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Just call me Rubydoll



Rubydoll was my great-grandmother. Her real name was Ruby but EVERYONE called her Rubydoll. She lived well into her 90’s, so I had the unique pleasure of having her present throughout much of my life. This queen-mother matriarch of the family was rubydoll.jpgindependent, yet high-maintenance…very high-maintenance. One year during a bad snowstorm she called my dad claiming to not have a “nibble of food to eat”, then had him drive her all over town for one item - a fine dusting mitt. Yes, she was very particular too. She was quite charming, yet very outspoken. I think you could say I inherited my lack of tact from her as well.

As a kid I would spend time with her at the senior center learning from the master - she was a card shark at canasta (and always won, always.) She never drove, but was an expert backseat driver. I take that back, she drove once. She started the car, ran up over the curb and hit a tree stump. My grandfather took the keys away and that was the end of Rubydoll driving.

So you can see why many in my family refer to me as “little Rubydoll”, a title I am quite proud to hold. My husband says it’s like being crowned the PITA queen, but she was a lovable pain. I can only hope to live as long and full of a life.

A few years ago when I blew the dust off my oven and started cooking like a madwoman, I decided to make my dad a birthday cake. Rubydoll made him a coconut cake every year for his birthday. Just like her, this cake is a PITA to make. And in usual Rubydoll fashion, it is more of a pain for those who have to assist in the making of the cake.coconut.jpg

The key to Rubydoll coconut cake is FRESH coconut. Have you ever cracked a fresh coconut? Neither have I. Instead I enlist the help of my not-so-thrilled husband. A few foul words and cut fingers later, I have fresh coconut. The other key ingredient - boiled icing. The sticky stuff spatters all over the stove as you’re mixing, cake.jpgand if you don’t hold your mouth right or if the weather is non-cooperative you may wake up the next day to find the icing has suddenly has disappeared from the cake.

Dad’s birthday was this past Sunday, so in honor of Rubydoll I made him his annual coconut cake. Unfortunately she is no longer here to share her recipe, so here is my adaptation.

Cake - After trying a host of cake recipes, I have settled on Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for Coconut Cupcakes. All other coconut cake recipes pale in comparison. I have used the fresh coconut with this part of the recipe, but think packaged works best (don’t tell Rubydoll, she might just roll over in her grave).

Rubydoll Frosting
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 T light corn syrup
Freshly grated coconut (1 coconut does the trick)

Combine all ingredients except coconut in top of a double boiler. Beat 1 minute to blend, then place over boiling water and beat until stiff peaks form, stirring mixture up from bottom and sides occasionally. Remove from heat. Beat 1 minute more, or until thick enough to spread. Frost cake, then sprinkle generously with grated coconut. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t disappear the next day leaving you with a bare cake surrounded by coconut.

It really is delicious and worth the trouble, plus Rubydoll would be quite proud to know that her tradition is being shared with others (and their unsuspecting coconut-crackers).

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2 Responses to “Just call me Rubydoll”

  1. Sherie Says:

    What a treasure of memories! I, too, love fresh coconut cake and have had some horrifying experiences with the 7-minute frosting it requires (I use the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook). My worst was one year when our girls were young I made it for Easter, complete with green coconut “grass” and jelly bean “eggs” on top. Put it on our cake plate with the glass dome and went shopping for Easter shoes. Came home later that afternoon and all of the frosting had slid right off the cake and down onto the cake plate and oozed up the sides of the glass dome cover. What a mess! Never dawned on me to NOT leave the cake at room temperature on a warm spring day. Lesson learned!

    My mother taught me to use an ice pick to poke holes in the “eyes” of the coconut. Place it over a container and let the milk drain out. Then place the drained coconut on newspapers and hit it with a hammer. That will usually break it into several pieces.

    Thanks for sharing your memories and your version of the recipe.

    P.S. Hope your medicine worked miracles over the weekend and that you are feeling 100% better today.

  2. Judy Smith Says:

    You are lucky to have had and spent time with Rubydoll.

    Making the cake is a very nice way to honor Rubydoll.