Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

Real-deal buttercream icing, which you don't see much of these days!  This recipe makes 9 1/2 cups, and Alicia made a triple batch, two without coconut for the cake's exterior, and one with coconut for between the layers.   It was way more than enough and we were swimming in leftover icing!

2 1/2 cups of sugar
10 egg whites
8 sticks of room-temperature unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pats
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp imitation coconut extract, optional
1 cup of shredded coconut, optional 

Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a correspondingly sized saucepan of simmering water.  Keeping the water temperature at no more than a gentle simmer, whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar warms up and dissolves.

Take the bowl off the pan of water and beat the mixture on medium high until it's fluffy and stiff peaks form when you stop the beaters and pull them out of the mixture momentarily.  This should take about 10 minutes.

Lower the beater speed and begin tossing in the individual butter pats, mixing each one in well before adding the next.  Finally, add the vanilla and the coconut and coconut flavoring (if using).  You're ready to ice!

Note:  this icing gets rock hard when refrigerated, since it's mostly butter and all.  Bringing it to room temperature will make icing your cake much easier. 

You've got your cake layers baked.  You've got your icing all finished.    It's time at last to assemble that cake!