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Catholic Recipe: Coconut Islands


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 squares (3 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup hot strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, divided
  • Chocolate Frosting (see recipe)


Yield: 3 1/2 dozen

Prep Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: N/A

Cost: n/a

For Ages:n/a



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The time was December, 1953. The huge ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was converted into the scene of action for the Pillsbury Annual Bake-Off. One hundred electric ranges were in operation, each manned by a finalist in the recipe contest. Working quietly at one of these ranges was a nun from Maryknoll Sister Maria Jose. She was making her Coconut Islands for the judges to test. Even if she didn't win a money prize, the convent would have a brand-new General Electric range, washing machine, and mixer! At last her deft fingers completed their task, and the cookies were carried away to the judges — judges who were completely unaware of the contestants' identities except as numbers on the entries. It was a hard contest to judge, and it took time — lots of time — for the judges to make their decisions. But when it was all over, and the winners announced the next day on a televised program, Sister Maria Jose learned that she had won third place — $2,500 and the range, washing machine, and mixer for her convent! Her prize-winning recipe, and others contributed by Maryknoll Sisters, follow.


Mix and sift flour, salt, and baking soda. Combine chocolate and coffee in small saucepan; stir over low heat until chocolate is melted and blended with coffee; cool. Cream shortening; add brown sugar gradually creaming well after each addition. Add egg; beat well. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture. Add sour cream alternately with dry ingredients. Mix until well blended. Stir in 1/3 cup coconut. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheets, well apart. Bake at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes. Frost while warm with Chocolate Frosting (see recipe); sprinkle with remaining coconut. Makes about 3-1/2 dozen "islands."

Recipe Source: Cook's Blessings, The by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965