Fresh Ideas: Simple but perfect winter birthday cake

Since my best friend, Lydia, and I met, I’ve been in charge of making her birthday cake.

I often go to great lengths to sculpt the cake into Food Network-inspired concoctions held together by fondant and edible glitter.

But, this year, I kept things simple. Instead of multiple layers of her favorite Coconut Cake With Cream Cheese Icing, I baked an easier, two-layer variation loaded with extra coconut.

While the shape of Lydia’s birthday cake changes regularly, the recipe never does.

To me, this stark white cake is perfect for winter birthdays. Snow white and nutty, coconut cake embodies the decadent flavors of a rich, buttery white cake without being too heavy.

To make this recipe, I used cake flour instead of all-purpose and full-fat cream cheese whipped together with equal parts butter, sweetened desiccated coconut and a dash of vanilla.

By nature, cake flour’s high starch content lends a delicate nature to the cake, and the cream cheese creates a velvety, tart flavor that ices the cake without excessive crumbling.

Don’t have cake flour on hand? Try making your own — for every one cup serving of all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons and substitute two tablespoons cornstarch.

Whisk (or sift) flour and cornstarch together and combine fully.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at or via email at