One of my favorite things to do as a food writer is looking through old cookbooks. It’s great fun to look through the recipes and see how people cooked in days gone by. While reading these recipes, I find I’m getting a history lesson, learning about the tastes and cooking habits of cooks of the time.
You may have seen your mother or grandmother refer to a special cookbook that she would use repeatedly to make her signature dishes. It’s these recipes that many of us treasure and even hand down from one generation to another. One favorite recipe I found while going through an old set of recipes was for a cake that many cooks have made for years: coconut cake. In the old day, before it was available already prepared in the grocery store, preparing a coconut for a cake was no easy task. It was so time consuming to drain the milk out of the coconut, bake the coconut, crack the coconut open with a hammer, then pry the meat of the coconut away from the shell. Then, it had to be grated to use in the cake. Fortunately, frozen coconut has made making a coconut cake easy as can be!
This recipe I’m passing along for “Coconut Custard Cake”, which is an old-fashioned dessert It starts with cake layers made from scratch, followed by a coconut custard filling. It’s finally iced with a fluffy white icing and topped with coconut. It’s as beautiful as it is good to eat! The cake layers are mixed using the “short-cut” method, which eliminates having to cream the fat with sugar, as many cakes start out as. The filling is a cooked custard filling with coconut in it and this goes between the layers. Finally, you make the “Never-Fail” icing, which goes on top of the custard on each layer and all over the entire cake. A topping of additional coconut finishes it. While it’s a long recipe, it’s not hard to make.
The recipe for the cake layers states that the layers bake for 20-25 minutes. My layers were ready in just 15 minutes, so keep up with the time as they bake. While the cake layers bake, prepare the coconut filling and while the layers cool, you can make the icing. Once everything is ready, it goes together pretty easily.
I strongly advise using frozen coconut for this and any other cake. This is as close to the fresh coconut you’ll get without having to prepare a fresh coconut! It makes a big difference in comparison to the bagged coconut you find in the baking section of the grocery. While that type of coconut has its place, for a cake like this, go with the frozen and you won’t be disappointed!
In case you’re looking for a pie that has coconut, I gave a “Coconut Pineapple Pie” recipe a few months ago that’s also very good, too. To get this recipe, follow this link:
Whenever you feel nostalgic, let this cake take you back to the days of old-fashioned cooking!
COCONUT CUSTARD CAKE
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon butter extract
Place the flour, sugar, shortening, salt and 2/3 cup milk in a large bowl. Cream this together for 2 minutes. Stir in the baking powder. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the 1/2 cup milk and the extracts. Beat until smooth. Turn into 3 9-inch layer pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (my layers were ready in 15 minutes). Let cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then remove layers to cake racks to cool completely.
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cake flour (this amount is the correct amount)
- 2 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup evaporated milk (1 small can)
- 3/4 of a 12 oz. pkg. frozen coconut
- 2 tbls. butter
Cook this mixture in a small saucepan until mixture is thick.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 egg whites
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place these ingredients, except for the vanilla extract, in the top of a double boiler and mix well. Cook over boiling water for 3-5 minutes, beating constantly with electric mixer at high speed. Stir in the vanilla extract.
To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread with half of the custard. Top with a small amount of the icing. Repeat this again, ending with a plain cake layer. Ice the entire cake with the remaining icing. Top the cake with the remaining 1/4 pkg. of the frozen coconut. Yield: 12 servings.