Dining In 1 minute 14 August 2018

Recipe: Coconut Cake

Indulge and make this Southern staple in the comfort of your own home.

dessert recipe

“Come to Miss Mamie's and plan to indulge, Southern style,” state Michelin inspectors of Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. The Bib Gourmand-designated spot on West 110th Street is the outcome of two sisters, Norma Jean and Carole Darden, fulfilling a decades-long journey of a cookbook, Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes & Reminiscences of a Family, and a popular catering company that happens to be located next door.

At Miss Mamie’s, you’ll find tried-and-true classics like fried chicken, Louisiana catfish, collard greens and mac n’ cheese. For dessert, there’s the famous spoonbread, red velvet cake, sweet potato pie and one of Norma Jean’s favorites, coconut cake, which happens to be served on her birthday every year.

An added pro tip from the boss: if you find yourself eating too much of the coconut while baking the cake as she did one year, top it with some grated orange zest and Mandarin orange segments.

Coconut Cake

Excerpted from Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes & Reminiscences of a Family by Norma Jean and Carole Darden. Copyright © 2017 Norma Jean and Carole Darden. All rights reserved.

Serves 12


3 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk (see Note)
1/4 cup milk
3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely grated fresh coconut (see Note)
Seven-Minute Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups finely shredded coconut


1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together twice; set aside. Combine the milks; set aside.

3. Beat egg whites with 1/4 cup of the sugar until stiff; set aside. Cream the butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar until fluffy; and the egg yolks and mixing well. Add the flour mixture alternating with the milks and blend until smooth; beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix in the vanilla and freshly grated coconut. Lastly, fold in the egg whites.

4. Bake in three well-buttered 8-inch cake pans for 30 minutes, or until the edges shrink from the sides of the pans and the cakes are firm to the touch in the center.

5. Loosen the cakes by running a knife around the edge of the pans. Turn onto cake racks and cool. When cool, cover with the Seven-Minute Frosting and sprinkle the finely shredded coconut generously over the top and sides.

Note: Prepare the coconut by drilling a hole in the “eye” and draining the milk. However it opens, remove the white meat and grate it. Coconut milk and shredded coconut can also be bought from the supermarket.

Seven-Minute Frosting

Yield: Enough for One 8-inch Cake


2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cold water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, or 1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Place the egg whites, sugar, cold water, cream of tartar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over rapidly boiling water and beat constantly with an egg beater for 7 minutes, or until the icing will stand in peaks. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, and continue to beat until thick enough to spread.

Photos by Aaron Hutcherson.

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