Just Ignore the 800 Pound Coconut In the Room

One of the more frustrating moments in any baker’s life must be the phrase “Oh, no thank you, I don’t eat {insert ingredient here}”.  The funny thing about that is we all say it.  I have even said it about things I have baked!  We forgot that the moment we make something so tasty that we surprise ourselves.  We can’t wait to give the bit of yumminess to someone and have the declare us a genius.  You may be thinking that was a highly egotistical statement, but deep in your heart of hearts, you know I am right.  Captain M is my secret cheesecake lover precisely because he declares his affection for me after trying my concoctions.  If you think I am wrong, tell me the last time you baked something and were delighted to have someone take a bite and spit it out into a napkin or watch their eyes slide away as they say they are full and are going to safe it for later.

Unfortunately, some ingredients lend themselves to being turned down.  Coconut seems to be one of them.  I can’t really argue with people, too much coconut reminds me of Coppertone tanning lotion.  Then someone asked me to make German Chocolate Cupcakes for them.  I thought “ugh”, but a gift is a gift.  I used Ina Garten’s recipe for the cupcakes, and they were amazing.  I was not sure the proper way to inform a Contessa (Food Network geek, I know) that her recipe is misnamed.  German Chocolate Cake got its name from the Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate used in the original recipe-which is not used in this one.  It is not a product of Germany (so many Monty Python jokes about coconuts are going through my head right now).  Anyway, after going through the work of making the cupcakes, I was not about to put canned frosting on them.  I did a bit of research and cooked up the Coconut Pecan Frosting myself.  I wanted to make sure I had not created a monster and so tried a taste of the frosting.  All I can say is “WOW!!!!”.  I am converted over to the coconut camp.  The difference between homemade and store bought has never been so clear.  Homemade Coconut Pecan frosting is rich and buttery and delicious and I urge you to ignore the 800 pound coconut in the room and give it a try.  Even if you hate coconut, no especially if you hate coconut.

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Coconut Pecan Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1cup superfine sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) can of evaporated milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (7 ounce) package of flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Directions:

  • A note about the pecans..you can follow the directions from this post, just don’t add the butter or salt.  It is always better to toast and then chop.
  • In a medium saucepan, add the first five ingredients.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.  I stirred until it coated the bamboo spoon I was using.
  • Turn the heat off and add the coconut and pecans.  Stir to combine.
  • Allow frosting to cool to room temperature before apply to cupcakes, but give it a stir every once in a while.

 

Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever

Today I was going to provide a short history of the birthday cake so everyone could win at Jeopardy, but it turns out that cake history is more convoluted than one would suppose.  Where you date the birthday cake back to depends on your definition of cake.  If rounds leavened with yeast and added honey is your idea of a good time, you can thank the ancient Romans, or Greeks or Egyptians (depending on your source).  If making bread dough sweet is enough to tilt you into the cake camp, then shout out a big “danke” to the 15th century Germans.  And if you will only consider the familiar cake you see before you on your birthday to be correct, then you have the Victorians to thank.

Now if you are me, the word thank is not adequate, curse might be a better word.  Let’s not forget…I punched the brownie cake whilst attempting to make chocolate curls and the first envelope cake was covered in a glue-like substance.  I am more likely to be found in the fetal position with too thin frosting dripping down the side of my head than I am producing anything fancy.  That is why the following recipe was such a revolution to me.  The decorating actually turned out right!  The cake is a simple one, found the base recipe in the Taste of Home Baking Book.   It whips together in about 5 minutes.  It produces a cake that is small (you use an 8 inch x 8 inch pan) moist and light at the same time.  It doesn’t even require frosting (hurray for me).  The suggestion was for a light dusting of powdered sugar, you could use a paper doily to make a lace pattern, if you were so inclined.  I had a very tiny stroke of genius and used the plastic stencil from my scrapbooking collection to make a birthday pattern.  So easy and delish, enjoy!

Who knew you could decorate without tears?

Who knew you could decorate without tears?

Easy Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray an 8 inch square baking dish with oil (or grease it)
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  Using a spoon, make three wells in the dry ingredients.  Pour oil into one, vinegar in another and vanilla in the third.  Slowly pour water over all.  Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined.  Batter will be thin.
  • Pour into square baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool completely and then dust with powdered sugar.

 

 

 

Black Bottom Cupcakes

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The stress-0-meter has been hitting the bell lately, and I don’t know a better therapy than baking up treats for everyone.  I usually have the ingredients for this recipe on hand, so black bottom cupcakes it is.  The only problem is that every time I make them, I feel a need to double-check one of the ingredients to make sure I didn’t “oops” while adding it to the file.  I may have finally caught on to the whole concept of reading all the way through an ingredient list before starting a recipe.  It is a novel approach, I know, but I am willing to take a shot.  The odd ingredient in this recipe is vinegar.  It is the only sweet recipe I have made, to date, that calls for vinegar so it always throws me for a loop.

Lucky for me, the Google oracle is only a step or two away from the kitchen.  So that you can understand what happened next, part of my kitchen therapy is music while I work.  I always get “Fat Bottomed Girls” stuck in my head on repeat when I bake black bottom cupcakes.  I was humming away, innocently trying to look up a recipe when I inadvertently combined the song with the recipe and Googled   “Black Bottom Girls”.  This does not get you to any recipe websites, I can assure you.  It does, however, bring up an astounding amount of porn sites-though why any amount of porn should surprise me in this day and age…

Once I got back to the less pervy side of the internet, I verified the vinegar and got started baking.  The first time I made these I wasn’t that impressed with them.  There was something missing, which is strange because these cupcakes have a lot going for them: chocolatey but not too sweet or rich, with a chocolate chip studded cheesecake-like center, light except the center which is dense.  After playing around a bit I tried adding just a dash of cinnamon and it worked out perfectly.  You can’t really taste the cinnamon, but your nose picks it up just enough to bring warmth to the cupcake.  It’s like a hug for your taste buds.  Once again, the portion bandit struck, so while the recipe originally said it made 20-24, I made 17-go figure.  Either way, they turned out grand.  Enjoy!

Black Bottom Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

FILLING:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

CUPCAKES:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt until smooth. Stir in chips; set aside.
  2. For cupcakes, in a large bowl, beat the sugar, water, oil, egg, vinegar, cinnamon and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into egg mixture until blended.
  3. Fill paper-lined muffin cups half full with chocolate batter. Drop a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture in center of batter of each cupcake.
  4. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely. Refrigerate any not eaten right away.

Revenge is Oops

One of the fun things about growing as a cook is when you begin to take several recipes and combine them into a recipe of your own.  I had the base recipe for a raspberry royale cake, but it has been a while since I took a look at it.  The original recipe calls for a buttercream layer that contains an uncooked egg.  Not wanting to get sued for causing any guinea pig to come down with salmonella, small as the danger may be, I went to a different source for my buttercream layer.  I also  took a look at the frosting directions and noted that it called for whipped topping.  Hmmm, me thinks not, so I am making a frothy white frosting from scratch.  Sounds a hell of a lot tastier than non-dairy whipped product doesn’t it?

That last paragraph seems so confident, I am almost afraid to show you a picture of how the cake turned out.  See the cake itself was lovely, the buttercream was amazing, same goes for the raspberry layer…the frothy white frosting looked like I poured glue over the top of my cake.  I am afraid that my frosting suffered the fate of, well, whiskey peak.  To be more perfectly frank, I could not get the frosting to rise to stiff peaks.  I was, regretfully, optimistic that I could glaze the cake with it instead. .  Not a pretty picture. So, if anyone has a fool-proof method for egg-white frosting, please let me know.

Epic Frosting Failure

You may be asking yourself why on earth is this decorated as an envelope.  Please allow me to share the reason for making this cake in the first place.  I have the extreme good fortune of managing a small group of people at my day job.  It may be said that from time to time, they actually take turns managing me, but don’t tell my boss that.  One of these delightful ladies had a birthday this week.  I like to provide a cake to share with the department, and the IS god that fixes all computers in my department (I am not above out and out bribery).  This delightful employee of mine occasionally likes to harass me.  Lately that harassment has taken the form of asking about envelopes, the same question over and over and over…If you are picturing Lennie (Of Mice and Men) asking about the rabbits, you will have a clue as to what my month has been like.  Clearly envelopes are some kind of fetish for her, and I like to help out where ever I can.  Now that I have outed her envelope issue to the world at large, revenge is mine.

The first weird textured cake was disposed of quietly.  The “take:2” version I safely decided to cover with the same buttercream recipe that I used for the center and found on the Savory Sweet Life website.  Thanks a million to Anne Currah for an awesome, hard to mess up frosting.  Enjoy the cake!

Raspberry Royale Cake:

Ingredients:

For the cake:

1 box french vanilla cake mix, plus the added ingredients listed on the box. (You could also use a white or yellow cake mix)

For the buttercream:

1 cup unsalted butter

3-4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Up to 4 tablespoons heavy cream

For the raspberry filling:

2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen raspberries, thawed and undrained

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

Bake the cake according to the box directions, using the 9×13″ cake pan.

While cake is baking, add raspberries, cornstarch and sugar to a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until filling is thick and clear.  (You arm will be tired, but no cheating!)

Allow the cake and the filling to cool to room temperature.

To make the buttercream frosting:  Beat butter for a couple of minutes with a mixer on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer to its slowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.  This will save your black clothes-trust me on this. Turn mixer up to medium speed and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of cream and beat for 3 minutes. Should you need to stiffen up your frosting, add a bit more powdered sugar, if it needs thinning, add another tablespoon of cream.

Cut the top off of the cake.  I use the OCD Julia Child method of measuring about halfway with a ruler and adding a toothpick in a couple of places.  For those of you with more money, I have seen adjustable cake cutters out there for $25.

Spread the buttercream over the first cake layer, then the raspberry filling.  Place the top of the cake back on the raspberry layer and frost the cake.  You may use whipped topping if you like, or more of the awesome buttercream.  Just don’t use the “glue” I did the first time around.

PS A big shout out to my sister, Jessica, for teaching me about the crumb layer.  I would have wept otherwise.

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Sweet Golden Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

It is thanks to my dear, sainted (in case she ever reads this) mother that I have made this recipe in several variations over the years.  Mama love her some pineapple upside-down cake.  I personally feel that adding the possibility of a vitamin getting into my treats takes some of the fun away, but you can’t argue, successfully, with mom.  If my son reads this, I hope he is taking note!

Where were we, oh yes, pineapple upside-down cake….I have tried both from scratch and using a box mix as the base and have had no issues with the box.  Those of you who like simple, feel no shame in using any box of yellow cake mix as a base.  The following recipe is for mini version made in a cupcake tin, and does call for a box mix.  The recipe says it is for 12 cupcakes, but I think they must be using the the monster truck version of a cupcake tin.  When I made it, I had to make another batch of the brown sugar and butter mix and make a half cake for mom to devour at her leisure.  They did turn out amazing, according to the guinea pigs at the restaurant.  They are best served fresh, right out of the oven.  And when the smell hits you, you won’t be able to argue with that advice.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (12 cupcakes):

1/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 (8 ounce) cans of pineapple in juice (you will be using both fruit and juice)

12 maraschino cherries

1 box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

Directions:

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray or grease a standard 12 cup muffin pan.

Reserve 1 cup of juice from cans of pineapple.  Discard any remaining juice-or-top off the juice with a little bit of water if necessary. Cut pineapple slices into quarters.

In a small bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar.  Place a tablespoon of the sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup.  Use a spoon to spread evenly in the bottom of the cup.

Place two pineapple quarters in each cup and a cherry in the center.

In large bowl, beat cake mix, 1 cup pineapple juice, the oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes on high speed. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full with batter.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and cakes spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool cakes in cups 5 to 10 minutes.

Place cookie sheet upside down over each muffin pan; turn cookie sheet and muffin pan over. Remove pan. Serve cakes warm.

Note:  Go ahead an make some more with the extra batter, invite my mother over to assist with getting rid of leftovers.