I work with one of the best men ever. His name is Mr. Johnson, and he’s a teaching assistant like I am. He’s old enough to be retiring. We’ll leave his age at that. 😉 Mr. Johnson is a very valuable asset to our team, in my opinion and those of so many others. He loves the kids we work with but is not afraid of tough love. He will do whatever it takes to reach a child who is in danger of being lost to our system. He is a veteran to our country, and I’m proud to call him my friend. Every school day, barring appointments and the like, since I started my job a year and three months ago I have seen Mr. Johnson. I have looked up to him, counted on him, prayed for him, and worried about him if he didn’t show up but wasn’t “scheduled” to be off. I regard him in much the same light as a dear uncle.
This Friday will be the last day I work with Mr. Johnson. He has put in for retirement. I’m really happy for him because I know all the plans he has for things to do and…not do. For me, though – I’m sad. I’m sad to say goodbye to the man who has mentored me in this job and the man who talked to me each Monday thru Thursday in Study Hall/Detention. I’m very sad for the children who will not get to see his twinkling eyes and easy smile as he jokes with them. I’m sad for the kids who will never see the mercy in his face and hear the hope in his voice as he counsels them through the choices they’ve made. Friday we will lose a man of tremendous value to our team.
I asked Mr. J if I could bake him a cake in celebration of his retirement and he said yes. He is a man who loves sweets almost as much as I do. 😉 He specifically wanted a cake that his sister’s mother-in-law was known for baking. He even called his sister to find out exactly what kind of cake it was. Her answer was that it was an Italian Creme Cake. I assured him that it was no problem, but I wondered if it might possibly be out of my league. When I got home that evening, I browsed Pinterest for a recipe. I found several but decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to make it from scratch. That left out a few of the recipes that called for modifying boxed cake mixes. I viewed the remaining recipes and came up with one based on Paula Deen‘s recipe. I decided to share the recipe I used with all of you. I’m sure you’re very excited!
Italian Creme Cake
recipe by Paula Deen and tweaked by Sara Parsons
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
16 ounces of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350*. Spray 3 (9-inch) cake pans with non-stick cooking spray.
Cake: In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, combine flower and baking soda. Gradually add the flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk. (I used lowfat buttermilk.) Begin and end with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pans, spreading with spatula if needed. Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Gently remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
Frosting: In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter. Slowly add powdered sugar and almond extract. You can use less extract if you choose. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread frosting evenly between each cake layer and on top. Lightly frost the outside of the cake once completely assembled.
Garnish with coconut and pecans on the top.
If you use the recipe, drop me a line and let me know! 🙂 I’d love to hear from you.