Mama's Southern Coconut Cake!

Coconut cake is just sort of a tradition in the south at holiday dinners and special occasions.  My mother makes one of the best coconut cakes you will ever taste.   She has been making this cake for years.  I am not sure how many years, but for a long time.  She used to make these and sell them during the holiday season.  I can remember our dining room table being just full of finished coconut cakes waiting in their boxes to be picked up.   She still makes one for special friends now and then, but she is basically out of the baking and catering business and she says she wants to keep it that  I don't blame her one bit, she has worked hard all of her life.
Coconut cake is a big favorite in my husband's family.  I joke that my husband is the connoisseur of coconut cakes.  You could line up 10 coconut cakes and blindfold him and give him a taste test and he could tell you which cake was made by my mother and what was not quite as good about all of the others.  Not too long ago, I went to a dinner that he didn't attend and I brought him a big piece of coconut cake home from it.  As soon as he took a bite  he said, "Your mother didn't make this, did she?"   Actually, it looked pretty much like her coconut cake so I was surprised.  I asked how he knew.  He said it was the difference in the icing and the cake itself was not as moist.   Then he went on to say, "It's good, just not as good as your mother's." 
People always ask for the recipe for this cake and they are always surprised it starts with a cake mix, because it tastes and looks like a from scratch cake. However, the cake mix is dressed up a bit with a few family secrets.

 Here is what you will need for this cake:
1   15.25 butter cake mix (Be sure to get the full size cake mix and not the reduced size some companies are now marketing)
3 large eggs
1 cup Sprite or 7 Up
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white corn syrup
3 egg whites
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the cake ingredients together with a wire whisk until well blended. Don't use an electric mixer for this.  Mama says it makes a cake dry when you beat the batter up too long. Butter and flour 2 8 inch round cake pans.  You  can use 2  9 inch cake pans, but the cake won't be as high. Divide cake batter between pans. 

Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.

While the cakes cool, make the icing.

Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a sauce pan on medium heat.  Using a candy thermometer cook to the soft ball stage or 240 degrees, stirring constantly.  The mixture should become almost clear.   You can also do this in the microwave to make this step easier.  Cook on high for 4 minutes, remove and stir well and then cook for about 3 more minutes on high.  This could vary by a minute or two depending on the power of your microwave. It still needs to reach the soft ball stage.

  With an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the baking powder until it reaches the soft peak stage. 

 Slowly pour in the syrup and keep mixing until the icing stands in peaks.  This takes some time to accomplish so don't give up on it. Just keep beating it and eventually the peaks will form.

Place one of the cake layers on a pretty cake plate.
Frost the top of the first layer and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut

 Place the other layer on top of the first and frost the entire cake.

Sprinkle the rest of the coconut over the top and sides of the cake.
Mama's Southern Coconut Cake!

Old Fashioned Lemon Icebox Pie!

There is nothing better to me when the weather gets warm than cool, lemony treats.  Lemon desserts are just some of my favorites.  I have had a lot of requests for an "Old Fashioned Lemon Icebox Pie" recipe.   Now, sometimes I am not sure everyone is thinking of the same thing when we talk about lemon icebox pie.  

There seems to be some confusion about lemon pie, even among some food sites.  Lemon Icebox pie is not the same thing as Lemon Meringue Pie.   Lemon Meringue Pie has a custard that is cooked before you pour it in the prebaked shell and it is topped with, well, meringue.  This is Lemon Meringue Pie:

Lemon Icebox Pie comes in two varieties nowadays.  The no bake version that is made with sweetened condensed milk, whipped cream, lemon juice, and sometimes cream cheese.  It is a more frozen type of pie and while it's really tasty, it's not really what is the old fashioned type.   

The old fashioned pie has egg yolks in it and it's just really creamy and has just the right lemony zest to it.  Some recipes do not bake the pie after it's filled, but I know from past experience that so many of you have issues with raw eggs that this recipe does bake the filling.  It also does not have a meringue topping, but is topped with whipped cream. 

Here is what you will need for this "Old Fashioned Lemon Icebox Pie":

1 graham cracker pie shell ( you can used the premade one or make your own)
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk (like Eagle Brand)
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (5-6 lemons juiced, depending on the size and juiciness)
zest of 1 of the lemons
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the sweetened condensed milk and the lemon juice together.  In a separate bowl whisk the lemon zest and the egg yolks together until light yellow.  You can save the whites of the eggs for another use.  Actually they freeze well and can even be thawed and brought to room temp to make meringue for another dessert on another day.

Add the yolks to the lemon juice and milk mixture.   Add in the vanilla and pinch of salt. 

 Pour into the graham cracker crust and bake for 15 minutes in the 350 degree oven.  Remove and allow to cool completely on the counter.  Cover the pie loosely, not allowing plastic wrap to touch the top of the pie, if you happen to use plastic wrap to cover it.  Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.  This pie will keep for several days in the fridge (3-4) or you can even freeze it.  Just be sure to thaw it before serving for the best results.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top! 

Sweet Potato Cake!

This is undoubtedly one of the best cakes you will ever make or eat!  Ok, I realize this might be subjective and just my opinion, but as you have probably noticed we make and therefore have to eat a lot of cake.  Therefore, I do consider myself a bit of an expert on what is a good  

The recipe for this cake is a very old family recipe that has been handed down through the decades.  It was always one of my mother's favorite cakes through the years and was usually brought to family reunions and special dinners and such.

This is such a moist and delicious tasting cake and it just gets better as it sits and soaks in that yummy icing.  You do not have to be a sweet potato eater to like this cake either.  My husband hates sweet potatoes and he loves this cake.

So have I enticed you enough to try this?  I hope so!  This is the perfect cake for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but why wait until then?  Make one now and give it a test run!   This is what you will need and my only advice is to follow the directions exactly for the best results:

1 1/2 cups oil
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated (reserve the whites)
4 Tbs. boiling water
2  1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1  1/2 cups grated raw sweet potatoes that have been peeled

1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter ( 1 stick)
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1  1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl mix the oil and sugar with an electric mixer unit smooth.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. 

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together.   Add the boiling water and mix. Add the flour mixture to the oil and egg mixture and mix. Add in the vanilla.  Fold in the grated sweet potatoes.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff and form peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until blended.

Prepare three 9" cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper or wax paper and spraying them well with nonstick baking spray.  The type that contains flour works best for this.  Take my advice and do not skip this step!  This cake is very moist and can stick or the layers can break if you do not line your pans.  Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  A pick inserted in the center should come out clean. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool before turning onto a cake plate.

Prepare frosting when the cakes have cooled by combining the evaporated milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook for about 12 minutes, stirring constantly or until the mixture has thickened. 

Remove from heat and add coconut.  Beat until cool and thick and spreading consistency. 

Stack cake layers on a cake plate and frost between layers, top and sides.   Garnish the top with the nuts.   This frosting sort of runs down the sides of the cake and you can spread it around the sides.  The consistency will be similar to the frosting you use on a German Chocolate cake.

 It's a beautiful thing! Sorry, but I just love this cake!