Some families have menus steeped in tradition. The green beans that Aunt Margaret used to make. The beef tenderloin using Uncle Sal's famous marinade. The yeast rolls that remind everyone of Grandma. But for us, the true family memories are dredged in flour, sugar, icing, and filling. That's right, we live for desserts.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has held a countdown to honor the arrival of the coconut cake (like this gorgeous one from Cooking Light) in our local Alabama bakery. They don't make them year-round--the layers would never stand up to the humidity. When they finally do arrive in the display case, my dad is the first to lineup and wage a one-man eating war to devour as many slices of moist and delicious coconut cake as he can before the end of cake season.

Last year, as a surprise, I decided to try making my own coconut cake to see if I could compete with the bakery and, well, let's put it this way: dad was more than pleased. I was super impressed at how easy the layer cake turned out to be. Everything from making the cream cheese frosting to the lemon filling was simple, even for someone who likes to follow the recipe step-by-step, and therefore very slowly.

Now that I've got one cake-making experience under my belt, let's just say that I'm feeling good about this year's repeat attempt, which is good, because I'm not sure my dad would let me out of it if I tried. After all, it's tradition.

Making your family's desser this year? Turn to our gallery of cake-baking secrets. You'll discover how to make a 5-star cake with a few of our favorite shortcuts to speed the process along.

By Ashley Kappel and Ashley Kappel