March 19, 2009

Recipe of the Day - Coconut Cake

When I was growing up in Oklahoma City, my mother always shopped at Kamp's Grocery, a small locally owned grocery store that had been in Oklahoma City for ages. I loved going to Kamp's for numerous reasons, the main ones being that the butcher/deli person would always sneak us slices of cheddar cheese to snack on and that for some reason, my mom was a lot more open to the idea of purchasing Kool-Aid at Kamp's than she was at other grocery stores.

Another reason I looked forward to our Kamp's trips was the promise of my mom buying one of their coconut cakes. This cake was the type of treat you would think about for days after tasting it. No one could resist its charm, and I'm sure many coconut nay sayers were swayed to the other side by its amazing buttercream icing, adorned with flecks of fresh coconut.

Kamp's eventually closed, and as many things have done, that coconut cake was filed away as a casualty of an even bigger problem - the inability of "mom and pop" shops to keep their doors open as chain grocery stores and Wal-Mart pushed them out of the way. But I never forgot that cake, and neither did my family, especially my mom. Over the years, the Kamp's coconut cake would occasionally come up in conversation, with each of my family members recalling their favorite aspect of this bakery masterpiece. The conversation always ended with ,"God, that cakes was delicious - no one makes it like Kamp's."

Oh, there were cheap imitators that tried to win our affection. A constant parade of second-rate icings, stale coconut topping and crumbly cake passed over our palates, each bite reminding us how good we once had it. The Kamp's coconut cake was now a legend, right up there next to the Knights of the Roundtable and that theory that states if you say "Bloody Mary" three times in front of a bathroom mirror with the lights off, Bloody Mary herself (whomever that is), will appear.

A few years ago, I was perusing the Dean & Deluca catalog online. I was looking for something seasonal to send my mom for her birthday, and a few months earlier I had found some adorable Springtime cookies that I had ordered for both my parents and which they seemed to enjoy. Page after page led me to delicious gift options, but nothing was really jumping out at me as something my mom would appreciate for her birthday. Summer-themed cookies in the shape of bumblebees, flowers, beach balls, as well as beautiful fruit tarts and more paraded in front of me, but alas, nothing said "Mom."

And then I saw it. On the last page of the seasonal gift online section, it beckoned to me as only the most delicious cake in the world can. It was a coconut cake with buttercream icing - just like Kamp's used to make! No more cheap mousse as a substitute for buttercream! No more fruit filling instead of icing in between layers! I had found it! I had found the Kamp's coconut cake reincarnated!

And to prove to you how awesome this cake was, I can honestly say that my family ate the entire cake in less than a day and a half. We aren't a family of fat asses, but we know a good cake when we taste it.

Be sure to enjoy today's Recipe of the Day - it took what felt like a lifetime to rediscover.

"Don't ever leave my side again" Coconut Buttercream Cake

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cake flour
2 1/2 cups cake flour (about 10 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
5 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
3 tablespoons toasted flaked sweetened coconut

3 8-inch round cake pans
Wax paper
Measuring bowls
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Electric mixer
Cooling rack
Wooden spoon
Cake stand (to use while icing the cake)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, coat 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Lightly coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust pans with 1 tablespoon flour.

Lightly spoon 2 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place 2 cups sugar and 6 tablespoons butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until well blended. Add egg substitute and eggs to sugar mixture; beat well. Add flour mixture and coconut milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon extract.

Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap the pans once on countertop to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Remove wax paper; discard. Cool cakes on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, without stirring, or until a candy thermometer registers 250°. Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; using clean, dry beaters, beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low; continue beating until egg white mixture cools (about 12 minutes).

Beat 1/4 cup butter until light and fluffy; stir in 1/4 teaspoon extract, if desired. Fold in 1 cup egg white mixture. Fold butter mixture into remaining egg white mixture, stirring until smooth.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1 cup frosting. Repeat twice with cake layers and 1 cup frosting, ending with cake layer; spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Chill until set.

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