Classic Coconut Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk or juice from a fresh coconut plus enough milk added to make 1 cup
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
White Mountain Coconut Icing
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
2 egg whites
About 3 cups freshly grated coconut, or sweetened shredded coconut
To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and use a fork to mix them together well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.
In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with a mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture is light and evenly combined. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well each time, until the mixture is thick and smooth.
Add about one third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat well at low speed. Then add about half the milk to the batter, beating well. Continue beating as you add another third of the flour mixture, followed by rest of the milk, and the remaining flour mixture, beating well each time until the batter is very thick and smooth.
Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans, dividing it evenly, and place them in the oven. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.
Remove from the oven, and cool in the pans on the wire racks or folded kitchen towels for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cakes onto wire racks or plates, turn the layers top side up, and cool completely. You could also split the layers horizontally to make 4 think layers of cake.
To make the icing, stir the sugar into the water to dissolve it. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, and cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Then boil and cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Then boil for 5 to 10 minutes more, stirring often, until the syrup has thickened and will form itself into a thread about 2 inches long when poured from a spoon back into the pot. Set the syrup aside.
Beat the egg whites in a large bowl with a mixer at high speed until they are bright white, shiny, and pillow up into voluminous clouds. While beating at high speed, slowly pour the cooked syrup into the egg whites to blend them together into a fluffy white icing, 4 to 5 minutes.
To ice cake, place one cake layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover it generously with icing and sprinkle with coconut. Place the second layer on top of the iced layer, top side up. First ice the sides to help keep the cake steady, and then spread icing generously over the top, completely covering the cake. Place the cake stand or serving plate on a cooking sheet to catch any loose coconut as you shower the cake. Sprinkle coconut all over the cake, and then gently pat handfuls of coconut onto the sides and top to cover any bare spots. Transfer any leftover coconut to a jar or resealable plastic bag and store it in the freezer.