Grandma Margaret’s Buttery Coconut Cream Cake Recipe

Homemade Coconut Cream Cake with fresh berries by bake this cake

This golden cream of coconut cake, modified over decades in our family from a 1924 recipe, is frosted with vanilla custard frosting and sprinkled with sweetened coconut flakes. It comes to us from our precious Grandma Margaret.  Her friends called her Maggie, she could ride a horse in a fast gallop without a saddle and she made fabulous desserts like nobody’s business from the time she was a lass working in her dad’s little hotel in Everett, Washington.

Margaret M Goldthorp as young girl

For this recipe, we followed Grandma’s instructions to modify this 1924 recipe just as she did over the decades for Mother’s Day or Easter (or the inevitable special birthday cake requests).  She used cream of coconut and coconut oil (unusual for the day) in place of the coconut milk and she left out the mace (nutmeg) and almonds – so that’s exactly what we did.  If you use coconut milk (fresh or canned) from the original recipe, remember that coconut milk is not normally sweetened, unlike most coconut creams, so your cake with be less sweet.  Also, the butter in this recipe butters up the flavor but also changes the color of the cake from white to yellow.  (We’ll share Grandma Bess’s Super White Coconut Cake soon that is more of a fluffy white chiffon cake.)

Check out the recipe card photo here if you’d like to go totally 1924 without Grandma’s changes — and let us know how it turns out in the Comments section.

Sally Cake Modified for Golden Coconut Cake recipe by Bake This Cake

Grandma Margaret’s recipe starts with this overly used copy of the 1924 “Rumford Everyday Cook Book for the Housekeeper and Student” published by the Rumford baking powder company and compiled by their very own Department of Home Economics headed up by: Mrs. Mary A. Wilson (former Instructor of Domestic Science at the University of Virginia); Lily Haxworth Wallace, (Lecturer, Teacher and Writer on Domestic Science and Gold Medalist Graduate of the National Training School of Cookery in London); and Janet McKenzie Hill (Editor of “American Cookery” and “Practical Cooking and Serving”).

Rumford Everyday Cookbook vintage recipes by bake this cake

Rumford is still in business today.  I like their aluminum free baking powder for my cakes (makes me feel better somehow) and I love their darling old cookbooks.  This is the back cover of our recipe book…

Back Cover of Rumford Everyday Cook Book 1924 by bake this cake

Just for comparison, it seems that other historic recipes of the Sally White Cake also add brandy and lemon and even rose-water. Here’s an even earlier Sally White Cake recipe from 1914 by Mrs. J. D. Cooper in The Henderson Cook Book: batter as for pound cake, 2 grated cocoanuts, 1-1/2 pounds citron, cut fine, 2 pounds almonds, cut fine and mixed with citron and cocoanut, wineglass brandy,1/2 teaspoon mace, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon rose-water, bake as other fruit cake.

But I think you might like this version without the almond, lemon or brandy frills for a light and flavorful vintage charmer.

Vintage Coconut Cream Cake card by bake this cake

Ingredients for Grandma Margaret’s Coconut Cream Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/3 cup Cream of Coconut
1/2 cup organic coconut oil
2-1/2 cups cake flour (substitute all-purpose flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded baker’s coconut (baker’s coconut is shredded and sweetened)
Optional: fine zest of half of a fresh lemon (about ½ teaspoon lemon zest)
Note: You will need more shredded, sweet coconut for the frosting presentation.

Ingredients for vintage homemade coconut cake by Bake This Cake

Prepare the oven and pans:

Set the oven rack to center position and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pan prep with parchment and spray by bake this cake

Beat the wet ingredients:

In a large mixing bowl and an electric mixer, beat on high-speed for 2 minutes:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (usually 2 cubes)
Tip: I like to chop the cold butter and nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds.

room temperature butter for golden coconut cake by bake this cake

Beat into the creamed butter on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar

Sugar in a tin cup for golden coconut cake recipe by bake this cake

It will look like this…

Creamed butter and sugar for golden coconut cake recipe by bake this cake

Beat into the butter-sugar mixture on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
5 large eggs, room temperature
Tip: Place eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to take the chill off the eggs for higher rise potential.

Beating 5 eggs into historic golden coconut cake recipe by bake this cake

Beat in on high-speed for about 1 minute:
1/3 cup cream of coconut (we used Coco Loco from the liquor cabinet that we usually use for Pina Colada cocktails and it is thicker than a typical cream of coconut)
1/2 cup organic coconut oil (pressed, not liquid)

Coconut Cream and Coconut Oil for Vintage Coconut Cream Cake by bake this cake

Our modern version of coconut cream…

Coco Lopez cream of coconut for old fashioned coconut cake recipe by bake this cake

Here’s the coconut oil that we used…to the bottom of the jar.

Coconut Oil for Maggie's vintage coconut cake recipe by bake this cake

It looks smooth and lovely…

Blended old fashioned coconut cake batter by bake this cake

Prepare the dry ingredients:

In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to thoroughly blend:
2-1/2 cups cake flour (substitute all-purpose flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Dry ingredients collage for vintage coconut cake by bake this cake

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together:

Into the wet mixture, blend in on low-speed for about 1 minute until thoroughly combined:
The prepared dry ingredients flour mixture

Blending dry ingredients into Grandma's golden coconut cake recipe by bake this cake

It will be nice and smooth…

ready for coconut homemade coconut cake batter by bake this cake

Using a spatula, blend in thoroughly:
1 cup shredded baker’s coconut (sweetened)
Optional: fine zest of half of a fresh lemon (about ½ teaspoon lemon zest)
Tip: I like to add a little lemon zest to zing up the flavor a tad.

Blending coconut into homemade cake batter by bake this cake

Batter up the pans:

Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared cake pans and use a spatula to smooth the top batter a bit.
Tip: The batter will be thick but smooth and spreadable.smoothing coconut batter in the cake pans by bake this cake

Bake This Cake!

Bake at 350 for approximately 45 to 50 minutes until cake is golden in color, top springs back lightly when pressed and toothpick pricked into center of cake comes clean of sticky crumbs.bake these old fashioned coconut cakes by bake this cake

Cool ‘em down:

Cool cakes for 10 minutes before removing by slicing around the edges with a sharp knife and flipping cakes to a wire rack to thoroughly cool before frosting.
Tip: If you’re baking in advance, you may wrap these cakes well in plastic wrap once they’re thoroughly cooled and store them on the counter for 2 days or in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for 2 weeks.

Cooling Grandma Margaret's Coconut Cream Cakes by bake this cake

These cakes travel well, nicely wrapped for frosting at your destination event.

Wrapped coconut cream cakes for travel by bake this cake

Frosting:  This cake at our house is usually frosted with Heirloom Custard Vanilla Frosting then we splash it with shredded, sweetened coconut.  Let me know if you have a better idea for the frosting or filling.  I also like to dot the rim of the cake with fresh fruit but it also looks amazing without any added decoration aside from the coconut.  Also, sometimes, I might run a light torch over the top (or place it quickly under the broiler) to lightly toast some of the top coconut flakes. That’s cute too.

Filling Grandma's Golden Coconut Cake with heirloom custard frosting by bake this cake

Serving recommendation: You might like to serve slices of this golden coconut cream cake with a dollop of lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream and a spoonful berries that have been swirled with a little raspberry jam.

Bowl of fresh strawberries and blueberries and blueberries by bake this cake

Okay, now it’s time for you to give it a whirl. I’m anxious to hear what you and your family think about it.

Grandma Margaret's Vintage Coconut Cream Cake by bake this cake

Thank you for joining us for this cake adventure.

Happy vintage baking to you!


Leslie Macchiarella at home in Los Angeles portrait crop


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