When it comes to Southern culture, there's one queen I can always trust: Dolly Parton. Everyone loves Dolly. So it makes sense that a cake line from Duncan Hines made in tandem with Parton herself would be nothing less than decadent, delicious, and unmistakably Dolly. I knew I wanted to try her creations as soon as possible when I found out about the line, which includes both a coconut and banana cake as well as cans of frosting to match.
Unfortunately, ever since the line launched, it's been quite difficult both to track down Dolly's cake and frosting, whether online or in-store. But the desire to try such a fun surprise from the "Jolene" singer herself was so strong, I persevered and searched several stores in my area to track down a single box.
I finally found success with a box of Duncan Hines Dolly Parton's Coconut Cake Mix, and I set out with one goal: make the cake, taste it, and report back with my findings. Was it everything I had hoped it would be? In a word, yes. And now you're going to take a culinary trip back to Tennessee with me to try one of Dolly's favorite confections: her special coconut cake.
How to Make Dolly Parton's Favorite Coconut Cake
- 1 package Duncan Hines Dolly Parton's Coconut Cake Mix
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 4 eggs
- 1 container Duncan Hines Dolly Parton's Creamy Buttercream Frosting
- 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
- baking spray
There are two recipes on the box: Dolly Parton's "Favorite" Coconut Cake on the back, and then a more simplified set of instructions on the side. Dolly's favorite called for two 8-inch round pans for two layers of cake, but I planned on making a more basic cake in a 9 x 13 pan and sharing the leftovers with my family. Also, for my version of Dolly's cake, I used a disposable cake pan, which is my go-to when baking cakes I will be transporting. If you plan on making this cake, you'll want to make sure you have the right pans on hand, or you can skip the additional layers entirely. I found that it tasted just as great with a single layer!
After spraying my 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees to start the process, and started working on mixing the cake batter, combining four eggs, milk, and butter. No vegetable oil required, which I found odd. Instead, to my surprise, this cake needed a half cup of melted butter. It may not sound like a lot, but that's an entire stick of butter. If you're worried about heart-healthy cooking you probably wouldn't be in the market for a cake with Dolly Parton's name on it or any inkling of Southern cooking, but be advised that the butter requirement is a little much. It amounts to a great-tasting cake, but you can probably do with a little less or use a butter equivalent instead.
The batter was smooth and easy to combine. I know the packaging says not to try the batter, but I'm a rule-breaker and I did it anyway. It was pleasant, smooth, and very buttery. It tasted like pancake batter rather than cake, with a light coconut flavor. There are no coconut pieces in the batter, if you're wondering (That all comes with the coconut flakes you add at the end of the process). Instead of using a mixer, since I don't have room for one in my small apartment, I hand-mixed the batter until it was smooth without any lumps, and used a whisk to keep it airy. Once it had reached a consistency I was happy with, I poured it all into the 9 x 13 pan I had previously greased up with cooking spray. Then I put the cake in the oven to let it bake for 28 minutes.
When time was up, my toothpick test revealed the cake was indeed done. I let it cool for some time and removed it to place in the fridge for accelerated cooling. To my surprise, a small area quickly began to deflate, leaving me with an unsightly dent in an otherwise great-looking cake. I rarely have this issue when baking cakes, and I would have liked to have redone it for the purpose of aesthetics, but I only had one mix - so please forgive the dent! I can promise you it didn't affect the flavor at all.
Finally, it was time to frost the cake. After letting it chill for about two hours, I went to work and spread the frosting all over the top of the cake, opting to add the sweetened coconut flakes at the end. It wasn't meant to look good, I just wanted to cover the entire surface of the cake with frosting so the flakes would stick. My father and grandmother love coconut flakes, so I wanted to make sure there were plenty on there in the spirit of Dolly's recipe.
Unfortunately, I couldn't track down a can of the official Duncan Hines Dolly Parton Buttercream that the recipe called for anywhere near me. Everything was sold out, and as it turns out, it was difficult enough to find a suitable replacement. I was lucky enough to find the cake mix! Instead, I used a can of Betty Crocker Whipped Buttercream Frosting. I can't imagine there was too much of a difference between Dolly's frosting and the substitute I used, as it was still a very rich, decadent frosting that tasted great with the coconut cake.
When I was satisfied with the frosting, I sprinkled the sweetened coconut flakes all over the surface of the cake. The result reminded me of a snow-covered surface in the winter, which I found cozy and vaguely Dolly-like. And with the addition of the coconut, that marked the cake's completion!
The most important part came next: tasting. I cut a square of the cake and dug in. The flavor profile? Extremely mild, with a strong butter flavor and a hint of coconut below the rich icing and flakes. If you didn't add the coconut, you might be hard-pressed to say this is a coconut cake! Instead, I got a pancake-like flavor with a moist profile. It was extremely soft and delicate, and bites with frosting and coconut flakes were incredibly complementary. It was sweet yet unassuming. Buttery yet sweet. Like a coconut-tinged cornbread with vanilla frosting. I loved every single bite.
Does Dolly know what she's doing when it comes to cakes? Absolutely. This was an extremely simple recipe that I loved baking and testing, and even as someone who prefers less coconut to more, I found myself grabbing a second and third slice before handing the cake off to my family. I'm eager to try the banana cake next, but this one might become a permanent addition to my dessert rotation. You might say I will always love this cake.