A layer cake is even sweeter when it's a passed-down family recipe. Mandi Buckner, the Florida food blogger behind Chewsy Lovers, shares her grandmother's ultimate coconut layer cake.
My grandmother Juanita always said, "Every woman should know how to make a good dessert. Dessert is just as important as the meal." She meant it too. If you professed to be Southern and didn't know how to make a layer cake, a pound cake, or properly whip meringue for lemon pie, your roots were in question. Your womanhood was in question.
My grandmother, who we also called Gaga, was the home entertaining queen. She loved fresh flowers. Her baked creations were always proudly displayed on beautiful stands, and she always used her best dishes. Always. She was the kind of woman who made every day a special occasion, and special occasions even more grandiose.
When I started a family, she told me to always make sure the children had dessert, and to always make their favorite cake on their birthdays. She didn't believe in store-bought cakes. There was a bakery bus that frequented the naval base, and she would by a special "split" cake they made. That was the only exception. My mother's favorite was her Coconut Cake with Lemon Filling. Thirty years later, it's my favorite too.
Making it was a true labor of love. It was literally an all-day affair. She'd wake up early to gather all of her ingredients, wait patiently for the oven to heat, and take her sweet time. By the time school was out, a masterpiece would be waiting. It was a moist yellow cake, layered and iced with her famous seven-minute frosting. The tart lemon filling inside was the best surprise that made your lips pucker. When I make it, I use buttercream and there's coconut everywhere, but Gaga's cake was always beautifully dressed. There wasn’t a shred of coconut out of place.
These days, Gaga isn't here to make my favorite cake. Luckily, I was paying attention. I'll be celebrating my birthday next month, and filling my kitchen with all the love it can stand while I make my own birthday cake. A cake that will take all day and stir up the sweetest memories. She was right. Dessert is just as important as the meal.
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Mandi Buckner is a professional chef, entertaining expert, and aspiring restaurateur. She curates the award-winning blog Chewsy Lovers with her husband Elliot. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and is a lifelong fan of polka dots, pearls, the beach, and brunch.