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White Elephant Cake with Buttercream Frosting

['3 1/2 cups flour', '5 teaspoons baking powder', '1/2 teaspoon salt', '16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened', '2 cups sugar', '4 eggs', '1/3 cup canned coconut milk', '2 teaspoons vanilla extract', '2 cups sugar', '6 egg whites', '1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar', 'A pinch of salt', '1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature', '1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract']

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the coconut milk and the flour mixture alternately, ending with the flour mixture, and continuing to beat well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
2. Divide the batter evenly among 3 lightly buttered and floured 8-inch square pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan, then invert onto cooling racks.
3. To create a 4-tiered cake, cut a 2-inch, 4-inch, and 6-inch square out of 2 of the cakes. Using sturdy cardboard, cut precise squares of the same dimensions. Place the cut cakes on the corresponding cardboard squares (they will serve as bases).
4. Insert 4 heavy-duty plastic straws, cut to 6-inch lengths, into the center of the remaining 8-inch cake, forming a square (they will act as the support for the 6-inch cake). Place the 6-inch cake on top of the 8-inch cake. Repeat this process with four more straws on the 6-inch cake, then place the 4-inch cake on top. Repeat the procedure for the 2-inch cake.
1. Cream the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy; set aside.
2. Combine 2/3 cup water and the sugar in a heavy saucepan. Heat until the liquid reaches the soft-ball stage, 240°F on a candy thermometer. Watch carefully; do not let the sugar syrup overheat.
3. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until very stiff peaks form. Continue beating on high speed as you slowly pour in 1/4 cup of the sugar syrup. Gradually add the rest of the syrup using the same method.
4. Continue beating as you add the butter, several tablespoons at a time. (Make sure the mixture has no heat left in it or the butter will melt). The frosting should become thick and creamy. If it doesn't thicken, cool it over a bowl of ice, then try beating again. Stir in the vanilla. Frost the cake and adorn it with elephant cookies ($8 to $12 each,

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