Atlanta, Georgia was home to the Rich’s Department Stores for almost 140 years. I remember shopping at Rich’s at the local mall near our house; we were a family who lived on a budget, so shopping at Rich’s meant shopping their budget shop. This was a designated floor in the stores that held last season’s clothes and items slightly damaged as in picks in the fabric and missing buttons. When I was a little girl, my Na Na took my sister and me to the big downtown store. This was our first real experience with “downtown” shopping.
My Grandmother even bought us our first real ladies upper garment undies. It was an elastic tubed contraption that neither one of us had anything to fill it with. But hey, we were proud of owning our first ever strapless unmentionable. While we were there, my grandparents treated us to lunch in the cafeteria that had a sky-high (at least we thought) view of the Atlanta area. If I remember my Mother was not too thrilled about us coming home with our bag of items.
Our last trip to the wonderful downtown location before they closed that store in the mid-1990’s was with my Na Na. This time, my Mom made sure she came along on this trip, I guess she thought she could stop the purchase of things we did not need. Truthfully, she came so she could drive and do her last shopping there as well. (Hi, Mom!, I know you’re reading this.)
Rich's Bakeshop Coconut Cake
Rich’s was known for their bakeshop. The bakeshop was in the Atlanta store and they sent out their cakes, cookies, etc. to the smaller stores that had a bakeshop sell counter. Everyone bought their cakes and other favorite sugary items from Rich’s. Wedding cakes, birthday cakes, you name it, they made it and people all around bought it. Some of the memories I have of the bakeshop goodies are the lemony smiley face cookies I took to school in kindergarten for my birthday. The chocolate cake that everyone in our family loved and was bought for our birthdays. Then there was the famous Rich’s Bakeshop Coconut Cake.
When I was little a girl, I was not too fond of coconut. It was not until I was a teenager at a wedding shower when I had my first coconut encounter where I loved it. From then on, anytime I had a chance to eat the famous cake, I made sure I had my share.
Several weeks before Christmas, I was in the mood for coconut cake. Not just any coconut cake, but for the real thing ~ Rich’s Bakeshop Coconut Cake. I knew there had to be something on the internet about this recipe; I mean even the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe is floating around, so why not the coconut cake? Within 2 page searches, I found what I was looking for. I will tell you it is easy to make and it tastes OUT OF THIS WORLD! I recently found the Atlanta Journal and Constitution removed the link to the recipe. But, it was orginially shared in the 2007 Easter Sunday edition.
When we lived in Montana, White Lily flour was not found anywhere. I had to use Gold Medal, a much heavier flour. I never use real milk for any baking, I found powdered milk works perfectly in this recipe. I still can't seem to find any frozen coconut in any store around, so I use what I find on the baking aisle.
The day I made the cake again so I could update the post, I bought Swan's cake flour. Cake flour is the way to go with this recipe, but if you don't have cake flour, just use what you have on hand. It will be okay. I promise, I mean if Gold Medal flour can handle such a delicate cake, you'll be fine.
Something, I found when making the icing. In Montana, I could add the spoon fulls at a time at the end of mixing it. But here in Georgia and our high humidity, I add it while mixing the sugar a little at a time.
I had several people tell me that there was a lemon curd between the layers of the cake. I'm not sure where that came from, but after consulting with older family members and friends, there was no lemon curd. But I'm still reaching this lemon curd thing…
The last time I baked this cake, I used my Maw Maw's 8 inch cake pans. I wanted to use them, so they could secretly say to all the other pans, they baked the Rich's bakeshop coconut cake. This size pan is really not big enough without any rolling over, so you'll need three pans. I normally bake this in my 10 inch pans without any problems. If you have 9 inch pans, you should be good with only 2 pans.
DO NOT let the length of ingredients and directions scare you away from making this elegant cake. If you do, you will miss out on a delicious part of southern history.
Rich's Bakeshop Coconut Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour or all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon powdered milk
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons powdered milk
1/2 cup water
2 pounds shredded coconut, divided
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare cake pans by lightly greasing with shortening, then dusting with flour.
In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir the powdered milk into the water and mix until dissolved. Combine the liquid milk with the powdered milk mixture and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the shortening and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add half the flour, beating until just incorporated, and then half the milk, again beating until just incorporated. Repeat this step, adding the remaining flour with the remaining liquid, and beat until just smooth (about 1 minute). Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl during the mixing. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes.
The cooking time will vary depending on how many cake pans you use and how full they are. The cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed near the center with your finger. Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
TO MAKE ICING:
In a mixing bowl, combine the vegetable shortening, vanilla, and salt and mix together until incorporated. You want this mixture to be creamy. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar until it forms a very thick consistency. Dissolve the powdered milk in the water and gradually add, just 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, until the icing is a nice, spreadable consistency.
TO MAKE FILLING:
Make filling: In a large bowl, thaw the frozen coconut. Set aside. Take 1 1/2 cups of the coconut and place in a smaller bowl. Combine the water and sugar and pour over this smaller bowl of coconut. This should be very moist but not soupy.
Place one layer of the yellow cake on a cake plate and spread with icing. Spoon the moistened coconut over the icing. Place the next layer on top and spread with icing, spooning the moistened coconut over it. Continue this process until all your layers are filled; however, don't put the moist filling on the very top of the last layer, as it will be iced. Next, cover the entire cake with the icing. Make sure to use a thick coating of icing. Take handfuls of the dry, thawed coconut and press the flakes into the icing. You may want to put wax or parchment paper underneath to catch any coconut that falls. Continue pressing dry, flaky coconut all over the cake until it is completely covered. Chill for about 1 hour to set and then serve.
The Rich's Bakeshop Coconut Cake recipe is definitely a treasured find. I hope you all enjoy it.