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do-nothing cake


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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 17.5


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Step 1

Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan (we prefer a light-colored metal baking pan for this cake) with cooking spray.

Step 2

Make the cake: Place 2 cups bleached flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until lump-free. Add the can of crushed pineapple, 2 large eggs, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Whisk to blend well. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake on the upper rack until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Step 3

While the cake is baking, place 1 cup chopped pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. During the last 10 minutes of baking time, toast the pecans on the rack below the cake, which will take 5 to 7 minutes. You may need to open the oven quickly a time or two to shake the pan to keep the pecans from burning.

Step 4

When the cake is done and the nuts toasted, remove both pans from the oven. Set the cake on a wire rack while you make the topping.

Step 5

Make the topping: Cut 1 stick butter into a few pieces. Place in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar, 2/3 cup evaporated milk, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and bring to a full boil, all the way to the center of the pot. Continue to boil for 3 minutes more, until slightly thickened.

Step 6

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in about three-quarters of the toasted pecans and 1 cup lightly packed sweetened shredded coconut.

Step 7

Using a wooden skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the surface of the cake that go most of the way through the cake (but don't hit the bottom) and are about 1 inch apart (the skewer may get a bit sticky with moist cake crumbs — just wipe it off as needed). Spread the hot topping over the hot cake and smooth gently. Sprinkle over the remaining pecans. Let cool and set completely before slicing and serving, at least 2 hours.