before applying it.

The aging of this cake is a mixed bag, as the longer it sits, three things happen:

1)The cake gets more moist, which is good.
2)The frosting starts to ooze a little bit, which is good when it seeps into the cake, but bad when it creeps onto the counter.
3)The toasted coconut gets soggy, which is bad. It still tastes good, but it loses that crunch. I suppose you could cover the cake in untoasted coconut for the snowball effect, but I just love the toasted touch.

Happy birthday to me.

Coconut(Cubed!) Cake
Recipes adapted from Ina Garten (cake), Joy of Cooking(pastry cream), and Martha Stewart's Cupcakes(frosting)
Makes a 3-layer 9" cake

  • 3/4 pound 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
Pastry cream:
  • 1-1/3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 3 cups sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans, then line them parchment paper and grease them again.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 6 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter evenly into the 3 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

Make the pastry cream: Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until a thin film forms on the top. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow, then beat in the flour, corn starch, and salt. Add some of the hot milk slowly to the yolk mixture, whisking as you add, to temper the eggs so they won’t cook. Then pour the yolk mixture back into the pot of hot milk and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high until the mixture begins to turn thick and bubble. At this point, trade your whisk for a spatula and gently stir the bubbling mixture for 1 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the extract and shredded coconut. Pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap down onto the cream so an icky skin doesn't form. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, probably up to 2-3 days. When it's time to use the pastry cream, stir it a bit to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.

Make the frosting: In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, and egg whites. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes. Attach bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat mixture on high speed until glossy and voluminous, about 5 minutes. Beat in extracts. Use immediately.

Assemble the cake: Put one layer of the cake on your serving platter. Spread 1/2 of the coconut pastry cream filling onto the cake. Spread it almost to the edge. Repeat with the other layers. Frost the cake generously with the seven minute frosting, then carefully push handfuls of toasted coconut all over the sides of the cake and on top.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Happy belated Birthday!

That cake looks stunning!



José Manuel said...

Que pintaza tiene.


Beth said...

Happy birthday! I always bake my own cakes. My looks of pity are reserved for people who "celebrate" with store-bought cakes.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Happy Birthday! Gorgeous cake. I do love a bit of coconut.

I Wilkerson said...

Your cake looks beautiful! Happy Birthday!

Heather said...

Happy Birthday!! Your cake looks amazing!

Mel said...

The cake looks amazing and happy birthday!! I make my own birthday cake, too...and that's a good thing. :)

pam said...

Happy Birthday. Though, I had to roll my eyes with you saying bye to your 20's. Check back with me when you say bye to your 40's!

Sue/the view from great island said...

Happy Birthday Grace! The 30s are a great decade!
Your cake looks amazing, but I don't know how you could go wrong when you combine the talents of Ina, 'Joy', Martha, and yourself!

Laura Dembowski said...

Happy Birthday! I love making my own birthday cake too. I just made coconut cake for Easter. I love the addition of pastry cream. I'll have to try that next time.

Unknown said...

Happy birthday my dear!!! With that cake it must have been a sweet one :) I love how coconut always makes everything taste more moist, such a rich and wonderful flavor. And your cake looks so beautiful with the toasted coconut on the outside. Love it!

Unknown said...

Mmmm, think I'll make that for the next family member with a b'day.( mine was 3 mos ago)
You are most accomplished for a gal of 30 young years. Happy Birthday.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Happy Birthday Grace!! And you're still such a young'un! :) This cake looks wonderfully soft and I like the effect of the toasting too.

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

Happy birthday my friend, I am sure you enjoyed it very much, especially with this cake :)

Choc Chip Uru

Cheesy Pennies said...

Happy happy birthday, to you!

Jeff @ Cheeseburger said...

Happy Birthday Grace! The coconut cake looks delicious!

Joanne said...

I always make my own cake also and no one ever understands...but seriously, no bakery or friend is going to come close to making the creation of my dreams! This cake is a force to be reckoned with! The perfectly celebratory cake!

Leslie said...

Happy Birthday to you!!! Love the cake

Lori said...

Happy Birthday. And I am so with you about making my own cake. To be honest I like my cakes the best. Isnt that terrible to say? My Mom will be the first to admit she is not a cake maker. SO she buys it. There are a few on the market that are good but I just really enjoy it.

Pam said...

Happy belated birthday! What a stunning cake! Coconut is my very favorite kind of cake!

Joyti said...

I make my own birthday cakes too. Same reasons.
Yours looks really gorgeous and festive, and tasty!

PG said...

Happy birthday! Welcome to a new decade.

Katerina said...

Happy Birthday Grace! May you continue to be as sweet as this delicious cake you made!

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Happy birthday :) I love coconut cake so much! This looks so fluffy and gorgeous!

Nic said...

Happy birthday to you Grace! I hope you had a lovely day. Your cake looks spectacular and delicious. xx

Kathy Walker said...

I have had an ongoing love affair with coconut for years...your cake looks amazing... pinning....

Blond Duck said...

Happy Birthday! May you have a wonderful introduction to your new decade!

Juliana said...

Happy Belated Birthday Grace...and yes, the coconut cake looks fabulous, light and fluffy...the way that I like.
Enjoy the rest of your week :)

Caroline Taylor said...

Happy Birthday! I always make my own birthday cake too, I quite enjoy it!

lisa is cooking said...

Happy Birthday! That's a beauty of a cake. I have to agree--there's nothing wrong with making your own birthday cake! ;)

Rosita Vargas said...

Torta hermosa y seguro muy deliciosa ...Feliz Cumpleaños muchas bendicione,abrazos y abrazos

Unknown said...

Happy belated birthday.Nothing sad about it when the cake is this awesome.

Erica said...

Happy Birthday to you, Grace!!!!What a beautiful and delicious cake!

Laura said...

Happy Birthday! :) Gorgeous cake!

Are you watching Orphan Black?

jillian said...

Happy Birthday! What a beautiful coconut cake!

foodhoe said...

Yay, happy birthday to you and I wish I could have some of that cake. May you and your cake age well..

Lynda said...

Happy Belated Birthday Grace; I'm so sorry I missed the post.......I'm drooling though over this fantastic cake-the soft white cake and wonderful coconut on top, and that 7 Minute frosting-I love that frosting. This is a winner...

Lisa said...

Late as usual, but Happy Birthday, Grace! Making your own Birthday Cake is highly underrated. I've done it many times with good result. This delightful coconut number seems perfect for your special day!

navya said...

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

Birthday Cakes