When I think of coconut cake, I think about the cake my mother made for birthdays and Christmas. It was a three layer white cake made from scratch. The icing was made with egg whites and cooked on the stove. Once the cake was completely cooled, the hot icing was spread on the cake and sprinkled liberally with coconut. Unfortunately, my mother's recipe didn't include directions on cooking the icing so I've never made her coconut cake.
When I make a coconut cake, I use another recipe from my mother called Hoagy Cake. A neighbor gave my mother the recipe sometime in the early 1970's. The neighbor had no idea why it was called Hoagy Cake. I've looked through my cooking reference books and searched online trying to find its origin, but to no avail. If anyone knows how Hoagy Cake acquired its name, I hope you'll tell me so this 40 year old mystery can be solved!
One advantage of a Hoagy Cake is it is made in a 13 x 9-inch pan which makes it easy to transport. Unlike some coconut cake recipes, this cake doesn't need to be refrigerated. This makes it even easier to take somewhere plus it saves space in the refrigerator which is a good thing around the holidays.
This recipe, like my mother's coconut cake, is also made from scratch. When you compare the ingredients to other cake recipes, you notice that, although it uses 10 ingredients, it doesn't use much of any ingredient. That plus the fact our neighbor said it was an old recipe makes me wonder if it is a depression era recipe. What it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in taste.
Hoagy Cake uses buttermilk rather than plain milk. Southern cooks use buttermilk in a lot of recipes because it makes baked goods extremely tender. If you don't have buttermilk, you can make sour milk. To make sour milk to equal 1 cup buttermilk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 cup. Thoroughly stir the mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes. You can use this formula to make as much or as little buttermilk as you need. There's also a dry buttermilk powder that's sold in a can. The dry powder only requires the addition of water.
I'm including two frosting variations: one for coconut and one for chocolate. My family doesn't care for coconut as much as I do so I usually make the chocolate frosting. Whenever I make a frosting or glaze that uses powdered sugar, I always sift the powdered sugar, even if the recipe doesn't call for it. You want the frosting or glaze to be smooth, so it's better to get any lumps out before you mix the powdered sugar with the other ingredients.
The frosting needs to be put on while the cake is still hot. As soon as I put the cake in the oven, I measure all the frosting ingredients. Once the cake is cooked, I put the pan on a wire rack and mix up the frosting. This gives the cake enough time to cool a little, but still be hot when the frosting is applied.
The neighbor that gave my mother the recipe said her husband liked the cake two ways: hot or cold! I have to agree with him that it's delicious either way. The only other thing it needs is a glass of milk!