Pineapple Coconut Sheet Cake

Way back when, die-hard home cooks would sniff and curl a lip if someone—invariably a newlywed or (worse) single parent—brought a sheet pan cake to a bake sale (THEY, of course, brought heirloom 8-layer caramel/German chocolate in handmade paper mache decoupage boxes). Even worse, those die-hards naturally felt compelled to extract a timorous confession from the donor that a boxed cake mix was involved. (In those days, canned frosting had limited distribution, otherwise that would have been the coup de grace; admission to the bridge club would be ever afterwards inconceivable.) Granted, homemade cakes are a certified source of pride and satisfaction; given the time, they’re worth the effort. If you’ve got other things on your hands, make a sheet cake from a boxed mix. But don’t use canned frosting; that’s just SO tacky.

Combine 1 box Pillsbury White Supreme cake mix, 8 oz. sour cream, ¼ cup melted butter, 3 large eggs at room temperature, half of an 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple (drained and squeezed), and a can of cream of coconut (Coco Lopez). Mix on medium speed until smooth. Pour batter into a 9×13-inch pan greased with butter and lined with parchment paper. Place in a preheated 350 oven until toothpick-clean and firm in the middle, about 30 mins. Cool on a rack. Blend 8 oz. softened cream cheese with two cups confectioner’s sugar, (the other 4 ounces of crushed, drained, and squeezed pineapple, and a tablespoon coconut extract. If needed, thin to spreading consistency with milk, top cake, and sprinkle with 2 cups toasted shredded coconut or coconut chips.

Poppy Seed Pound Cake

If I speak of chicken and dumplings as a Southern dish, soon enough some foodways pundit—you can’t throw a rock without hitting one, and if you ask me, the bigger the rock the better—will declare it’s served as dim sum by expatriated Alabamans living in Hong Kong. Even on a national scale (not that nationalism exists, of course) it’s no longer safe for me to assume that pound cake is a New England recipe. A friend from Texas—east Texas, mind you—now living in Maine said that their neighbors considered pound cake Southern because it’s so simple and practical. Well, dear hearts, those are the very reasons Americans have baked this cake well before Burr shot Hamilton, so quit sequesterizing recipes that have been on the tables of our country even before it became a country. Read Beard. This recipe is a felony with fruit, a mortal sin with ice cream.

Preheat oven to 350 (a crucial step). Grease, line and set aside a 10-inch loaf pan or Bundt. Combine 2 cups sugar with a cup of softened butter and beat until creamy. Stir in two tablespoons of poppy seeds, a cup of buttermilk, 4 beaten eggs, and at least a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Gradually mix in 3 cups of plain flour sifted with a teaspoon each of baking powder and soda. Blend until smooth. Bake for an hour, then turn the oven off and leave the cake in until the oven has cooled. Rest on a rack an hour before slicing.

 

Watergate Cake

In 1922, Helen Keller (of all people) published a recipe with canned diced pineapple, nuts, marshmallows, and whipped cream. “I ate it first in California,” she said, “So I call it Golden Gate Salad”. When Kraft published a similar recipe in 1975, some politically-savvy food editor renamed it Watergate Salad. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before some genius looking for something to cook for the Methodist pot-luck supper dumped a Watergate Salad into a batch of white cake mix, and voila! the Watergate Cake was born. While those of an age should remember Watergate as a by-word for illicit, illegal political intrigue and machinations, those younger will simply find this amalgamation of pistachio, coconut and pudding a pretty cake for the spring table. Such is the transitory knowledge of history.

BATTER
1 box white cake mix
1 cup oil
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding
1 cup lemon-lime soda
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

FROSTING
2 (3 oz.) envelopes Dream Whip
1 1/2 cups milk
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Pour cake mixture into two greased and dusted 9-inch round baking pans, bake and cool completely. Whip Dream Whip and milk into peaks, gradually add pudding mix and keep beating into a fluff. Assemble cake, frosting between layers then frost completely, sprinkle with crushed pistachios and grated coconut. Refrigerate overnight before serving.