Coconut Crumb Cake is one of those recipes you never quite believe. To begin with, it has only seven ingredients. That’s not terribly unusual for a cake, but a box of vanilla wafers and a package of coconut at the top of the list is unusual.
There is no flour and not even a pinch of leavening. Although there are six eggs in the batter, the whites are not beaten to incorporate air, so you wonder what gives the cake its “lift.”
The recipe came from a friend of a friend, and our first thought was it might have been created by someone in the Nabisco test kitchens who decided there should be more to vanilla wafers than banana pudding parfaits and creamy lemon squares. But when we called Nabisco, they were clueless. They had recipes for graham cracker muffins and vanilla wafer banana bread, but nothing with vanilla wafers and coconut.
To explain the leavening, an expert at the American Institute of Baking said the protein part of the egg whites was probably trapping air, making the cake rise. Despite our reservations, we went ahead and made the cake.
It was incredibly easy to put together; in a very large bowl we mixed with our hands the dry ingredients and in another bowl whisked the eggs, melted butter and milk. Next, we combined both mixtures and poured the heavy batter into a Bundt pan and hoped for the best.
We are happy to report that although we can’t explain what goes on in the oven, the final outcome is a sturdy and delicious cake, sugary and crusty on the outside and macaroon-like moist and chewy on the inside. It will do any baker proud.
—By Jean Kressy