Friday, February 22, 2013

Pecan Coconut Cake

I recently had a birthday. But, I'm at that age where you don't really get worked up about your birthday. That age where you stop wanting to admit that you are a year older because those years seem to be coming sooner and sooner.  That age that seemed about 100 years away when you're in your twenties. Not that I'm afraid to age. As I look at things, life keeps getting better and better. I'm enjoying the wisdom that comes with age. That feeling of accepting yourself for who you are and celebrating that person. I've found that as I age I'm more able to let go of the things that just don't really matter. It's so relieving. Life is easier. Or maybe I'm just better at managing it. I would embrace the aging process except for those darn wrinkles. And age spots, and grey hair. I could do without that! Fo show!

“Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin’ across your face” 

One thing that I do love about my birthday is making my own birthday cake. I really do enjoy it. Believe it or not, it's how I want to spend my birthday. And, as I've aged, I'm leaning away from chocolate desserts. Now, don't get me wrong. I still like chocolate, I haven't gone completely off the deep end. It's just that I'm starting to like a variety of desserts. Lately I'm particularly fond of things with nuts. So, this year I picked a Pinterest find. It had vanilla, yes! Coconut, Yes!! And pecans, YES!!! All my faves. I had to give it a try. . .  

The players: butter, shortening*, sugar, eggs (whites and yolks separated), flour, baking soda, buttermilk, vanilla, sweetened flaked coconut* and chopped pecans.

*I usually don't like to use shortening and was tempted to use all butter but after reading the comments from the original recipe I decided to go with it. I'm also not a fan of sweetened flaked coconut because it has some yucky preservatives in it, but, the cake needs the sweetness in the coconut. And really, this is a special occasion type of recipe, we're not eating this everyday, I'm not going to lose sleep about it. Kind of an “all things in moderation” thing.

Start by creaming the butter and shortening until well blended.
Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add egg yolks and beat well.

Stir together the flour and baking soda and add alternately with the buttermilk.
Mix each addition gently, just until incorporated. Do Not over mix! 

Start with about 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix in well. Then add 1/2 the buttermilk and mix well. (i.e.  2/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup buttermilk and 2/3 cup flour)

Gently mix in vanilla.

Then fold in the pecans and coconut.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites in 1/3 at a time just until there are no more globs of egg white.
Again, go gently. You don't want to deflate the egg whites.

Divide the batter into 2 9-inch or 3 8-inch cake pans. 

The original recipe said to grease and flour the pans. This worked ok for me but there was some sticking. I would suggest, greasing the pans and then lining with parchment, greasing again and dusting with flour. 

Bake 325°F for 25-35 minutes until toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Again, I departed from the original recipe which says to divide the batter into 3 9-inch pans and cook at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. This creates 3 very thin layers. I originally used 2 9-inch pans and at 350°F, my layers were a bit overdone because I had to let them go 35 minutes to get the center done. It worked much better to divide into 3 8-inch or 2 9-inch baking at 325°F for a bit longer. Then you have thicker layers that aren't over baked. Use your judgement for what works with your oven.

For the icing, cream the butter and cream cheese until well mixed.

Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until very light and fluffy. I went almost 10 minutes in the mixer.

Lastly, stack and frost the cake and finish with more pecans if desired. The icing recipe makes just barely enough to cover 2 9-inch layers and is a very thin layer. But, it's very rich icing so it works. If you make 3 8-inch layers you may want to make 1-1/2 times the recipe.

The end result was that this cake was delicious! Moist and flavorful. A great recipe (given the minor tweaks I made.) I took it to work and it got rave reveiws. It has all the things I love, pecans, coconut, buttermilk, cream cheese, vanilla, etcetera. I will definitely be making this recipe again and again.

Pecan Coconut Cake
Adapted from "Italian Cream Cheese Cake"

1 stick (4 oz.) Butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups Sugar
5 Egg Yolks
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Sweetened Flaked Coconut
1 cup chopped Pecans
5 Egg Whites, stiffly beaten

Cream butter and shortening until combined. Add sugar, beat well until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat. Stir together flour and soda. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla. Fold in coconut & nuts. Fold into stiffly beaten egg whites a third at a time. Pour into 3 8-inch or 2 9-inch greased, parchment lined and floured cake pans and bake at 325 for 25-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool, frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with more pecans if desired.

8oz Cream Cheese, softened
½ stick (2 oz.) Butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
Chopped Nuts, optional

Mix cheese and butter, add sugar and vanilla. Frost Cake and sprinkle nuts on cake.

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