For the last 10 years of their life, my grandparents ate at the same restaurant nearly every night. It was located across the street from their apartment building and served as the de facto dining room for many of their neighbors as well. My grandmother liked it because the waitresses all knew her by name and would bring her a glass of iced tea the moment she sat down. My grandfather kept going back because it appealed to his frugal side.
When you ordered off the dinner menu, in addition to being served your entrée, you also got bread, a cup of soup, a salad, two sides, dessert and coffee. All told, it was enough food for two or even three meals and Grandpa Sid saw that as a great bargain.
Each night, they’d eat their soups and salads, poke at the entrée and sides a bit and then move on to the real showpiece of the meal: dessert. Little Pete’s always had at least a dozen pies, cakes, custards and pastries on offer, along with four flavors of ice cream. When I was young, I thought it was paradise.
My grandfather was a Key lime pie man, while my grandmother was all about the coconut cake. Both of these desserts were impressive in scale. The pie had an impossibly tall meringue layer, while the cake was a flurry of shredded coconut and frosting. Served with cups of decaf, those confections were the highlight of their day.
They’ve both been gone for more than 10 years now, but I think about them daily. As I was researching new recipes to make for this space, I spotted this Coconut Lime Cake from Paula Deen and knew I had to make it. How often does a dessert come along that pairs these two flavors so perfectly? I shared it with my cousins and we raised our forks in honor of our sweet, loving grandparents. It’s ideal for a family party and The Weekender, too.
Before you start sifting flour, here are a few things you should know:
- Be generous with the nonstick spray to ensure that the cakes come out of the pan cleanly.
- When it’s time to frost, tuck small squares of waxed or parchment paper under the base layer of the cake. These prevent you from getting frosting all over your cake plate, because you can remove them after you’ve finished decorating the cake.
- Make sure to keep this cake chilled until you’re ready to serve it. The frosting is incredibly light, which makes for a tasty cake, but it also doesn’t hold well.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook,Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.