One Day At a Time. And Today It’s Coconut Cake

Things kind of suck right now.

That’s the gist of my life these days.  I’ve been avoiding this space because I don’t really have much to talk about, and because I’m down.  Blue.  Sad.

I haven’t really wanted to write about it because it seems silly.  There are so many other truly terrible things in the world, and my little bout of self pity seems a little trite.  But, it’s my life – and that’s what this space is all about.  Life.  And sometimes life isn’t so great.

I think a big part of it is that I’m looking for work, and that process is always discouraging.  I’m a task-oriented kind of person, and lately I’ve been sorely lacking in the task department.  I need some meaning and direction.  And I need to figure out how to find it for myself, rather than waiting for someone else to find it for me.

And that scares me.

So, I’m taking it one day at a time.  I’m waking up in the morning, I’m getting up out of bed, and I’m living.  I’m caring for my children, and I’m keeping my house (sort of), and I’m looking for meaning in the little things.  And I’m grateful for distractions that take me out of my head.

I was particularly grateful the other day when my neighbor texted me with a challenge.  She and her husband had stopped on their way back from Cherokee, NC and purchased a coconut pound cake.  They liked it so much, they wanted me to try to replicate it.  She brought me a piece to sample, along with the ingredient list from the label.

It was very moist, and had been glazed with a very sweet coconut-flavored glaze.  The ingredient list for the cake read: flour, margarine, sugar, eggs, coconut, milk, shortening, flavorings; and for the glaze: sugar, coconut milk, margarine.

I knew right off that it wasn’t a traditional pound cake recipe – those usually consist of a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs.  No milk, no shortening.  No levening.  Just flour, butter, sugar and eggs.  But, I wanted to try to stay as true to the ingredient list as possible, so I went in search of a recipe that seemed similar.

I landed on one from Bon Appetit, Y’all by Virginia Willis.  Hers used a combination of butter and shortening, as well as milk.  I decided to eliminate the shortening, since I don’t like using hydrogenated fats in my cooking (and I didn’t have any expeller pressed shortening on hand), but for the most part I stuck pretty close to the ratios in her recipe.  Of course, I had to adapt it somewhat to accommodate the coconut.

I wound up baking two versions – one that used sweetened flake coconut, and one that used fresh coconut.  I couldn’t tell from the inspiration cake’s ingredient list which the baker had used, so I wanted to try it with both.

I have these peel-and-stick blackboard panels on my refrigerator.  I use them to make notes about recipes as I’m working on them.  As you can see, I have the ingredients and amounts for the two different versions of the cake listed above.  This really comes in handy for note-taking – eliminates the need for paper on the counter (which gets messy), or running the risk of spilling something on my computer.

Coconut Cake – Version 1 (using sweetened flake coconut)

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flake coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 325, and grease two loaf pans
  2. in the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the butter until light and fluffy
  3. slowly add the sugar to the butter and whip on high until light in color and increased in volume
  4. whisk together the milks, eggs, vanilla
  5. sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
  6. with the mixer on low, add the flour and liquid mixtures to the butter/sugar mixture, starting and ending with flour
  7. fold the coconut into the batter
  8. divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans
  9. bake at 325 for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Coconut Cake – Version 2 (using fresh coconut)

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 325F and grease and flour two loaf pans
  2. Combine milk, 1 cup coconut and 1/2 vanilla bean (pod and seeds) in a sauce pan.  Heat to almost boiling.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Strain, reserving milk in one container and coconut in another.  Discard vanilla bean pod.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the sugar to the butter, whipping until lighter in color and increased in volume
  5. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Whisk together the cooled milk and eggs
  7. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk/egg mixture to the butter and sugar, starting and ending with flour
  8. Fold the second cup of fresh coconut into the batter
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans
  10. Bake at 325F for 55-65 minutes

For the glaze (this is enough for four cakes):

Combine 1 cup coconut milk with 1/2 a stick of softened butter and 1 2/3 cup powdered sugar.  Whisk to combine and until smooth.  Pour glaze over cooled cakes.

I think both versions were successful, but I definitely liked the one with the fresh coconut better.  It was a little more moist, and I think it had more coconut flavor.  It wasn’t exactly like the one they brought back from Cherokee, but it was close.

And this task certainly provided a much needed distraction for me for a few hours yesterday.  And for that I’m thankful.

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Categories: baking, dessert, southern food

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37 Comments on “One Day At a Time. And Today It’s Coconut Cake”

  1. 15 September 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    I love the chalkboards on the fridge! (And not just because I love your handwriting.) Let’s get together soon, and we can talk about missions in life (and things we can do together). Love you and miss you!

    • 15 September 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      I knew you would like the chalkboards. We definitely need to get together. And soon. I miss you.

  2. 15 September 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    This recipe sounds fantastic and the cake looks delicious. As I read your post I totally empathize with the way you feel, but for different reasons. I’m blue these days and some days are better than others. Thank goodness I have my children and family to keep me busy and my mind occupied. I found that by finally logging back into foodbuzz and pilfering though thousands of emails to be a nice distraction and take my mind off of stuff. Like this cake it looks perfect and I will have to make it one day. :)

    • 15 September 2011 at 9:10 pm #

      Hi Susie:

      I hope you find more of the better days as time goes on. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for your kind words.It really does mean so much.

  3. 15 September 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    I hope your days get better. I know what you mean about looking for work. I’ve been looking for work nearly 14 months. I have only receive one call this year about work. Things will get better Anyway… great recipe.

    • 16 September 2011 at 6:20 am #

      Hi Christine:

      Thank you – I know that they will. It’s just a matter of time and patience. I hope things start looking up for you, as well. I know it’s discouraging, but as you say – things will get better. Thanks for taking the time to stop and comment – it means a lot.

  4. Kat
    15 September 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    These look and sound amazing. May try this when my coconut lover friend comes back next month! ^^

    • 16 September 2011 at 6:21 am #

      Hi Kat:

      If you try one of them, let me know how it turns out. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. 16 September 2011 at 5:32 am #

    They both look like pure perfection, ive never baked with fresh coconut before but i can only imagine how superior and just plain gorgeous the taste is! I think you did a wonderful job tackling this task, I hope you feel a little less blue soon :)

    • 16 September 2011 at 6:22 am #

      Hi Sasha:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. The fresh coconut is really nice, and much easier to deal with than you might think.

  6. 16 September 2011 at 6:37 am #

    I love coconut and pound cake. Wonder if I’d like this. :-)
    I want in on that get-together with you and the butterfly.
    Lots of love heading your way, friend.

    • 16 September 2011 at 9:59 am #

      Thanks, and back atcha. I’ve been getting lots of laughs and happiness just keepin up with your antics in the kitchen these days. And the fun photos and videos of your sweet pug.

  7. 16 September 2011 at 8:34 am #

    I feel for you right now. The job hunt dance has had my every waking minute for the past 18 months, and private cheffing gigs – while rewarding – just aren’t satisfying the need to be productive. Things will get better… they always do, eventually. Take comfort that you have a wonderful family and a caring group of supportive friends around you – and draw brightness from that.

    On to the post… The cakes look lush! My grandmother made a dense coconut cake that sounds like what you came up with, and I would agree with you – I think I’d like the fresh coconut over the other – I’m just a fresh coconut kind of guy. Flake coconut never seems to re-hydrate very well in pastry.

    And – those magnetty refrigerator things… I could barely read the post from scrolling back up and lusting after them.

    • 16 September 2011 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Toby:

      Thanks for the kind words, and the encouragement. I do feel lucky to have such wonderful friends and family – you’re absolutely right about that.

      As for the refrigerator chalkboards, here’s the link:

      I have a set in the kitchen, and on the wall above my desk in the office. The come in different sizes, too. Much easier than chalkboard paint!

  8. 16 September 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Thanks so much for looking to my book for inspiration. That means a lot to me. I get it about the Crisco. It’s what Meme and Mama used, but I get it. Have to tell you, I got up out of bed with a pity party this post has given me great encouragement. So, I thank you.
    Have a better day. Best VA

    • 16 September 2011 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Virginia:

      What a treat – thanks for stopping by! I’ve had to retrain my southern brain on the shortening front – both of my grandmother’s swore by it for certain things, so it has been a challenge to get away from it. I’ve found that the expeller pressed version just doesn’t work the same way, so I sub butter in most cases (and who couldn’t use a little more butter in their lives, really?).

      Thanks for the words of encouragement – that means so much. I hope you’re day gets better, too.

  9. denise
    16 September 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Great recipe- i’m planning on making it this weekend for my boyfriend’s birthday (he’s a pretty lucky guy- or at least he will be after he gets the cake). For the fresh coconut, do you buy it packaged (frozen flaked) or did you grate it yourself? really hoping it will work with frozen- not sure that i have the grating in me

    • 16 September 2011 at 8:51 pm #

      Hi Denise:

      I grated it fresh, but I’m sure you could use frozen. If it’s sweetened at all, though, you might want to cut down on the amount of sugar in the recipe. If it’s strictly coconut, you should be fine to use it as the recipe suggests. Good luck – I hope your boyfriend likes it!

  10. 16 September 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    I LOVE anything with coconut in it :-) It’s one of my faves! But wait, which one tasted the closest to the actual cake? And which one do you think tasted better? I hope you feel better soon and things will be better next week. Have a great weekend!

    • 17 September 2011 at 7:21 am #

      Hi Hester:

      Neither of them was really like the original, but I think the one with fresh coconut came closest – it was more moist and more coconut-ty than the other. While it is more work to peel and grate the coconut, it was definitely worth it in the end. Thanks for stopping by and leaving kind words of encouragement!

  11. Nicole
    17 September 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Love coconut cake!! thanks for sharing your talents! And can you tell me exactly where you purchased those chalkboard sticky things for your fridge? I want to copy you!! :)

  12. 18 September 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Sometimes all you can do is take it day by day.

    I have been eyeing up that cookbook for a while. I need to add it to my list! Your coconut cakes look and sound fabulous.

    • 18 September 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      Hi Kita:

      Thank you. Definitely get Virginia’s cookbook – it’s great. I met her briefly at an event last year, and she’s really a gracious person- I’m looking forward to her next cookbook as well.

  13. 9 October 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    This looks amazing as does your blog. I am making this on Wednesday for a book club. Using the store bought shredded coconut….

  14. Niki
    31 January 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    I had a bag of coconut left over from my Christmas baking, and have been looking for something fun to do with it. Found your reciepe on pinterest, and made it this evening. I thought it was delicious, even without the coconut being fresh! my glaze was kinda runny, so not sure if I did something wrong, but it didnt hurt the flavor at all!!! Now my only question is, I have 2 cakes and should NOT eat them both right now! lol… can I freeze one, without glaze, for a later time? Or should I make someone’s day by suprising them with a yummy cake? :)

    • 1 February 2012 at 4:55 am #

      I definitely think you could freeze one, without the glaze. As long as it’s wrapped well, it should keep for a couple of months in the freezer. Of course, I’m sure someone would be thrilled to receive it as a gift, too. So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the comment.

  15. 6 February 2012 at 10:11 am #

    This looks gorgeous! I’d love to try this tonight for our staff team meeting tomorrow. I’ve only got unsweetened shredded coconut on hand though and no access to fresh coconut. Which version would you recommend I try? Would reallly appreciate a response today :D Thanks!

    • 6 February 2012 at 10:16 am #

      I would use recipe for the version that calls for fresh coconut. There’s a little more sugar in that one, since fresh coconut is also unsweetened. Hope this helps!

  16. 6 February 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Thanks! That was really helpful! Also, could you clarify the amount of cups of coconut needed? I may totally be reading this wrong but it calls for two cups but there’s three instances where we are using the coconut – 1. when we boil it with milk, 2. when we add it to the batter, 3. when we make the glaze … Am I missing something? Lol it is after lunch here on a snowy Monday so I may totally be out of it! x

    • 6 February 2012 at 10:36 am #

      Sure. The coconut you boil in the milk can be reserved to use in the glaze. Or, if you want a smooth glaze, you can discard it after boiling. I think I toasted mine slightly (to dry it out a bit) before adding it to the glaze, but I can’t remember clearly. Good luck!

  17. heather
    20 August 2012 at 11:17 am #

    are these baking times based on a 4 mini-loaf pan?

    • 20 August 2012 at 11:49 am #

      No, these are based on 1-lb loaf pans. I’ve done them as cupcakes (2 dozen cupcakes per recipe), though, and the baking time is about 1/2 as long.

  18. Rita
    18 April 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Do I have to heat the milk & coconut? I don’t have a vanilla bean pod so I will use vanilla extract. You say to separate & reserve the milk & the coconut, but you never say to use the coconut that has been in the milk?? I am going to put it in the batter, but would love to hear your direction on this. Thanks!

    • 19 April 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Heating the milk and coconut infuses the milk with flavor (this is how Alton Brown makes coconut milk and cream: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/coconut-milk-and-cream-recipe/index.html). It’s not necessary, but it serves to replace the canned coconut milk in the sweetened-flake coconut version. Honestly I can’t remember why I reserved the strained coconut in the second version (other than that I hate to waste anything). You can certainly add it to the batter – it shouldn’t affect the final outcome, just give it more texture. I may have toasted it and added it as a garnish originally, but I can’t remember now. Thanks for asking for clarification – sorry for the confusion.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Coconut “Pound” Cake « A Little Yumminess - 23 January 2012

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  2. Coconut Cake - 14 January 2014

    […] adapted from Life in Recipes. (They also have a version that includes fresh coconut – would love to try that one […]

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