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Edna Lewis made this cake with freshly grated coconut. I used the shortcut of using packaged, unsweetened coconut. Don't be intimidated by the steps in this recipe - they are worth the effort!



1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup water

½ cup lemon juice, strained through a fine strainer

1 tablespoon butter

5 beaten egg yolks


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup superfine sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 teaspoons single-acting baking powder

(see this page)

1 cup milk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 egg whites


3 cups unsweetened coconut (I prefer to toast my coconut, but that’s up to you)

1 egg white

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cold water

r ½ teaspoon vanilla

To make the filling:

Put the sugar, salt, water, and lemon juice into a 2-quart nonaluminum saucepan, and set over medium heat.

Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Have the beaten egg yolks in a bowl. Pour some of the hot mixture into the bowl, stirring the yolks as you pour to prevent them from curdling.

Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan and return it to the stove. Cook carefully, stirring continuously, until the contents become translucent and will definitely coat a spoon. Then mix in the butter. Let this mixture cool; overnight is best.

To make the cake:

Put the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until it becomes waxy. Add the sugar and beat again. All of this should be done at medium speed. Blend until the mixture becomes light and fluffy—do not be impatient.

Now mix one-fourth of the flour with the salt and baking powder, and mix into the batter. Then add one-fourth of the milk and mix again. Continue to add flour, then milk, until all the milk is used. Finish with the last of the flour.

Mix well, then add the vanilla and lemon juice. Beat the egg whites to firm soft peaks and fold them lightly into the batter.

Butter the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans and then lightly dust them with flour. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pans. If you have kitchen scales, it is good to weigh the pans of batter to see that they contain equal amounts.

Set in a preheated 375°F oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. It is also ready when a cake tester comes out of the center of a layer clean and when there is no raw batter smell. When the cake layers are cool, cover them with a clean, odor-free cloth until you are ready to fill and ice.

When you are ready to fill and ice the cake, put the bottom cake layer on a serving dish. Stir the filling well so that it is easy to spread. You may not need all of the filling for the cake. You can save the rest for another use, such as little tarts. It will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. After you have finished spreading the filling, position the second layer on top of the first. Then prepare the icing.

To make the boiled icing:

Set a mixer or mixing bowl near the stove. Put the egg white in the mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and beat it just until foamy.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil without stirring. When the syrup comes to a full boil, watch your time very carefully.

One minute after the syrup comes to a boil, begin to beat the egg whites. After about 2 minutes, begin to test the boiling syrup.

Dip the side of a spoon into the syrup and hold it above the pan. The thread you are waiting to see will hang from the spoon and be a clear filament of at least 2 or 3 inches. If the thread has a ball on its end, then it is not ready.

Continue to cook and dip the spoon into the syrup until the thread appears. You do not want to overcook the syrup as it will get a grainy texture. As soon as the thread appears, take the pan from the heat.

Quickly finish beating the egg white until it holds its shape. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the beaten white and continue beating the mixture until the icing falls in peaks or holds its shape.

Let the frosting cool for a few minutes, then add the vanilla and mix well. Spoon a generous amount of the icing on the center of the cake, and frost the top and the sides.

Make sure the cake is well covered. Sprinkle the grated coconut in a thick layer over the top and sides of the cake.

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