Tahoe recipe: Graduation cake keeps them coming back (home) for more | SierraSun.com

Tahoe recipe: Graduation cake keeps them coming back (home) for more

This incredibly delicious and celebratory pineapple, coconut and pecan cake is so moist it should be eaten with a spoon.
Courtesy Simone Grandmain |

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — I know graduation isn’t until next week, but, admit it, you’ve been preparing for this big day ever since little Johnny backed your Subaru (Not his own vehicle, mind you. Oh no.) into the mail box and just kept on truckin.’

You never did find your mail box, or your muffler, but you did find it in your heart to forgive him, knowing he would soon be leaving the nest and leaving you with an empty room (AKA new meditation chamber), on his way to college.

Or on his way to the college town where his girlfriend has been accepted. Either way, a send-off is in order and eventually you are going to miss him. You are going to be counting the days until he comes home. You are going to want to hear the little pitter patter of the ski boots he forgot to take off before stepping onto your new walnut floor.

This cake has been bringing families together for two decades — seriously, that is how long I have been perfecting this recipe. I must tell you, this is, finally, the definitive cake recipe to end all cake recipes.

If this doesn’t bring Johnny rushing back to your doorstep for the holidays, nothing will. Except cash.


1 box yellow cake mix

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, in its own juice, no sugar added

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 of a14 oz can Eagle Brand condensed milk*

3/4 of a 12 oz can evaporated milk*

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 8 oz carton Cool Whip topping

1/2 (or more) cup chopped pecans

1 and 1/2 cups Red Mill unsweetened flaked coconut (or any shredded, sweetened is OK)


Preheat oven to temperature indicated on cake box. You are going to prepare the cake per the instructions on the back of the box, except you are going to substitute the pineapple juice for the water, add 1/3 of a cup of the pineapple and nutmeg. So, drain your pineapple, reserving the juice and fruit separately.

Make the cake, again, per instruction on box, using juice in lieu of water and add 1/3 cup of pineapple and the nutmeg to the batter. Bake cake in 9×13-inch pan and cool for at least 30 minutes.

Once completely cool, use the back of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the entire top of the cake. It will look like a huge sponge once you are through with it. Next, toast the pecans and coconut together on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for seven minutes. Stir them once at four minutes or you will be sorry. (We are talking smoke alarms and the whole bit.)

Set aside to cool. For the first layer of cake topping, mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla. Pour evenly over top of punctured cake. Let settle, about 10 minutes. Next, gently mix together the cool whip and reserved pineapple. Spread over cake surface.

Now sprinkle with coconut and pecans. Let sit in fridge at least an hour before serving. Store any leftovers (ha!) in the refrigerator.

For chocolate lovers:

Follow basically the same directions, except use a rich chocolate cake mix (but not the Decadence brand. It already has an add-in.) prepared per package instructions to which you have added 1/4 tsp. almond extract, and minus the pineapple step.

Poke the holes in your cake top, like we did above, only use chocolate flavored Eagle Brand condensed milk, regular evaporated milk (same measurements as above for all) and 1/2 tsp. vanilla mixed together.

Top with chocolate flavored Cool Whip® (no pineapple mixed in) and top this with your toasted pecans and coconut.

*Save the remaining condensed and evaporated milk, mix together and keep in your ‘fridge to use in your coffee. Incredible.

Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at simonegrandmain@gmail.com.

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