Admonition Cake

Also known as four-day coconut cake.

Coconut cake (“The cake of the future”) by jylcat, on Flickr

Usually when you go to a restaurant and see a coconut cake, it’s a beautiful, perfect cylinder with even layers–but those familiar with Southern cuisine know there’s an entire class of coconut cakes that make up for their not-quite-photo-ready looks with extra moisture and sweetness. There’s one called a Cajun coconut cake that uses evaporated milk; another, the coconut dream cake, uses coconut cream pudding mix; and there’s a wet coconut cake that pours coconut milk on the hot layers.

And then there’s the sour cream version, admonition cake. According to (totally practical) legend, got its name because you are admonished not to cut it for four days.

During those four days, the sour cream and sugar mixture (along with the moisture in the frozen coconut) starts to sink into the layers of the cake, creating a rich, creamy experience that can be more than a little misshapen. Some cooks form the cake in a tall springform pan, then put the exterior icing on when it’s unmolded to help it keep the shape. Others make it in a bowl altogether, because who are you trying to impress? We’re all family, here, right?

Here’s a version from the December 19, 1974 edition of the Statesville (North Carolina) Record And Landmark:

Resting and ripening in our refrigerate right now is a coconut cake you won’t believe! The recipe came to us a few days ago and we call it Four-Day Coconut Cake. It was described as “out of this world.” We haven’t cut the one we made for the recipe calls for it to be stored in the refrigerator four days and tomorrow is the day. This one does not look so pretty but is bound to be good. You might like to try it. We don’t say it should take the place of old-fashioned homemade fresh coconut cake.

Four-Day Coconut Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups sour cream
2 pkgs. (6 oz. each) frozen coconut
1 pkg. (2 layer size) yellow cake mix

The night before baking the cake, combine sugar, sour cream and coconut; store in refrigerator. The next morning, prepare the cake and bake in two layers according to package directions. Turn out layers; cool. Split each layer to make two layers or a total of four. Fill and frost with sour cream mixture. Cover and store in refrigerator and do not cut for four days.

This cake probably wasn’t the only cooking going on in the kitchen of Vivian Mathis. In 1940, Vivian Truitt Mathis worked as a “beauty operator” in a beauty parlor, and her husband was a “dough man” in a wholesale bakery.

A beauty operator is some variety of cosmetologist, although I’m not sure what the licensing requirements were in 1940.

A dough man is more or less what it sounds like–a man who specializes in mixing dough, primarily bread and other yeast-risen doughs. Before bread was really viewed as an industrial product, having a skilled dough man in the bakery was like having a skilled tailor in the clothing store.

“Wise men still seek Jesus” is, I think, a reference to Matthew 2:1-12, the story of the wise men visiting Jesus. The short version of the story is that word of a Jesus reaches Herod and Herod tells the magi to go find the child and then bring back word so Herod could go worship him. Before they leave, however, they are admonished in a dream not to return to Herod.

L.R. was a member of Calvary Baptist Church, and about a month after she passed, the pastor gave a sermon on that Bible passage titled, “The Journey of the Wise Men.” You can listen online, if you’re so inclined. Coincidentally enough, that sermon was delivered two years ago today.

If the word “copied” above the Bible quote means it was originally on the card Vivian wrote, I should mention that Vivian and her husband (if I’m reading this rigth) were members of the First Baptist Church of Stanleyville. The churches are about ten miles apart and both are members of the Southern Baptist Convention.

From the box of L.R. from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Admonition Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups sour cream
2 cups frozen coconut
1 package yellow cake mix

The night before baking the cake combine sugar, sour cream, and coconut; mix up real good. Put in the refrigerator.

Next day:

Prepare the cake and bake into 2 layers by package directions and cool. Split [each] in two layers (makes 4 layers).

Fill and frost with sour cream mixture. Store in refrigerator. Cover and do not cut for 4 days.

Keep well a long time in refrigerator.


Use cool whip for sides.

Wise men still seek Jesus.

Recipe from the kitchen of Vivian Mathis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked:*