Caramel Coconut Birthday Cake

Caramel Coconut Birthday Cake

Julia Child once famously said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.”   I agree, and since today is my birthday, my gift to you is the recipe for my favorite cake of all time.   It is my mother’s recipe, from the recipe book she made for me as a wedding gift many years ago.

This cake is similar to an Italian vanilla meringue cake, and has a lot of sugar in it. I hesitated initially to post the recipe for just that reason, but its airy texture is unusual, as is the meringue frosting with it. Usually a caramel cake gets its flavor from a caramel-y frosting, but the meringue frosting used here lightens the overall effect.   And the coconut can be left off entirely if you want a more subtle taste and presentation. I happen to love coconut so I piled it on. (No candles please!)

Serves: 8

Prep time: two hours


  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 and ¼ cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder


  1. Mix sugar and butter until creamy. Add beaten egg yolks.
  2. Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Add to sugar and butter mixture a little at a time, and pour milk into mixture gradually as well. Add vanilla last.
  3. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold thoroughly into cake batter by hand.
  4. Pour into two greased nine-inch cake pans.
  5. Bake at 365 degrees for 35 minutes (The temperature is not a typo. That’s what my mom’s recipe says, and who am I to quibble?)

In the photo I used a springform pan, to see how it would come out. That was a mistake because it took much longer to bake and the top was uneven. It didn’t affect the flavor, and the frosting hides cake flaws very easily, but the original two-layer method is the way to go.Coconut Cake

Meringue Icing

From the Betty Crocker Cookbook


  • Covers 2 nine-inch cake layers
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Optional: 1 and ½ cups of coconut, to be sprinkled on cake after it has been frosted.
  2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in saucepan. Heat to rolling boil until small amount of the mixture dropped into a cup of ice cold water forms a ball. As mixture boils, beat egg whites until stiff.
  3. Pour hot syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, beating constantly at medium speed. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, and add vanilla just before finishing.
  4. Spread on cake as soon as icing is finished.   This is a lush icing that doesn’t need careful application; pile it on, give it a few loose strokes, and it will be perfect. Add coconut if desired.

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