Tag Archives: cakes

107. Coconut Cake–Paradise on a Plate

28 Aug

Four layers of coconuttyness by The Thrillbilly Gourmet

If you’ve lived in Seattle for any length of time, you’ve most likely dined in one of Tom Douglas’s many fine establishments. Seeing as they’re second in number only to Starbucks, it isn’t hard to do. Unless you are broke and have no generous friends. Then it could be something of a challenge seeing as Tom doesn’t give it away.

“How does this relate to Southern coconut cake?” you may be wondering. Well, actually, it doesn’t. It relates to Tom’s triple coconut cream pie. I believe that means there’s coconut in the crust, filling, and whipped cream, but honestly, I’ve never slowed down enough to check. This is some MY-T-FINE pie, my friends. But what it isn’t is good old-fashioned coconut cake. Apparently, folks around these parts fail to recognize the awesomeness of said dessert. Either because they’ve never had it or because they don’t know what’s good.

Every Seattle baker and his/her Facebook friends are doing renditions of red velvet cake that range in flavor from so-so to what Gordon Ramsay might refer to as “the dog’s dinner,” but nobody’s even attempting coconut cake. Well, some of the local cupcake places sprinkle a few flakes of coconut on top of buttercream icing and call it coconut, which I suppose it technically is. But no. To my mind, coconut cake was, is, and forever shall be comprised of no less than two, but preferably three or more layers.

Dear Cupcake Royale, more icing, please!

Why are Southerners so fond of layer cakes? Simple: more icing per square inch. (Sorry, y’all, but I’ve been out of the South so long, I can’t remember if the correct word is “icing” or “frosting.” Somebody help me out here.) With a cupcake or sheet cake, there’s only one sad, lonely layer of icing. And woe be unto you if someone serves you a slice from the middle. Which, incidentally, never happens with a layer cake. You always get a wedge that includes at minimum three layers of frosting–top, middle, and side–and quite often you’ll encounter an extra middle layer. Pardon me for going all mathematical, but that’s a 3 to 2 or 4 to 3 ratio, which always trumps 1 to 1. At least as far as icing is concerned.

Please note that I’m not a cupcake or sheet cake hater. Anyone who knows me will vouch that I’m an equal opportunity cake eater. But given my druthers, I’ll opt for layer cake every time.

You might think from the name that a Southern coconut cake would feature a fair amount of coconut, coconut milk, or even the dreaded “coconut” flavoring. Nope, many coconut cakes contain nary a flake of coconut. They’re usually regular old white cake all dolled up in coconut frosting. Heaps of frosting with heaps of coconut. Not that anybody’s going to snub a cake with actual coconut in it, but…(Sorry, y’all, I just got sidetracked looking at photos of/recipes for coconut cake on the Internets. But now you have my undivided attention again. Except that I’m hungry.)

Well, anyhow, what makes a Southern coconut cake special is that it’s always super moist and the icing is usually slightly sticky. If you encounter a dry coconut cake with dry icing, run! Ok, that’s a bit drastic. Perhaps you should merely mosey along. Unless there’s no other dessert option, in which case, you’ll have to make do.

Here’s where I should probably tell y’all the secret to making a traditional Southern coconut cake. Sadly, I haven’t the foggiest. I live with an avowed coconut hater, so this particular cake is pretty far down on my to-bake list, seeing as I’d have to consume the whole thing myself. Not necessarily in one sitting, but still. I’ve thought about making one as a party/potluck contribution, but that would involve procuring a cake carrier. Which would involve finding a place to stow said carrier when not in use, and my cabinets exceeded maximum capacity three mixing bowls ago.

A few months back, as I perused a cookware store, a book called “Southern Cakes” beckoned me to come hither. And thither I went. After one glance at the stunning coconut cake on the cover, I promptly added the book to my library queue. (A shout out to my friend Linda who clued me in that one could check out cookbooks from the library. Who knew? Just be careful not to spill.) I made a few of the recipes—including one called “Celestial Chocolate Cake,” which turned out to be worthy of its name. If you like to bake (or just drool over pretty pictures) I highly recommend this particular cookbook. Also, it makes an excellent gift. Hint, hint!

In the meantime, I’ll leave y’all with my grandmother’s recipe. As always, the directions/measurements are vague, so your results may vary.

P.S. What’s your favorite Southern cake? Please do tell!

My Mom’s Mother’s Coconut Cake

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 t baking powder
1 pinch soda
1 t vanilla

There are no mixing instructions, so use your best judgment. Also, I have no idea how long it should bake or at what temperature.

Filling:
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
Coconut (No amount specified. Add however much you want, I reckon.)

Cook filling in double boiler until it thickens. Add vanilla.

I believe my mom once mentioned that it’s better to make the cake the day before you plan to serve it. But I wouldn’t know; I’ve never been able to wait that long to eat cake.

Photo Credits: Coconut layer cake courtesy of The Thrillbilly Gourmet, Coconut cupcake by Sea Turtle–Flickr Creative Commons.

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60. Groom’s Cakes (Even the Ones in Poor Taste Still Taste Good)

20 Jan

Bee-u-ti-ful groom's cake
by maggie valley club

I just recently found out that groom’s cakes are a Southern thing. Here’s how it happened:

Me: What kind of groom’s cake are y’all having?

Bride, groom and everybody at the engagement party table: Huh?

What? People get married without a groom’s cake? Seriously? The bride gets the venue she wants, the flowers she wants, the music she wants, the photographer (and the 18 million pictures) she wants, the wedding cake she wants, and so on, and the groom can’t even get a lousy chocolate sheet cake?

C’mon people!

Supposedly, in the tradition’s early days, the groom’s cake wasn’t eaten at the wedding. Slices were packaged and sent home with single girls who would put them under their pillows to induce dreams of their future husbands. Right. Like a Southern single lady with post-wedding blues is going to let a perfectly good slice of cake go to waste? Never gonna happen.

These days, the cakes are tailored toward the grooms tastes and/or interests. I’ve never actually witnessed first hand a cake shaped like a Lazy Boy recliner, TV remote, or bottle of Jack Daniels, but surely they exist. As far as flavors go, well, they don’t go far: nearly every groom’s cake I’ve encountered was chocolate.

Steel Magnolias: The movie that launched
a thousand red velvet armadillos

“Steel Magnolias” features the beat-all, end-all groom’s cake: an armadillo-shaped confection featuring a red velvet interior. Yum!

I think the groom’s cake is an excellent addition to any wedding reception (but then my motto is “the more cake, the merrier”). However, clearly, not all grooms ought to have free reign at the bakery, as evidenced by the ill-conceived collection posted on cakewrecks.com.

Did you have a groom’s cake at your wedding? What kind?

47. Petit Fours Like You’ll Never Find in Paris

4 Oct

petit fours -Brandi Korte

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the topic of petit fours with Geoff (I mean, it’s not like I EVER talk about sweets), but here’s another example of Dixie and Non worlds colliding:

I’m explaining to him that petit fours are little cakes with icing poured over them. About this big (imagine my hands making the universal 2 inch square symbol). And he goes, “Oh! They sell those at Whole Foods.” Me: “WHAT??” See, I have searched the internets more times than I care to mention trying to find petit fours in Seattle, and he’s telling me I overlooked Whole Foods. I would have hopped in the car immediately, but it was well past Whole Foods’ closing time. Ok, maybe not, but I was already in pajamas.

So the next day I set out for Whole Foods in Ravenna, giddy because I was moments away from petit four bliss. As I perused the bakery case, I encountered lots of lovely, lovely baked goods, but nary a petit four in sight. I made no less than three trips around the entire bakery area. No petit fours ANYWHERE. What they did have, though, were a ton of yummy looking bite-sized desserts. The price was a foreboding $18.99 a pound, but then how much could these really weigh? I got a tiny key lime pie and a wee cheesecake and they worked out to about two bucks each. Yes, a little steep for bite sized dessert, but you’d just have to see how cute these things are.

The next day, I was near another Whole Foods. Ok, it was maybe three miles out of the way, but who’s counting? Again, no petit fours. Ack!!

Meanwhile my sister calls to tell me about these awesome petit fours her friends ordered for her baby shower. (My sister’s two requirements for any shower thrown in her honor are petit fours and punch. It may not get more Southern than that. Especially if the punch is the lime sherbet variety. Alas, this is not Jenna’s favorite.)

I tell her about my wild petit four chase and tell her we’ve GOT to get petit fours when I go down to Memphis to help attend to the baby for whom she was recently showered.

Geoff has a client on the eastside, so he swung by Whole Foods to check out the PF situation there. He comes home and says, “Ok, they have a whole bunch of petit fours. They’re all different kinds of bite-sized desserts and they’re $18.99 a pound.” Me: “Yeah, I saw THOSE, but do they have any that are pieces of cake about this big with icing poured over them?” Him: “Uh, no.” Me: “Then they’re not petit fours!” Him: “Well, the sign says ‘Petit Fours.’” Me: “The sign lied.”

Fast forward to me in Memphis. I got the name of the petit four place from Jenna’s friend Tricia. I found their website, which was…somewhat off-putting. Some of their cakes were worthy of Cakewrecks. I would love to link to the site, but now Google warns that the site might harm my (or your) computer.

Nevertheless, Jenna and Tricia vouched for the deliciousness of the Kay Bakery petit fours, so I ordered a dozen. Ok, a dozen and a half because I was determined to bring some home to show Geoff. Not for him to TASTE, mind you, because I knew he would hate them.

kay bakery petit four


If the website put me off, the actual bakery did not do much to assuage my misgivings. But the guy showed me the petit fours, and while they weren’t exactly square, I could tell right away that they were honest-to-God petit fours. Hallelujah!

And they were as good as promised. Yay!

Epilogue: Geoff’s response upon seeing them: “Those aren’t small! They’re not petit fours; they’re grande eights!”

Some folks have no appreciation for the finer things in life.

Where’s your favorite placeto get petit fours? Have you ever attempted to make them yourself?

44. Caramel Cake–Like a Hug, but Tastier

26 Jun

I made this. Yum.

If you happen to be in the South and happen to be offered a slice of caramel cake (or better yet, somebody’s grandmother’s caramel cake), proceed with caution. Much like heroin, one hit’s too many and a thousand is never enough.

I have never met a caramel cake I didn’t like. Mostly, I think, because Betty Crocker has yet to throw her hat in the ring. That I know of, anyway.

Caramel cake is a bit of a misnomer, seeing as the cake isn’t caramel at all. It’s the icing that’s caramel. Well, actually, even the icing isn’t caramel. It’s caramel-esque. And way better than any plastic-wrapped caramel you’ve ever encountered.

The first time I attempted a caramel cake, the icing turned out gritty. Did I still eat it? You bet. See “never met a caramel cake I didn’t like” above.

caramel cake in progress, a still life

The second time, I turned to the Patron Saint of Southern Cooking, Paula Deen. She did not disappoint. And, so, having mastered my technique, I decided to treat my sister to a home-baked caramel cake. What I didn’t plan on was my sister’s sad, sad baking pans. Perhaps I should have switched to sheet cake mode, but I was determined to wow my sister. And wow her I did.

So the cakes stuck to the pans, but I ingeniously inverted them, crumbly side down. Which worked ok for the first layer. Halfway through icing the second layer, an avalanche sent one side of the cake sliding. Not to be defeated, I kept icing that sucker, which was getting crumblier by the second. Even my six-year-old nephew who loves to help in the kitchen decided it was hopeless and abandoned the project in favor of Sponge Bob.

My sister took one look at the cake and said, “What happened??” Me: “It stuck to the pans.” Jenna: “What pans did you USE?” I showed her the culprits. Jenna: “Well, no wonder!”

It wasn’t pretty, but that did not deter us from enjoying a slice. (Well, not so much a slice as a glob). But then, we’ve been known to eat my sister-in-law’s carrot cake rescued from a fall to the floor, which is a story for another time.

If you take a notion to make your own caramel cake, I recommend Paula Deen’s recipe. However, I leave out her layer of filling and have never missed those extra two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar. The icing isn’t a true caramel, but I’ve yet to figure out how that culinary feat is accomplished. I’ve tried many a time, but for me caramel always ends in disappointment or disaster.

Anybody happen to have their grandmother’s caramel cake recipe? Please do share!!

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