But also? This cake. This cake is nothing short of pure American ingenuity, in my mind — a sweet and sticky confection of angel food cake, marshmallow icing, and all the jelly beans you can handle. It’s a little bird’s nest for your Easter table, and its deep nostalgia for me is only matched by how easy it is to make and how fun it is to eat.
For as long as I can remember my mom has made this cake on Easter. It really couldn’t be easier — just start with an angel food cake (store-bought, naturally, although you can make one yourself if you have time and want to flex your baking muscles).
Then you slather it with marshmallow icing. The marshmallow icing my mother and I use is a version of the fluffy frosting recipe sometimes found on the back of the Karo bottle. It’s a very quick and easy recipe, and it whips up sweet and gooey like the inside of a marshmallow, while also light and melt-in-your-mouth. (Pro tip: Use a spatula warmed with hot water to get the sticky icing to spread smoothly. Just keep a tall glass of hot water next to the cake and scrape and warm the spatula as you go.) This doesn’t have to be neat or polished in any way; best to just spackle the cake by slapping on the icing.
Then sprinkle the cake with sweetened coconut. If you want to make it taste a little more sophisticated, lightly toast the coconut first (I like the nuttiness this gives). Or go super old-school and leave the coconut pure white.
The crowning touch, naturally, is the addition of jelly beans (or Cadbury Easter Eggs — also a favorite!). This is a fabulous place to involve children in cooking — let them place the candy where they like (try to get at least a few on the cake; obviously where they are most likely to place jelly beans is in their little mouths).
It’s really the simplest cake — but so festive. Pure nostalgia, and pure fun.
Easter Cake with Coconut and Jelly Beans
Serves 6 to 10 adults
For the marshmallow fluff icing:
2 large egg whites
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake:
1 angel food cake (12 to 14 ounces)
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
1 cup jelly beans or candy eggs
Make the marshmallow icing:
1. Whip the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer until they form soft peaks.
2. Meanwhile, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat.
3. Once the corn syrup comes to a boil, remove from the heat. Turn on the stand mixer to medium speed, and very slowly and carefully drizzle the hot syrup into the egg whites. Add salt and vanilla extract, and whip until stiff peaks form and the bowl has cooled to lukewarm. Use icing immediately.
Assemble the cake:
1. Set the angel food cake on a platter or cake stand. Use a warmed spatula to roughly spread the marshmallow icing over the cake’s top and sides.
2. Optional: Toast the coconut by spreading in a large skillet over low heat. Toast for about 3 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently, and adjusting heat if you see dark or burnt spots. Let cool.
3. Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the cake. Decorate with jelly beans or candy eggs. The cake can be served immediately or held overnight at room temperature. For best freshness, cover it with a cake dome, but this is not necessary.