I most definitely have my sweet grandmother’s genes. Her kitchen functions as a dessert factory year round, and it’s not unheard of for her to start making a cake at 11:30 at night. In addition to all her phenomenal Cajun cooking, (a talent I can only hope to acquire), she makes world class oatmeal date cookies, Christmas pralines, and of course, a knock-your-socks-off coconut cake with chocolate frosting. She taught me how she makes it for this week’s cakebarring, a scheme that she and my gun-wielding, armadillo shooting grandfather are fully onto. (Please note they refer to all us grandkids as “sugar.”) I can’t speak for Nana and Papa, but I was kind of hoping I would catch a nice Oklahoman and stay put.
My Oklahoma cousins, all around my age, were super game to help me out, acting as both PR reps and cake handlers. They took me to Speakeasy bar in Oklahoma City, a big converted house with pretty porches and a backgammon table upstairs. It was way strange to be somewhere that felt like a real American bar, with guys in collared shirts and girls in rhinestone jeans, making me realize all the LA bars I’ve been going to must be inherently themed– and hipster is the unspoken code of ethics. We offered the security guards cake on our way out, who declined our offers for what I’m guessing were professional reasons; it should be noted they were wearing earpieces. My cousin Joe decided we should try the bar around the corner, The High Low, where we arrived right in time for a drag show. The guy at the front desk was happy to take some of our cake before we squeezed into a table that was basically on stage. When a friendly guy at the next table heard we were celebrating my birthday, he handed me a wad of one dollar bills for the show. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve never been to a drag show, (and it was not actually my birthday). I nervously (and mistakenly) handed one of the drag queens all the dollar bills at once– the same drag queen who leaned down during his routine and told my cousin’s girlfriend, “I went to OU with you.”
The show was FANTASTIC.
And then we were on to the Dusty Fry next door, a little roomier and lots smokier. (Y’all know you can still smoke at bars in Oklahoma?! ) Not only did we run into my cousin’s friend who was just on The Real World, a group of friendly guys came right up to us to introduce themselves. “Hi, I’m Adam, what’s your name?” It was almost like they had been hired by my dad to stand there and wait for us. (Wait, Dad. Did you hire them?) I offered them some cake and they flipped out. The Christian musician in the group actually got down on one knee and proposed to me. “I’m from a traditional family where cooking is very important, and my mom has taught me that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I know we don’t know each other very well, but this is the best cake I’ve had in two decades…” Really sweet, but a long distance engagement sure would be a doozy after zero dates and two pieces of cake. My almost fiance’s friend Tyler even helped me hand out cake to other people– my first cakebar victim turned server. If this is a game, Tyler passes go and collects $200. My cousin Amy, who really needs to move to LA and become an agent, worked the tables around us while my cousin Lindsey chatted up the guys at the bar. “Do you want some cake? Yeah, I think you do. Here. Eat this. Google ‘cakebarring.’”
My cousin Laura had asked me how I went up to guys in bars without having anything to drink. “I don’t need a drink, I have a cake.” That being said, I gladly consumed the pineapple Malibu Barbie drink she bought for me– thanks, cousin!
A big thank you to her, Amy, Lindsey, Joe, and his girlfriend Emily for our big night out together, which resulted in not much sleep and fueled my terrible cold. Our grandfather was thrilled to hear I got a proposal, and my grandmother was more thrilled that we gave away every single piece of her spectacular cake to glowing reviews.
Nana’s Coconut Cake with Chocolate Frosting (which is my great-grandmother’s recipe):
1 Box Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix (that requires water, eggs, and butter)
1 Can (17 oz.) Ancel Grated Coconut In Syrup, heated up just a little *or substitute your own brand, as this is special Louisiana stuff!
1 Stick of Butter
4 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder
6 Tablespoons Milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Box (16 oz) of Confectioner’s Sugar (or 4 cups)
Follow the cake box instructions to make your batter. Distribute the batter between 3 round pans, which you should grease and flour beforehand to make sure the cake comes out clean. Once you’ve baked the cake and allowed it to cool, spread the warmed up coconut filling between each layer of the cake, leaving the top clean for frosting. (My grandmother pokes holes in each cake layer with a toothpick so the coconut filling soaks through. She also uses a sifter for both the cake mix and confectioner’s sugar so everything comes out smooth.)
To make the frosting: melt one stick of butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in the cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla on low heat until the mixture is just about to boil. Remove from heat, and add the confectioner’s sugar. Whisk until the frosting appears thick enough to have a “skin” before spreading over cake.
Go trap a boy.