My grandmother lived in Wichita, Kansas, and she could no doubt cook, but she couldn’t bake to save her life. Which is weird, because she was a silversmith and a photographer and had limitless patience. My great-grandmother could bake, my mom can bake, and I’m no slouch, but Nana’s specialty was smokies (small, smoked breakfast sausages popular in the Midwest), and she’d make them in a cast-iron skillet every time we visited her. But one thing she could bake—and did almost every time we’d visit—was this coconut meringue cake. — Duff

Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch round cake


  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 stick (½ cup) plus 2⅔ tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup whole milk


  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 extra-large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1¼ cups sweetened shredded coconut
  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. With a hand mixer in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, coconut extract, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and beat thoroughly.
  4. Add half the dry mixture, then the milk, then the rest of the dry mixture to the butter mixture, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  5. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk until stiff. Gently fold them into the cake batter.
  6. Divide the batter between the pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans. Lower the oven “temperature to 325˚F.
  7. To make the icing and garnish: Combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, marshmallows, remaining ½ cup coconut, and ⅓ cup water in the top of a double boiler. Over simmering water, whisk constantly for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the icing will hold a peak. Remove from the heat, add the orange zest, and whisk until the icing is cooled and thick enough to spread.
  8. Frost with the icing and press the coconut all over the cake.