I saved this recipe for the last of my “In Memory of My Father” posts because, in fact, this Coconut Lemon Layer Cake was the last birthday cake I made him for his 95th birthday-last June 29-just about one year ago. I had made him this same cake for his 90th birthday-five years before. Whenever I suggested to Dad that I make him a party, his first instinct was to refuse. Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I am not so easily deterred. At both birthday celebrations, I gathered together not only our immediate family but also his nieces – the daughters of his oldest and youngest sisters (both deceased): two in their 80s and one in her 60s. Dad was thrilled. What made the 95th birthday party even more special was that his great grandchildren were old enough to really be present. They even made cards which they proudly gave to their Great Grandfather.
At that last party, Dad came prepared. He spoke at length about the importance of having good doctors who could maintain you through your old age. He spoke about how hard it was to get old and not be able to do all the things you used to do. He spoke about his medical massage therapist; who not only helped his circulation so that he could walk better; but whose office also provided him with a place where he could speak with other people of his age and some younger. When the therapist came to visit us during Shiva, she told us that Dad insisted on being called Arthur and was very chatty with the other clients. She gave us a whole other view of Dad’s personality.
Dad’s proudest moment was when he pulled out a letter he had received from the White House. Anyone who knew Dad well knew that he was prone to writing letters and giving advice-advice to us and apparently advice to the President. Dad had been a staunch Republican for most of his life; but about twenty years ago he had a change of heart and became a Democrat. Lately, he was not happy with the way government was going. He read a long letter from President Obama thanking him for his interest in creating better solutions for the problems our country faces. It wasn’t until my brother and I started going through some papers that we found the letter to which the President had responded. Dad had recommended that President Obama remove all the pieces of Obamacare that were objectionable to the Republicans and start again on a bi-partisan basis. We also found stock trades that he had been making until the last weeks of his life.
Dad was grateful. He felt that he had lived life to the fullest. He had loved and cared for our Mother for almost 67 years; and still felt that she was “the most wonderful woman in the world.” Every night, he would give her a hug and she would pull the covers over his shoulders- and then they would go to sleep-in the same bed for 66+ years.
The picture I posted with my eulogy almost 30 days ago shows Dad and Mom at the table with this Coconut Cake lit with candles for his 95th birthday. He was surrounded by his wife, children grandchildren, great grandchildren, and nieces – facing his favorite cake. He was content. He knew he had made mistakes in his life that he was never able to verbalize; but, on balance, he knew he had been a very lucky man and he was ready to move on. May his memory be for a blessing.
Coconut Lemon Layer Cake
By January 7, 2014Published:
- 10-12 Servings
- 1 hr 25 mins
- 1 Cup Non-dairy Margarine Softened
- 2 Cups Sugar
- 4 Large Eggs
- 1/8 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Almond Extract
- 2 2/3 Cups Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 2 1/4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 2 Coconuts or 14 Ounces of Shredded Coconut
- 1 Cup Water
- Non-dairy Baking Spray
- 3 9 Inch Round Cake Pans
- Electric Mixer
- Electric Food Processor
- Baking Parchment
- Cooling Racks
- Peel coconuts by breaking them open with a hammer and prying out the coconut meat. Scrape off the remaining brown skin with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Insert shredding disc into the processor and shred coconut. Cover with plastic wrap until ready for use. (Shredded coconut may be frozen.) Fresh coconut is much whiter than packaged coconut and is sweetened only by nature.
- Line baking pans with parchment and spray bottom and sides of pan with baking spray. Set aside.
- Cream margarine in bowl of electric mixer. Add sugar gradually with machine on. Mix on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy.
- Separate eggs. Set white aside. Beat yolks one at a time into margarine-sugar mixture beating well after each addition.
- Add almond extract and beat well. Use Vanilla extract if anyone is nut allergic.
- Mix flour together with salt and baking powder. Add to the batter alternately with water. Remember to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl to be sure the batter is completely blended.
- Stir one cup shredded coconut into batter.
- Preheat oven to: 350 F.
- Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff not dry. Fold beaten egg whites into batter with a spatula.
- Divide batter between the three cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until layers begin to come away from the sides of the pan and when cake tester when inserted comes out clean. Cool pans on racks for 10 minutes before inverting layers on to racks. Cool completely before filling with lemon filling and covering with seven minute frosting and coconut.*
- *Note: Toasting the coconut gives the cake a different flavor and appearance and is equally delicious.