Coconut Cake (Serve With Bourbon)

Coconut cake

     I read an intriguing entertainment tip by Andrew Knowlton in Bon Appétit, where he said, “Always end the evening of dining with a coconut cake and Pappy Van Winkle’s bourbon (it’s a Southern thing).”  I thought, “Coconut cake and bourbon?  Hmmm.  And who is Pappy Van Winkle?”

     I researched Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, and I found there are many people who think it’s the best bourbon in the world.  I checked locally, and I discovered it’s extremely hard to find and very expensive.  Only about 7000 cases are made every year, and purchasing a bottle has become an obsession with bourbon aficionados. 

     Sean Brock, a celebrated South Carolina chef, remarked on his own obsession: “You can taste the patience, the care, and the craft.  You know you’re tasting something that’s been aged properly without cutting corners.”  It follows Pappy’s motto: “We make fine bourbon.  At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.”

     Much has been written about the joys of drinking good bourbon.  The writer and philosopher Walker Percy once weighed in on the topic:

     “The joy of bourbon drinking is not the pharmacological effect of the C2H5OH on the cortex but rather the instant of the whiskey being knocked back and the little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx and the hot bosky bite of Tennessee summertime – aesthetic considerations to which the effect of the alcohol is, if not dispensable, at least secondary.  Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust.”

    And speaking of cake, I’ve tried coconut cake and bourbon (Jefferson Reserve), and the combination was delicious.  Below is a great recipe for coconut cake, and this is important – when frosting the cake, don’t scrimp on the coconut flakes.

Coconut Cake (Serve With Bourbon)

yields: Variable prep time: 30 Minutes cook time: 35 Minutes
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FOR CAKE: 2 cups 1 1/3 cups 1 cup 1 tsp 2 cups 2 sticks 5 large 4 large FOR FROSTING: 3 1/3 cups 8 oz. 1 stick 2 tsp 1 cup
List Flour all-purpose Flaked coconut Buttermilk Baking soda Sugar Butter Egg yolks Egg whites List Sugar powdered Cream cheese Butter Vanilla Coconut flakes
  • 2 cups
    Flour all-purpose
  • 1 1/3 cups
    Flaked coconut
  • 1 cup
  • 1 tsp
    Baking soda
  • 2 cups
  • 2 sticks
  • 5 large
    Egg yolks
  • 4 large
    Egg whites
  • 3 1/3 cups
    Sugar powdered
  • 8 oz.
    Cream cheese
  • 1 stick
  • 2 tsp
  • 1 cup
    Coconut flakes


Enter Target Time _______________

Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Time: __________ (at least 120 minutes prior to target time)

  1. Coat two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray and place 8-inch parchment rounds in pans.

  2. Mix flour and coconut in medium bowl.

  3. Whisk buttermilk and baking soda in small bowl.

  4. Using stand mixer, beat sugar and butter in its bowl about two minutes.

  5. Add egg yolks and beat to blend.

  6. Add flour/coconut mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions.

  7. Add egg whites and ¼ tsp salt to a large bowl. Beat with hand mixer until peaks form.

  8. Fold beaten egg whites in two additions very carefully into batter. Stir just to blend.

  9. Divide batter between pans and weigh to be sure they are even. Level the tops.

  10. Bake cakes evenly for 35 minutes. If they get too brown, cover with aluminum foil that’s been sprayed with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick to the top. Do toothpick test to assure it is done.

  11. Cool for 10 minutes on rack, then remove from pans. Cool thoroughly.

  12. Using hand mixer again, beat sugar, cream cheese, and butter. Add vanilla after the first three ingredients are blended. Set frosting aside.

Frosting A Cake

     Put a dollop of frosting on a turntable or cake stand. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and place it on the center of the turntable top side down. Be sure to dust off any loose crumbs before frosting.  Scoop about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of frosting and place it on the center of the cake top. Place the second layer top side up on top of the bottom layer and dust off loose crumbs. When the cake is stacked, refrigerate it for 20 minutes for the filling to set. Frost the sides of the cake first. Scoop up a generous dab of frosting onto a flat metal spatula and hold the spatula against the cake, perpendicular to the turntable or cake stand. Move the spatula down and away from you without lifting it from the cake as you frost only a few inches. After you have covered the sides, then frost the top. The frosting doesn’t have to be perfect at all.  The coconut will cover a multitude of sins. Take a handful of coconut and press lightly against the sides of the cake. Much will fall and not stick, but use the amount that fell to the sides in the next handful.  Continue until you have covered the side.  Then cover the top. Check from time to time that the cake has visual balance.  You can make corrections with the amount of coconut added. Wipe the plate’s edge with paper towels to finish. Admire and enjoy.

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