Coconut Lightning Cake with Italian Buttercream Frosting

Coconut Cake Slice

I have mentioned before that my sisters are talented bakers, especially when it comes to cake and frosting. I can usually manage a cake recipe just fine. Due to past icing disasters, I tend to have icing anxiety every time I make it.

Part of the problem is my propensity to devise shortcuts after reading recipes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With frosting I have realized it would be better to master a recipe first, then decide whether I want to mess with it.

Yesterday was the last official day of winter and I decided to celebrate it by making light, fluffy, billowing clouds of Italian Buttercream. While I miss snowy winters spent living in the Chicago suburbs and Syracuse, New York, I don’t miss the cold weather. I’ll take a Georgia winter and fluffy frosting as a substitute any day!

Since I knew the icing might be time consuming, I wanted a quick and easy cake. The cake recipe is an old family recipe I found in the recipe notebook my sister-in-law gave to me (the one with the brownie recipes I have blogged about). It’s called Lightning Cake and is handwritten on a recipe card with (Aunt Mamie) written next to it. Mamie was my husband’s great-grandmother’s sister. Although I never knew her, I have admiration for a home cook with a good recipe for a quick cake!

There are other similar recipes out there for versions of Lightning Cake, including one published by Fannie Farmer. This one varies slightly in fat content (due to a swap out of butter for an extra egg), and method. I had my doubts about using boiling milk in a cake recipe, but it worked! The result is a slightly dense, golden brown cake reminiscent of sponge cake. While I served it with Italian Buttercream, it would be great unfrosted with just macerated fresh fruit and powdered sugar or ice cream.

I would love to say I have lots of beautiful method pictures to post with this, but my hands and mind were occupied with the buttercreamFor the buttercream frosting recipe, I went with a reputable source; King Arthur Flour’s Italian Buttercream recipe.

Hot Sugar Syrup Meringue

After hot sugar syrup was added, before cooled enough to add the butter

Buttercream Frosting Finis

All of the butter has been added, buttercream is ready!

I made a half batch and used one teaspoon each of vanilla extract and coconut extract for flavoring. There is a helpful blog post on their website that goes along with the recipe, I would check it out before attempting this if you’ve never made Italian Buttercream before.

Italian Buttercream

Coconut Lightning Cake

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder (a heaping teaspoon as Aunt Mamie directs!)

Sift the above dry ingredients together and set aside

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare an 8 by 8 square or 8 inch round baking pan (grease and line with parchment).

Now “beat well” 2 large eggs. I beat the eggs until foamy, then gradually added 1 cup sugar a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture fell from the whisk in ribbons and the sugar was dissolved ~ you can use a hand mixer for this.

Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and fold gently just until combined.

Heat 1/2 cup milk , one tablespoon butter, one teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract in a small saucepan, just until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir slowly into the batter until it is fully incorporated. Batter will look a little thin.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out. Remove parchment and let cool completely.

I cut my cake into three layers and frosted with Italian Buttercream, then garnished it with toasted coconut.

Coconut Lightning Cake