Saturday, December 26, 2009

Easy Coconut Cake or Bars

For the hectic holiday season, instead of making coconut bars, my husband's favorite Cleveland confection, I made coconut cake. I saved much time by making the cake instead of cutting the cake into smaller pieces and turning each into a coconut bar.

I made a white cake using Pillsbury low sugar white cake mix and followed the directions using three eggs. I hand-mixed the cake batter as was watching my 92 year young Mom in her bedroom and did not want to work in the kitchen with the electric hand mixer. The cake itself was as light as a feather. I poked some holes in the cake, an option that adds a nice touch per the final product. You will understand why as you read the next section.

I placed about 1/3 cup of Hershey's chocolate syrup in a microwavable glass measuring cup, added a few drops of water, and heated the syrup mixture until warm. I use my two cup pyrex measuring cup for this as do not wish to spill the warm syrup.

I poured the syrup over the cake, making sure some goes into the the areas where I poked the cake. I spread the syrup over the top of a one layer cake. Next, I put coconut on the cake to cover up the chocolate syrup. The cake looks beautifully decorated and tastes delicious. The coconut sticks to the chocolate syrup on the cake.

I have made coconut bars using a frozen pound cake. It is easy to cut a pound cake while still frozen into bars. Dipping each cake bar into the syrup and coconut can be messy and unless you prefer bars, an unnecessary step. I have made a two layer cake with one cake mix, placing the syrup and coconut between the layers and repeating the syrup, coconut layer on top of the cake.

This cake is an easy and beautiful cake in spring, can be a no-bake cake in summer and everyone in my family loves it during the holidays when it reminds us of snow. Using a frozen pound cake, one need turn on the oven during our hot Cleveland summers.

I told my 17 year old nephew about this cake should he wish to impress a girlfriend with a simple, easy, beautiful cake. The cake can be any flavor. We like the contrast of the chocolate between the white cake and the white coconut.

Another version of the cake, using chocolate syrup over a chocolate cake topped with white coconut, is wonderful for chocolate lovers.

If one prefers to make coconut bars, the trick is not to get the coconut brown as one does not want the look of "dirty snow". Use one hand to roll each frozen cake bar into the syrup and the other hand to roll the syrupy bar in the white coconut.

I do not poke holes into the bars but poke holes when I make the cake version.

In the cake the holes become filled with a bit of chocolate syrup, making this an easy marble cake!

If your family prefers all white, yellow or chocolate cake, do not poke holes in the cake.

The easy technique makes an incredible German chocolate cake.

For a big party, bake several white, chocolate, and yellow cakes and after cooling, freeze them. While frozen, cut them into single serving bars before dipping each in the warm syrup and coconut. Place each small coconut bar in a colorful cupcake baking cup and pile high on a decorative plate for a colorful, edible centerpiece!

Let me know if you like this easy recipe for Cleveland style coconut bars by emailing me via my web site at


sue said...

As a New Yorker, I still remember everyone in my family here looking so forward to our trips to see our extended family in Cleveland -- the familly was nice, but the coconut bars made by grandma were outstanding! I still remmeber my grandmother showing me how NOT to "dirty the snow", by using two hands to dip the bars in chocolate and then coconut. I never tried it with Hershey's Syrup though. I use her recipe which calls for water, sugar, vanilla and cocoa. Probably a little less sweet than Hershey's. My friends and family still ask me to make the famous cleveland coconut bars and nobody -- aside from those from Cleveland and oddly, parts of Australia -- have ever heard of them. Did you know in Australia the same or similar item exists, but wtih a different name? I wonder if it was an Australian immigrant who settled in Cleveland that brought it there?? The thing that confuses me is with all the foods that make their way to NY, why is it coconut bars have never travelled here, or even apparenlty outside Cleveland??

Family of Food said...

I am a transplant from Cleveland to LA. Here they called these Cleveland Bars. I just made your version with a homemade vanilla cake recipe. Probably due to the coconut I have, it was not exactly the Cleveland experience, but it is close enough for government work. Thanks!

Rosa Raskin, M.S., M.L.S. said...

I use a low fat coconut that tastes and looks great. Since they are using the "Cleveland" bar recipe for wedding cakes here in Cleveland, one now sees all types of coconut and all flavors of cakes! The long coconut looks more formal and when used with strawberry cake, one has a valentine dessert. The shorter coconut does not fall off the bars as easily and looks more informal. If using a frozen pound cake, one tastes the delicious chocolate and coconut flavors. I have seen it layered recently and with marble cake. I have to admit, in the winter with snow outside, the long coconut shreds with a chocolate cake made a gorgeous wedding cake and it was posted in local newspapers. Thanks again for trying my easy recipe. Considering a small bar can run $4.00, there is no reason not to try to make these. Some like them moist, some prefer a less moist version, some more chocolate, some prefer as little as possible! The only people I have met who do not like coconut bars are those that dislike coconut.