A Sarcastic Appetite

Coconut Birthday Cake
June 14, 2009, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago I decided to bake my own birthday cake for the occasion (it was last week for those of you who are keeping track). Most people I told gave me a very puzzled, saddened look, as if baking one’s own cake were equivalent to revealing one’s plans for eating dinner alone on Christmas Eve. “Really? You really want to do that? You really can’t think of a better way?”


The last yellow cake I made was a one-bowler out of Joy of Cooking and it ended up on the dry side. The, um, bone dry side. That, and the fact that the chocolate frosting didn’t come together like it was supposed to….it was kind of a disaster. So I returned to the classic four egg/cholesterol extravaganza cake, a long and involved concoction that requires about 75 bowls and cleaning the beaters midway through and cream of tartar and all that stuff. But it works. I baked them two days ahead, folding some shredded, sweetened coconut in there, and laying all of my hopes and dreams for a moist cake on a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves and then allowed to cool) that I would brush over the cakes before frosting them on the big day.


As for the frosting, well, after all that I wish I had stuck with the usual classic vanilla. I made 7-minute frosting for the first time, and while it worked and everyone liked it, it looked like Fluff. I do not like Fluff. Plus it wasn’t, dare I say, sweet enough or vanilla-y enough for my taste. But it was good.


I was smart enough to remember the “crumb coating” business when frosting it, though not smart enough to have frozen the cakes immediately after baking them – one had a jagged crack down the middle and barely held itself together under all that frosting. Duly noted. If I had any talent in this department, I might have split the 2 layers into 4 and really let loose with that frosting, but unfortunately I can’t be trusted with long serrated knives and cutting straight lines. Maybe next time. I also was needlessly sparing with the simple syrup, delicately brushing it on when I should have slathered it. That cake needed a little extra moisture, though it was not, thankfully, anywhere in the neighborhood of bone dry.

So now for the final reveal, since I know you’re just on the edge of your seat and can’t handle the suspense for much longer:


Photo credit: Mary. Thanks!

My, my, my, that is a good looking cake. Let’s all hug. And happy birthday to me!

Four Egg Yellow Cake

From Joy of Cooking. Makes 2 nine-inch layers, which can become 4 if you’re a whiz with long knives.

2 2/3 c. sifted cake flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 c. sugar

4 large eggs, divided separately into yolks and whites

3/4 c. shredded sweetened coconut

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/4 c. sugar

Have everything at room temperature before beginning Pre-heat the oven to 325º. Butter and flour the cake pans.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt well together in a small bowl. Combine the milk and the extract in a measuring cup. Beat the butter until creamy, then add the 1 1/2 c. sugar little by little, beating it on high speed until light and fluffy. Don’t mess around here! This can take ten minutes, easily.

Beat in the egg yolks one by one. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk in 2 parts. Beat until smooth. Fold in the shredded coconut. Now clean your beaters.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the 1/4 c. sugar until the peaks are stiff but not dry. Use a rubber spatula to fold in one quarter of the egg whites, then follow with the rest of the mixture. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (I bake at 325 for longer so the cakes don’t rise as much.)

Seven-Minute White Icing

3 large egg whites

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. cold water

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the egg whites, sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl, beating until well blended. Set the bowl over (but not touching) a pan of rapidly boiling water. Beat constantly until the mixture stands in stiff peaks, seven minutes. (Set your oven timer. Ok, ok, mine took eight minutes.)

Remove from heat, adding the vanilla, then continue beating until the mixture cools to room temperature. Use immediately.

Once you’ve frosted the cake, mound shredded sweetened coconut all over the top and sides. Now we’re talking!

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[…] together and say a little prayer for my arteries – which, as we know, already get a workout around […]

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[…] Forget about the beautiful scallops with dried cherries and cauliflower I painstakingly made from Michael Psilakis’ How to Roast a Lamb. Forget it. And who even cares if I bake my own birthday cake? […]

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