"My mother-in-law gave me this recipe when her son and I got married. It comes out great every time, even with minimal cake-baking experience! People who don't like coconut and cream cheese both have commented how surprised they are that they love this cake!"
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and line with waxed paper.
Mix flour and baking soda together in a small bowl.
Beat 1/2 cup butter and lard together in a bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar; beat until smooth. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beating batter briefly after each addition.
Fold 1 cup pecans, coconut, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract into the batter.
Beat egg whites with clean beaters in a glass, metal, or ceramic bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Divide batter among prepared pans.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in pans, about 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks; let cool completely, 25 to 30 minutes.
Beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract; beat frosting until smooth.
Spread a thin layer of frosting between cooled cake layers. Frost sides and top of cake. Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans on top.