Nana McKee's Chocolate Cake (with fluffy coconut frosting)

Have you seen Land O’Lakes, Inc.'s tagline, Add a Little Good™? I just love how it not only applies to butter and cheese, but encourages all of us to #addalittlegood in our lives every day.

*this post is sponsored by Land O'Lakes.

I have to share this sweet idea with you. Johanna, the daughter of friends of ours, and a good friend of Jack's, was going on a pilgrimage this summer to Poland for World Youth Day. In order to help raise funds for the trip, she sold cakes! Not just any cakes, though, she offered three cake choices from her grandmother's recipes.

We ordered the lemon cake...and it was dreamy.

Not only was this such a clever fundraiser, but I loved that Johanna was keeping those recipes going and honoring her grandmother at the same time.

This, of course, got me thinking about my grandmothers and their recipes. I never remember baking with my Nana McKee, but I remember that every time we came for a visit, there were two pies waiting for us - always a chocolate pie and either a lemon meringue or coconut cream.

I hunted through my recipe boxes and talked to my sister. The only dessert recipe we have from Nana McKee was one my sister wrote about in elementary school, a chocolate cake. There's not even a frosting recipe to go with it.

Our mom died years before our grandmother, so it's frustrating sometimes to not be able to pick up the phone to ask something simple like, "Did Nana bake a lot when you were growing up? What were your favorites?"

That's why I think Johanna's idea is so brilliant and so good. While her grandmothers are still here, she's keeping the tradition going, having those conversations, and sharing these family desserts with friends.

I decided I needed to make Nana McKee's chocolate cake. Remember I said that there wasn't a frosting recipe to go with it? Well, I know my Nana also made German Chocolate cake (using the recipe from the box of chocolate), so in that spirit, I made a fluffy coconut frosting to go with it.

The cake is soft and moist; it pairs beautifully with the coconut frosting but would work with chocolate, vanilla, or just about any flavor.

There's butter in both the cake and the frosting...unsalted in the cake and salted in the frosting. Instead of milk or cream, the frosting is made with cream of coconut. You can find it with the drink mixers. It's thick and luscious; don't substitute coconut milk.

The cake recipe is exactly from Nana. I made a couple of tweaks to the method.

Nana McKee's Chocolate Cake with Fluffy Coconut Frosting
(makes one 2-layer cake)

for the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
3/4 cup unsalted Land O Lakes® Butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup water

for the frosting:
1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Butter two 8" round cake pans. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of each pan. Place in the pans and butter the parchment. Mix some flour and cocoa together and dust the bottom and sides of the pans. Shake out excess and set aside.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the water, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed or a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and set on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, make the frosting. Cream the butter and shortening until combined. Slowly beat in half of the powdered sugar. Beat in the cream of coconut and the coconut extract. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Once combined, increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy. (Add more cream of coconut or powdered sugar if needed to adjust consistency.)

To assemble, place one cake layer on a plate. Frost the top with one cup of the frosting. Top with 1/2 cup shredded coconut. Place remaining layer on top. Because the cake is so soft, this is a good place to use a crumb coat. Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting. You might see some crumbs from the cake, that's ok. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once set, remove from the refrigerator and frost the cake with a thicker layer. The crumb coat will keep the cake crumbs out of the outer layer of frosting. Top the cake with 3/4 cup shredded coconut.

I'd love, love, love to hear your memories of your grandmothers' recipes in the comments.

Let's challenge ourselves to make and share these recipes with our families and friends. I'm going to go through my mom's recipe box and start making them more often. ♥

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