ampoule close up” width=”200″ height=”300″ />Birthdays are special occasions – truly special. Every year that passes is another year that you’ve grown as a person, symptoms another year’s worth of life lessons and another year to cherish. In my opinion, cost it’s an accomplishment to have a birthday.
Last week was my dad’s birthday. (In my family, a day of birth seriously lasts a week. I mean, why celebrate a day when you could have a whole week?!) I had been thinking about presents for him – a calendar, golf gear, books – but nothing seemed special enough. What am I supposed to get the man who is always so generous, loving and kind? What do I get the man who says he has everything he needs? What do I get the man who has always been there for me, attended every orchestra and band concert, spent countless hours at the kitchen table helping me with my math homework, was my voice of reason when I tried to solve many of life’s (annoying) mysteries?
Then I remembered the old saying, It’s the thought that counts, and I realized that the most thoughtful thing I could do for my dad on his birthday would be to make his favorite cake: Coconut Cake. (Granted, it probably wasn’t so kind to subject him to the five sticks of butter in this recipe, but hey, you have a birthday only once a year – live it up!)
This cake means a lot to me. I tried to make it a few years ago for my dad’s birthday… and I failed miserably. But I am in a different place now, with a few more birthdays under my belt and a few more votes of confidence in the kitchen. So, next time you can’t think of gift ideas for your family or friends, bake them a cake – the thought and heart you put into it will be palpable.
*This cake is closely adapted from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) recipe for Coconut Cake. The only change I made was to brush coconut milk on the cake while slightly warm to give it more coconut flavor.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, circa 2006
For the cake:
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
Coconut milk for brushing on cake
For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
*Before getting started, make sure your butter, eggs and cream cheese are truly at room temperature. I left mine out for eight hours and they were the perfect consistency.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly dust two 8”x8” square glass baking dishes. (You could also use two 9-inch round cake pans, but I didn’t have those.)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the room temperature butter and the sugar on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes. The mixture should look light yellow in color and very fluffy in texture. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides once or twice during the process. Add the extracts and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in three parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined, and then fold in the four ounces of coconut.
Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared dishes and smooth the tops with a knife. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the tops are a golden brown and a fork inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for about 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
Once the cake is on a wire rack, poke a few fork holes in the top (not all the way through the cake). With a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of coconut milk onto the cake, making sure to let it drip into the fork holes. Let the cake finish cooling.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter and extracts in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. When just combined, add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until just smooth.
To assemble the cake, place first layer topside down and spread a thin layer of frosting on top. Then, place the second cake, topside up, and spread with frosting until the entire cake is covered evenly. Sprinkle the shredded coconut on top and press it onto the sides of the cake until covered. Serve at room temperature.