Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus baking and cooling time for the cake
Servings: 10 to 12
Note: Adapted from "Southern Cakes." You can make this with packaged sliced coconut, but fresh really is better. Hold the coconut over a bowl or pan, with the three "eyes" toward you; strike it with a hammer at what would be its equator line. Continue to strike it in single blows around that "line" until it is cracked. Use a knife to pry the coconut meat from the shards of shell (stick the knife between the brown shell and the tan skin of the meat). It's easy to trim the skin with a vegetable peeler.
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, or juice from a fresh coconut plus enough dairy milk to make 1 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Place the milk in a small bowl and stir in the vanilla; set aside.
3. Using a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture is light and evenly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well each time, until the mixture is thick and smooth.
4. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat well at low speed. Add about half of the milk, beating well. Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the milk and then the remaining flour mixture, beating well each time until the mixture is thick and smooth. Quickly scrape the batter into the cake pans, dividing it evenly. Bake until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when lightly touched in the center and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Remove the cake pans from the oven and leave on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto wire racks or plates, then turn the layers top side up and allow to cool completely.
White Mountain coconut icing and assembly
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites
1/2 cup (approximately) blackberry jam, optional
3 cups freshly grated coconut or sweetened shredded coconut
1. Place the sugar with one-half cup water in a small pan and stir to dissolve. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Then boil for 5 to 10 minutes more, stirring often, until the syrup has thickened and will form a thread about 2 inches long when poured from a spoon, or a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees. Remove from heat.
2. While the syrup is boiling, beat the egg whites in a large mixer bowl at high speed until they are bright white and shiny and pillow up into voluminous clouds. Pour the thickened syrup into the egg whites and continue to beat at high speed until the icing becomes fluffy and holds a peak, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Place one cake top-side down on a serving plate. Spread the optional jam over it, then cover it generously with icing and sprinkle with coconut. Place the second layer on top of the first, top side up. Ice the sides of the cake to help keep it steady, then spread icing generously over the top, completely covering the cake.
4. Place the serving plate on a cookie sheet to catch any loose coconut and sprinkle coconut all over the cake. Gently pat handfuls of coconut onto the sides and top to cover bare spots.
Each of 12 servings: 553 calories; 7 grams protein; 78 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 25 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 113 mg. cholesterol; 226 mg. sodium.