Coconut Dusted Cake with Cooked Frosting

When I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, every holiday had its ritual in my family. Easter was no exception. Every year, without fail, Mom and I went shopping for an Easter outfit for me, complete with requisite frilly hat and often, given the penchant for the Coal Region to spew forth unseasonably cool weather around Easter, a coat (lookout Sears, Robert Hall, and Town and Country, here we come!).

An order was placed with our church for a potted lily which would join dozens of other pots lined up on the altar Easter morning with cards attached to a lilac bow inscribed with the names of deceased loved ones the flowers honored.

Two dozen eggs were bought and stored in the refrigerator early (because eggs that are not ultra fresh peel easier when hard-boiled, don’tcha know…) awaiting their bath in Paas egg dye which magically produced lovely bowls of color in which to dip those eggs by dropping a little tablet of fizz into a bowl of combined vinegar and water. 

My favorite Easter basket came out of the attic along with the colorful cardboard bunny and egg cutout decorations that were taped to the inside surface of the picture window in the front “parlor” of our house. Evidence of tape from previous years were always clearly visible on those poor, overused decorations, but I loved them.

Window decorations scarred with tape on the back from years of use.

Local hoseys (volunteer fire companies or “hose companies”), clubs, and organizations planned and held Easter egg hunts for children in their towns. It was no holds barred when the signal was given to “Go!” and dozens of kids, running in all different directions, turned over every leaf and looked under every shrub, hoping to find not only an egg, but a numbered egg which denoted a prize. 

Oh, to be the lucky one in your age group to uncover and snag the egg marked with a “1”. More often than not, that number corresponded to a ginormous chocolate bunny that was coveted by every kid in attendance.  Numbers “2” and “3” also brought prizes, but oh how they paled in comparison to “1”!

The frenzied quest for “#1”

During the shopping trip to the local A & P for the supplies for our family’s Easter feast, my Mom would place a fresh coconut in the cart which would come home to be used for her favorite cake which she made every year for Easter dinner without fail.

Once home, I would plant myself on a chair at the kitchen table and watch my Dad set to work on the coconut. Mom always told Dad she left the prep work of them to him because he was so proficient at it, but I think she preferred to get through the experience with unscathed knuckles.

Dad stood at the sink, a coconut sitting on a tea towel in his left hand, a hammer in his right. With a confident swing of the hammer, and a resounding “thwaaack” the coconut split open and the water from inside poured into the sink. 

Dad then separated the meat from the hard shell,  picked up the peeler and removed the brown “skin” from the creamy white coconut meat. Out came the box grater and he grated every bit of that coconut by hand, somehow managing not to scrape his knuckles even as each piece became smaller and smaller as he worked. 

Even though my child’s mind was convinced otherwise, there was nothing magical about the freshly grated coconut and, over the years, I have made this cake using store bought shredded coconut and it was delicious. I now realize the memories, the traditions, and the love in our family is what made those coconuts and the cake lovingly created with them so special.

If you can get fresh coconut to use, go for it. If not, flaked or grated commercially prepared will work as well.  If you are not a fan of coconut, leave it off; the cake and frosting are delicious on their own. This icing is not overly sweet and is light and smooth. This recipe is in my files in my Mom’s handwriting and has been around longer that I have been.

Coconut Dusted Cake with Cooked Frosting

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: DessertsCuisine: Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy




  • 2 cups white sugar

  • 3/4 cup softened butter and shortening (about half and half)

  • 4 whole eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk

  • 2-1/2 cups flour

  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder

  • Fresh or bagged coconut for dusting cake, as needed

  • Cooked Frosting
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 2 Tablespoon all purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening

  • 1/2 cup softened butter

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  • Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  • Grease and flour 2 – 9 inch layer cake pans.
  • In large bowl, cream sugar and butter/shortening until light and creamy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended.
  • Stir together flour and baking powder in small bowl.
  • Add the milk and flour mixture to sugar/eggs/butter mixture, alternating, ending with the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth.
  • Divide cake mix evenly in pans, bake on center oven rack until top springs back when pressed or cake tester comes out clean. (Mom never wrote down the baking time, and I am embarrassed to say I never did either. I check by sight and cake tester. I would start watching them at 20 minutes or so.)
  • Cool in pans 15 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
  • Once cool. place one layer on plate, frost top, place second layer on top, frost top and sides.
  • Sprinkle coconut on top and/or sides.
  • Cooked Frosting
  • Place flour in small saucepan and whisk in milk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
  • In mixing bowl, place the butter, shortening, sugar and salt and beat with mixer until light, beat in the vanilla, then add the cooled milk/flour mixture and beat until smooth and fluffy.
  • Frost cake as desired.


  • If you can get fresh coconut to use, go for it. If not, flaked or grated commercially prepared will work just as well.  If you are not a fan of coconut, leave it off, the cake and frosting are delicious on their own.