No holiday season was complete without being woken up before dawn by the sound of my grandmother whacking a whole coconut with a hammer to make her coconut cake. She, by that time, had already drained the milk which she would use in the icing and now she was after the meat to grate it into the fluffy white topping. Well, my mother still continues the tradition (coconut, hammer and all)….and now, with 3 children of my own, it’s my turn. But you know, I don’t really have the time to crack, drain and grate a whole coconut…even if I could find one (at last check Safeway was completely out), so here is my version of my grandmother’s recipe – it tastes just as good (dare I say a wee bit better – I know, heresy) and takes a fraction of the time. You can still tell you friends you cracked open a coconut, your secret’s safe with me.
1 3/4 cups creme of coconut (like Coco Lopez – usually in the isle with drink mixers), make sure to stir it well.
2 box mixes for white cake
Bake cake layers as per box instructions (for a total of 4 layers) substituting 3/4 of the total liquid for each box with creme of coconut and the rest with water. So, if the box calls for 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of cooking oil, use 3/4 cup of creme of coconut and 1/2 cup water and no oil.
Let cool completely.
2 tbls milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 Sticks unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1/4 cup creme of coconut
2 cups powdered sugar
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
Beat the butter and creme of coconut together with a mixer until smooth. Slowly beat in powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add milk, salt, vanilla and beat on high until fluffy – about 3 -4 minutes.
Place the first layer on your cake stand and top with 3/4 cup icing. Spread icing to cover cake, make sure you get it out to the edges. Repeat until the 4 layers are in place. Ice the sides and top with the remaining icing. When entire cake has been iced, press coconut around sides and sprinkle on top.