Behind the scenes
In the picture above, you see what looks like a chocolate cake layer sandwiched between two vanilla sheets. Alas, such isn’t the case. All layers are actually (supposed to be) of the Old-Fashioned White Cake recipe found in the Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I knew that I wanted to make a cake with strong coconut and pineapple accents, so I took the liberty of substituting a couple of things.
Here’s what happened to the middle layer you see above. First, I doubled Magnolia’s recipe since I was making a 1/2 sheet cake. That was the first mistake. I should have tripled the recipe. Second, I thought I’d ramp up the sweetness and substituted one (of the two) cup milk with a cup of sweetened condensed milk. Third, when checking for doneness after 30 minutes, I set the timer for 10 more minutes – then fell asleep on the couch – ouch! Well, I woke up well before any burning occurred, but well after the cake had lost its height and started to become a dense, chewy, wavy cookie. It was hours later before I took the courage to use this layer in the final cake. I like dense, chewy cookies, so I got hold of my trusty cake leveler and reduced the overall thickness of this should-have-been cake and took the risk of making it a center layer (see below).
Here’s how the other two layers (top and bottom) came about. I had to start over. I had contracted to bake this cake for someone, so there was no getting around it. I stuck with the Traditional White Cake recipe but 1) tripled the recipe and 2) substituted regular milk with organic coconut water. I could tell upon pouring the batter into the 1/2 sheet pan that it was going to be perfect – as long as I didn’t fall asleep and overcook it. Indeed, it turned out beautifully, the most evenly cooked, delicate surfaced white cake I’ve ever baked. I let this cake cool slowly for several hours while I got some sleep. I knew I was going to split it and wanted it to be as sturdy as possible.
With three sheets of cake ready to go, the assembly went as follows:
TRADITIONAL WHITE-CAKE RECIPE FROM The Complete Magnolia Cookbook.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- if using all-purpose flour, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per 3/4 cup flour
- 1 cup milk (I substituted this with coconut water because I was looking to concentrate coconut flavors)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large egg whites
- Grease and flour your pan
- Whip egg white to soft peaks, cover and reserve in fridge
- Cream the butter and sugar
- Alternatively add flour and liquids; don’t overmix
- Gently fold in soft-peak egg whites
- Place in oven at 350 deg F / 180 deg C
- Bake for 22-25 min – then test for doneness
- Let cool.
- Triple the recipe – will be able to split once safely.
- Reduce oven temp to 325 (or even 300)
- I started checking the cake at 30 min. Mine took 40 min.
ICING – Magnolia Bakery Cream Cheese Icing
- 1 lb cream cheese, softened
- 3 oz unsalted butter, softened
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- Double the recipe above
- Reserve 1/3 to use in the filling
FILLING – for the half-sheet cake
- 2 x 12 oz cans of chunked or sliced pineapple in light syrup or in natural juice
- 16 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
- 1/3 of the cream cheese icing
- Place the pineapple and coconut in a food processor and pulse until combined and there are no large pieces of pineapple. In a large bowl, stir together with icing.
TOPPING – for the half-sheet
- 8 0z sweetened, shredded coconut
- 8 oz candied pineapple coarsely chopped
That’s all I can think of. Have a sweet day!