Coconut cake adds festive flair to the table

A coconut filling is the star of the holiday-favorite coconut cake popularized at Rich's Bakeshop in Atlanta. / Dreamstime/TNS
A coconut filling is the star of the holiday-favorite coconut cake popularized at Rich's Bakeshop in Atlanta. / Dreamstime/TNS

ATLANTA — Many who remember Rich's department store have a special place in their hearts for its Bakeshop's coconut cake, which isn't just delicious but also looks like a huge snowball.

Since Rich's closed in 2005, there have been a few variations of the popular dessert floating around, but we have the recipe featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution back in 2008.

The proportions were modified for home bakers; it should serve 16. Be sure to read the recipe completely before you begin.

Rich's Bakeshop Icing

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons powdered milk

1/2 cup water (for dissolving milk powder)

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the vegetable shortening, vanilla and salt, and cream together until incorporated. Slowly add the confectioners sugar until it forms a very thick consistency. Dissolve the powdered milk in the water, and gradually add — just 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time — until the icing is a nice, spreadable consistency.

Rich's Bakeshop Yellow Cake

Makes three thin 9-inch layers or two thicker 9-inch layers. Rich's traditionally prepared a three-layer cake with two layers of coconut filling, but if you don't have three pans of the same size, two will work just fine.

Shortening and flour for pans

2 1/4 cups cake flour or White Lily all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon powdered milk

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup liquid milk (low-fat or whole)

3/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pans by lightly greasing with shortening, then dusting with flour.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir the powdered milk into the water, and mix until dissolved. Combine the liquid milk with the powdered milk/water mixture, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add about half the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated, and then half the milk mixture, again beating until just incorporated. Repeat this step, adding the remaining flour with the remaining liquid, and beat until just smooth (about 1 minute). Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowls once or twice during the mixing.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on how many cake pans you use and how full they are. The cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed near the center with your finger. Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes in the pan, and then turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Rich's Bakeshop Coconut Filling

2 pounds frozen unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

In a large bowl, thaw the frozen coconut. Set aside. Place 1½ cups of the coconut in a smaller bowl. Combine the water and sugar, and pour over this smaller bowl of coconut. This should be very moist but not soupy.

To assemble cake: Place one layer of the yellow cake on a cake plate, and spread with icing. Spoon the moistened coconut over that. Place the next layer on top, and spread with icing, spooning the moistened coconut over it. Continue this process until all your layers are filled; however, don't put the moist filling on top of the last layer, as it will be iced.

Next, cover the entire cake with the icing. Be sure to use a thick coating of icing on the cake to keep any of the cake from showing through. Take handfuls of the dry, thawed coconut and press the flakes into the icing. You may want to put a tray underneath to catch any coconut that falls. Continue pressing dry, flaky coconut all over the cake until it is completely covered. Chill for about one hour to set (it helps the coconut to stay put) before serving. Serves 16.

Per serving: 612 calories (52% of calories from fat), 5 grams protein, 71 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams total sugars, 5 grams fiber, 37 grams total fat (22 grams saturated), 37 milligrams cholesterol, 400 milligrams sodium.

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