Today is my good friend Toby’s birthday. When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted me to bake for him, he announced, happily, “Your coconut cake.” You readers may remember that cake because I used the recipe here in this column some time back. It is an historic recipe from the 1880s, and was called “One, Two, Three, Four Coconut Cake.”
That numbering is a very old mnemonic device to remind the baker to use one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three eggs, and four cups of flour. In particular, for this cake, I use eggs whites alone, plus a bit of milk to moisten, and, of course, coconut. I usually slather it with seven minute boiled icing (which really takes more like twelve minutes because you have to beat it over cold water after beating it for seven over hot) and pile more coconut on it. It is so good that it leaves me gasping.
Technically, this cake could also be considered a “silver” cake because it uses only whites and has a white color. In the old days a Silver Cake was often accompanied by a Gold Cake which used the yolks and had a rich yellow interior. If you have an old cookbook, you’ll see this pair among the cake recipes, one often following the other as night follows day.
So Toby’s cake theoretically leaves me with up to six yolks to deal with. Hollandaise is nice, and there is a lot of asparagus coming out of the garden right now to drench in it. But this year, as it happens, I signed up to make a cake for the May Sewing Circle Birthday. On the third Tuesday of the month, we eat cake and ice cream for refreshments at the weekly Circle meeting and sing happy birthday to the list of members born that month.
No doubt you can see where this is going. There is a Gold Cake in the works. I used the Gold Cake recipe in my 1917 copy of “Mrs. Allen’s Cookbook,” by Ida Bailey Allen. She called for four yolks plus one whole egg, so, you see, I still have yolks for Hollandaise.
Mrs. Allen also recommends, “Frost with chocolate icing.” I will.
Makes one 10-inch cake
½ cup (one stick) butter
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a tube pan. Cream together the butter and sugar, add the whole egg, and then gradually the yolks, beating after each addition. Sift together and add the flour and baking powder, and add it alternately to the egg and sugar mixture with the milk. Pour batter into the tube pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from the edges of the pan and is firm to the touch.