Food & Drink

Stir Crazy: Cooking up a tasty event and a better coconut cake

Looking for a place to eat March 21? Mark your calendar to attend the Taste of the Area from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Regency Conference Center in O’Fallon.

More than 20 restaurants and food-related businesses will offer delicious samples, including such local eateries as Amore, Ravanelli’s, Sweet Katie Bees, the Garden Grille and Bar and Swansea Family Restaurant.

You’ll be entertained by the O'Fallon High School Jazz band, some gift cards will be given away and Tastfully Simple and Pampered Chef will be selling or taking orders for their products. There will be Starbucks coffee, some microbrewery sampling and The Regency will have a bar open for selling drinks.

The cost is $25 and proceeds benefit the educational programs of the St Clair County Extension Service, including 4-H clubs.

Tickets are available at the door or call 618-939-3434 for reservations, tickets or more information.

Free ice cream! It’s definitely one way to celebrate the coming of spring. Dairy Queen is celebrating its 75th anniversary by giving away a free small vanilla cone on Monday. Right down to the signature swirl on top.

During Free Cone Day, you can also make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, which raises funds to help save and improve the lives of kids treated at 170 children’s hospitals across the U.S. and Canada. Over the last 30 years, Dairy Queen has raised more than $100 million for the cause.

Easter cake redo: With Easter fast approaching, a luscious layered coconut cake is an excellent accompaniment to any table.

Some people find coconut cake a too-sweet treat, but Melissa Clark of the New York Times said this cake is the exception: “It had a fine, tender crumb that was buttery and moist. Instead of the usual billowing meringue that often borders on cloying, this cake was frosted with tangy cream cheese swirls. Inside the cake, there were flecks of pure white shredded coconut with a delicate almond-like flavor. Outside, there was a tan coat of deeply nutty toasted coconut, with a caramel depth. ...”

Pastry chef Larissa Raphael’s aim when creating the cake, she said, was not to overwhelm her customers with sugar.

“When you’re serving a nice-sized piece of cake to a customer, you have to balance the sweetness,” she said.

The orange juice and cream cheese helped, as did substituting unsweetened shredded coconut for the usual sugared kind. More salt also brought out a savory-sweet contrast.

Coconut Layer Cake


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs, separated, plus 3 whites

1 1/2 cups cream of coconut

1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons coconut rum or dark rum

7 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

7 1/4 cups or 2 pounds confectioners’ sugar

2 3/4 unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut, toasted

1. Make the cake: Grease 3 8-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and reserve. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with spatula. Lower speed and gradually add flour mixture. Batter will be thick and pasty.

3. Whisk together cream of coconut, coconut milk, rum and orange juice. Alternately add shredded coconut and juice mixture to batter.

4. In the clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 6 egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter.

5. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Cool in pans on wire rack. Unmold cakes once cool.

6. Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla extract. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix until combined and fluffy.

7. Spread 1/4-inch-thick layer of frosting on top of the first layer of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Place next layer on top and repeat with frosting and coconut. Repeat with third layer, spreading frosting all over cake. Hold cake steadily in one hand and use other hand to pat remaining coconut onto edges of cake.

Note: You can bake the cake layers up to 3 days ahead and store them, well-wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator. The frosted cake will keep for 2 days in the fridge as well, either under a cake dome or overturned bowl, or loosely tented with foil. Just make sure to bring the cake to room temperature before serving.

To toast coconut: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring occasionally.