Nana’s Cake : Yellow Cake, Grape Jam, Marshmallow Icing and Shredded Coconut



This is an old fashioned cake that I made for my grandmother’s 78th birthday.

I made this cake in an effort to recreate one my Nana ate as a child, I tried my best to stay as true to her memory as I could.  I like to think that I succeeded, but if I were making the cake for myself I would use a homemade jam so that I could control the sweetness of the filling.  Other than that this cake is simply lovely!

I enjoyed making it for her and I find the retro flavors to be charming. This is the kind of cake that you make while wearing a circle skirt and saddle shoes.  This is the kind of cake you would buy at a bake sale in the 40’s.  This cake is nostalgia in dessert form.

The Recipe

How Long?

From start to finish, including all components and cooling, this cake took approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The Entire Cake:

One Bowl Yellow Cake

adapted from Cinnamon-Spice & Everything Nice  Best One Bowl Yellow Cake Recipe

Grape Filling

Marshmallow Icing (Boiled Icing)

This was a fun adaptation because I found the original recipe in The Brides Book of Recipes and Household Hints by Carleton J. West.  My Nana gave me this book a few months before my wedding it was published in the 20’s (1928 to be exact) and I just knew it would have a fitting icing!

Coconut Topping

*** IMPORTANT*** Please keep in mind that this icing recipe uses a raw egg white.  I did not measure the icing temperature at any point so I cannot say with any confidence that the egg is cooked to the government recommended guideline of 160 degrees F.  I am sure you could temp. it yourself after adding the hot syrup, however, I am not sure that it will register to the recommended temperature.  I am also sure that any plain vanilla icing/frosting recipe that you wish to use will work just as well!


  • 2 cups all purpose flour sifted after being measured
  • 1 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • a healthy splash of vanilla extract (about 1 teaspoon)
Jam filling
  •  One small jar or about 1 cup of grape jam
(more or less depending on your sweet tooth and or your love of grape jam)
Marshmallow Icing (Boiled Icing)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4  teaspoon cream of tartar
  • a healthy splash of vanilla extract (about 1 teaspoon)
Coconut Topping
  • 1 bag of sweetened shredded coconut
What to Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, grease two 8-inch cake pans
  2. In a large bowl sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) *see notes
  3. Add butter, milk, and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated, lastly add both of the eggs and the vanilla extract and continue mixing until everything is well blended
  4. Pour the batter into the greased pans
  5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, the cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  6. Cool cakes for about 10 minutes and then turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely

*NOTES – When a recipe tells me to sift a large amount of dry ingredients instead of sifting in a flour sifter I usually whisk the ingredients together for about 30 seconds.  I have also tapped the ingredients through a large mesh strainer.  You could just use the sifter too!


Jam Filling
  1. Open it up 🙂
Marshmallow Icing
  1. Beat egg white until fluffy and frothy (think tiny soap bubbles)
  2. Add cream of tartar to the egg white and continue to beat until stiff (when you pull out the beater the little wisp left behind holds its shape)
  3. Mix sugar and water in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring often to prevent burning, until the sugar water mixture has thickened into a syrup, about 6-8 minutes (it coats the back of a spoon).  Lower the heat but be sure to keep an eye on it!  Continue to heat the syrup while you complete the next step.
  4. Slowly add 5 Tbsp of the syrup to the egg white, beat well and set aside
  5. Continue heating and stirring the syrup until your spoon leaves thick trails at the bottom of the saucepan (it will still be fairly liquid on the surface of your mixture)
  6. Add the remainder of the syrup to the egg white mixture, along with the vanilla extract, beat until the icing is thick and shiny.  About 7 minutes.
  7. Make sure the icing is cool enough before frosting the cake (lukewarm) *see notes

* NOTES – I found that the icing gets a crisp layer on top when left to cool completely, when this happened I just beat it again for a few seconds until the hardened parts were blended

Coconut Topping
  1. Open it up and fluff the coconut 🙂
Cake Assembly:
  1. Place one of the 8 inch cake layers (completely cooled) on a cake plate
  2. Spread jam evenly (or as thick and unevenly as you would like) on top
  3. Gently place the second cake layer on the jam covered cake layer
  4. Pour the icing on top of the cake
  5. Top with a generous sprinkling of coconut
  6. Last but not least, share with someone you love

*NOTES – The icing spread on its own for me but you are more than welcome to help it out if you would like.  It drips pretty dramatically down the sides and puddles a bit around the bottom.  I found it to be beautiful, but you can always pour a little icing and judge when to stop by pausing periodically to see how it spreads.

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