Snow Cake

Mom's First Birthday Celebration

For us, May is the month of birthdays. It starts with the boys’ on the 12th, mine on the 14th, my daughter’s on the 17th, my father-in-law’s on the 19th and ends with my nephew’s on the 30th. That’s a lot of birthday cake!

My kids aren’t huge cake fans. They prefer ice cream cakes and pies. That doesn’t mean however, that if a cupcake magically appears in front of them, they won’t go all “Cookie Monster “on it. For this year’s kids party, in light of our recent trip to the islands, I made them my version of Hula Pie. It’s easy to make and so worth it. Full Disclaimer: Though it tastes awesome (the boys word, not mine), the Hula Pie will always taste that much better when eating it beachside in Hawaii. Here is the recipe from Hawaii Magazine.

Personally, I am a traditionalist when it comes to birthday cakes. I am less about how it looks, and more about how it tastes. Over the years, I have sampled a number of expensive, gorgeous cakes that were just so-so flavor wise. The cake must be moist, with a good crumb, and not a tough, poundcake-like creation. For my money, give me an old school layer cake, with lots of eggs and a real butter cream frosting. Just say no to lard. Fondant is evil. Last year, there was an article in Saveur Magazine about Southern Layer Cakes that I went “Koo-Koo for Cocoa Puffs” over. These are my kind of birthday cakes. Here is the Saveur article. If you get the urge to make one, try the lemon.

One of the most traditional, and for our family the most controversial, birthday cake is my Mother’s favorite: Coconut “Snow Cake”. My grandmother made it for my Mom every year when I was growing up. Mom was the only one who liked it. The rest of us would try a bite to be polite, but most of it was packed up for Mom to take home.

As a kid you look forward to your own birthday for obvious reasons, but if it is someone else’s birthday your interest starts and ends with the cake. Mom’s birthday was torture. Here was this beautiful monument of sugar and buttery goodness all frosted with fluffy white, and then Gam goes and commits a crime by putting shredded coconut all over it. Oh the humanity!

Now that I am an adult (debatable), my tastes have changed enough that I actually seek out anything made with coconut. I think I might give this infamous cake a try if only because it is really pretty when it’s all put together.

Photo: Mom on her first birthday. 

Snow Cake
(Mom’s Birthday Cake)

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
6 egg whites
3/4 cup more sugar for egg whites

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk. Add the vanilla.

Beat egg whites until foamy; gradually add the 3/4 cup of sugar, beating constantly until stiff. Fold into batter.

To make 3 layers, bake for 25 minutes in greased, waxed-paper lined 9-inch round pans. Turn out, cool on racks and frost with Boiled Frosting.

Boiled Frosting with Coconut
(makes enough for a 2-layer cake)

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 T light corn syrup
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
shredded sweetened coconut

Put sugar, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Boil, covered, about 3 minutes, then boil uncovered without stirring until a small amount of syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water (238-240 degrees).

Remove syrup from heat; quickly beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry, then pour syrup in fine stream over egg whites, beating constantly.

Add salt and vanilla, and continue beating until frosting is cool and of spreading consistency. If frosting threatens to harden before you spread it, add a few drops of hot water.

Sprinkle coconut on top and press on to sides of cake.

Comments are closed.