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« Cooking for a family reunion | Main | Reunion menu changes »

Monday, August 7, 2006

Real Southern-style coconut cake


My southern sister Teri is visiting my Maine sister Rebekah this week, and I knew when I went up over the weekend that one of the first things I had to ask her about would be coconut cake. When I interviewed novelist Julia Glass recently about the role that food (and baking particularly) plays in her books, she confessed that even though coconut cake plays a central part in her new one, "The Whole World Over," she hasn't found a good recipe for one. So we asked readers to send them in to the message board, but by and large those so far haven't met my definition of this very Southern confection.

Knowing that Teri makes it often at holidays, I put the question to her. She didn't miss a beat. "Well, I don't have my recipe on me, but it's a 1-2-3-4 cake in four layers filled with lemon curd and covered in seven-minute frosting and coconut." Exactly, I said -- and what is a 1-2-3-4 cake again?

It's a buttery, fluffy sponge cake; seven-minute frosting is a sweet soft meringue. We found the recipe for both, plus lemon curd, in "The Joy of Cooking," made it to cap off a lobster dinner, and it was a hit. It would've been even better if we had made the curd a day or even two earlier so it would have set thicker, providing more structure for the cake, but its tartness nicely cut the sweetness. When we ate leftovers on day 2, I spooned on extra curd.

If you don't have "Joy," this version is pretty close, although we didn't use coconut milk (or buttermilk) in the batter. For the cake layers themselves, Paula Deen's recipe is classic.

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