I served my favorite cake in the world last night to 20 of my favorite gal-pals at the Nieman Foundation. It was a loud, raucous night, and not a little bit naughty. We toasted the end of our school year with several pitchers of Joana Henriques’ killer mojitos. She spent a full hour making them the Portugese way, the secret being to juice all those limes by hand — smashing them with ice, sugar and the back of a wooden spoon. The barbecue was courtesy of our favorite Canadian foodie, Jana Juginovic, who really should have her own reality cooking show.
My Italian Cream Cake was for dessert. It’s a recipe I wheedled out of the folks who ran the Angler’s Cafe long ago. My friend Evelyn had loved the cake so much that she couldn’t stop speculating about its mystery ingredient. The answer is always: Buttermilk. And coconut. And cream-cheese frosting.
While I can’t divulge the contents of the after-dinner storytelling — it was soooo off the record — I can give you the secret recipe for this wonderful cake, with thanks to Mary Stuart VanMetre’s Mom, Nancy Barbour, who slipped it to me via her pre-school grandson long ago. Thanks, too, to Evelyn, for making me realize, finally, that dessert doesn’t always have to be a chocolate-delivery vehicle.
As someone who used to turn her nose up at cake in favorite of its crusty and more artful (or so I thought) brethren, pie — this cake was a revelation.
The Angler’s Italian Cream Cake
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup Crisco
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten
5 egg yolks
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces sweetened coconut
Beat egg whites in a medium-sized bowl and set aside, reserving yolks. Into a large bowl: beat margarine, Crisco and sugar. Add egg yolks and beat. Add flour and soda alternately with buttermilk, beating. Stir in vanilla. Fold in coconut and egg whites with spoon.
Grease and flour three cake pans. Add waxed paper cut to fit. Pour in equal amounts of batter and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. To flatten humpy layers: When out of oven a few minutes, lay towel across pan and press. (Flat layers stack better for icing.) Cool completely before icing.
For icing to layer and cover all three layers: 1 stick margarine, 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 box confectioner’s sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla. A topping of chopped walnuts on top is optional but yummy.