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Of Plain Cakes and Fancy Cakes... and One that's Both

Posted Jan 27 2009 8:20pm

I should have known I couldn't stay away for two whole weeks... especially when we're spending a glorious portion of every day sampling the delectable treats that Zach's family keeps concocting! The moment I tasted Miss Sharon's coconut cake, I knew I had to obtain the recipe and share it with the world (well, OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you understand). Coconut Cake is, of course, a Dessert Tradition in the south, on the same list as Red Velvet Cake and Pound Cake. The claim to fame of Miss Sharon's version? In addition to being so delectable and gooey that it's really a cross between coconut cake and coconut cream pudding, it's a breezy trick for dressing up your classic vanilla cake recipe and transforming it into a festive centerpiece. Let's just say this is a recipe that crosses the boundary between "plain cakes" and "fancy cakes" - all in 10 minutes!

Miss Sharon's Coconut Cake

1 batch of your favorite vanilla cake batter (enough to fill a 9X15" sheet cake pan). My personal choice is my grandmother's classic "1234 Cake," which I fix from a tiny slip of paper bearing my mother's scribbled list of ingredients. There are no directions on this scrap of paper - it's the first time the recipe has even been written. My grandmother always made it from memory, as per her mother's verbal instructions, as per her mother's guidance... and so the tradition continues. You might even have your own family 1234 Cake! I have included my family's recipe below, if you'd like to sample our own cake history...

Food coloring as desired - Miss Sharon used green, which gave the cake a grand air of a forest of trees covered in snow... I think red or pink would be fun too.

1 (14 oz) can sweetened coconut milk
1 tub low fat cool whip (not gourmet, I know, but everything has its place in the world...)
1 (12 oz) package unsweetened flaked coconut

~ Preheat the oven as per your cake's directions. Grease a 9X15" baking pan.
~ Stir the food coloring into the cake batter until you've achieved the color you fancy.
~ Pour the batter into the baking pan, and bake as your cake dictates. (Once again, see below for the cake recipe I use.)
~ As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes all over the cake with a drinking straw.
~ Pour the coconut milk over the cake, where it will promptly seep into the cake. Oooohhh... Mmm...
~ Allow the cake to cool. Once cooled, spread the cool whip over the cake, sprinkle the coconut on top, and there you have it - extra gooey coconut cake!

Grandma Sarah's 1234 Cake

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8x8" or one 9X15" baking pan(s).
~ Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
~ Cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, and continue creaming until very light and fluffy.
~ Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
~ Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately, while mixing until just blended, beginning and ending with flour.
~ Stir in the vanilla until just mixed.
~ Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s), and bang the pan(s) lightly on the counter-top two or three times to release air bubbles.
~ Bake for 25 to 30 minutes - until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
~ If you're removing the cake from the pan(s), cool it in the pan(s) for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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