Coconut Angel Food Cake

Coconut Angel Food Cake Recipe

Catherine Watson fondly recalls her grandmother Luta Frierson Keith, who was born in 1892 and affectionately known as Ma-Ma. Everything Ma-Ma made was heavenly, but this cake was Catherine’s favorite. “Ma-Ma appeared at the door every Christmas morning wearing her wispy little hat, leather gloves, and that mink tail ‘thingie’ around her suit . . . you know the kind where the mouth opens and hooks to a tail? She carried this mile-high cake, looking just like one of the Wise Men!”

 Now Catherine carries on Ma-Ma’s tradition and makes Coconut Angel Food Cake every Christmas. “Tell me grandmothers don’t make major memories for the little ones,” Catherine reminisces. “I am over 60 and it’s as if it were yesterday.”–Kimberly “Momma” Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero

LC Any Way You Slice It... Note

Fancying up an angel food cake, to borrow a notion from the authors of this recipe, is as easy as slicing it horizontally into thirds, frosting each layer, stacking them atop one another, and lavishing the entire shebang with lofty swoops and swirls of icing. You can take fancying it up even more seriously by slipping some fresh berries or thinly sliced fruit between the layers. Conversely, if you’re in rather a hurry, simply leave the cake intact rather than creating layers, frost the top and sides of the cake in one fell swoop, and sprinkle with coconut. Any way you slice it, it’s food for angels, whether the occasion is Christmas, Easter, or just because.

Coconut Angel Food Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 35 M
  • Makes 1 layered cake


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 11 large egg whites (yes, 11)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Angel White Icing
  • 2 to 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut (Catherine uses Baker’s Angel Flake) or sweetened shredded coconut

  • 1 mink tail “thingie” (Confused? Check the headnote that precedes the recipe. Ha!)


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).

  • 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cream of tartar. Set aside.
  • 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, about 11/2 minutes. (Ma-Ma’s directions say to “whip those egg whites sky-high!”) Use a spatula to slowly and gently fold the sugar into the egg whites. Do not beat. Add the vanilla and mix just until combined. Then add the flour mixture to the egg whites, a little at a time, stirring gently. Scrape the batter evenly into an unbuttered standard angel food cake pan.
  • 4. Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, until the surface springs back when you touch it with your fingertips. Gently invert the pan on a wire rack or on top of a bottle, situating the center hole of the inverted tube pan on the neck of the bottle. Let the cake cool completely.
  • 5. Slice the cooled cake horizontally into three layers. Place one cake layer, upside down, on a serving platter and spread icing over the top and sides, being especially generous as you spread the icing over the top as this will end up as filling. Sprinkle the icing on top with some of the coconut. Place the middle cake layer upside down on top of the bottom cake layer and spread icing over the top and sides, again being generous with the top layer. Sprinkle coconut over it. Place the third cake layer right side up on top of the other two stacked layers and frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the remaining coconut over the entire cake, covering it evenly. Slice and serve as soon as possible, wearing a mink tail thingie from yesteryear, if desired.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Annie Leslie

Mar 30, 2012

This cake was amazing with almond extract, but I am looking forward to making it with vanilla and without coconut. It was a huge hit with my family, and I will add it to my file of awesome recipes!


  1. I’ve always marveled at how many of my own childhood memories revolve around food. Or have some food associated with them. Those memories are precious to me so I try to create the same for my grandchildren. Bravo to Catherine for honoring the memory of your Ma-Ma’s coconut angel food cake!

  2. What was that mink tail biting thingy called???? It’s been driving me crazy for yrs…I know there is a name for it…my mother had one too…

              1. Probably a tippet, or maybe even a boa. But I think tippet is the word Melinda is looking for.

                Amazing what pops out of your memory sometimes. ;)

                1. Indeed. One never knows what will prompt a long-lost memory to come tumbling out of the cobwebs. Many thanks, ruthie.

    1. Julie, if you click on the bold orange title “Angel White Icing” it will take you to the recipe…the coconut is a garnish for atop the icing and the mink stole a playful reference to the note written by the author at the top of the recipe…

  3. Love this receipe and Ma Ma. Those mink thingies probably were Stone Martens which were quite the accessory way back when in my mother’s time, who was born in 1916.

  4. This cake dazzles and delights me: so beautiful, and just brilliant. And my mother had that fur-wrap-thang, which I found both fascinating and macabre. Good practice for my new pastime of watching Mad Men. My own grandmother was very different (outfit, Christmas morning routine, coconut cake rendition); and she was also exactly the same, in having a way she appeared in the world, a dedication to kitchen traditions that flowed right into my heart and still lives there, and a marvellous way with coconut and cake. Cannot wait to make this, and to get a hold of this book. The title alone made me nod, “Yes!”

    1. Nancie, what else is left for us to say, other than many, many thanks for sharing a glimpse into your world and we look forward to hearing what you think of this little taste of heaven…?

    1. Hi KR, think you will love this cake! The frosting is so easy and works so well with the coconut. If you want a fun variation, try lemon curd between the layers.

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