Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Maybe Coconut Isn't So Bad?!?

For the longest time I have HATED coconut...I know, hate is a strong word, but the gritty texture and overly sweet flavor have always left me gagging, which has really bummed me out because there is nothing I love more than that beachy scent of coconut flavoring.  At the slightest smell of coconut I am instantly whisked away, in my mind of course, to an island paradise with a mai tai in hand basking in the sun and working on my non-existent tan.

But times, they are a changing!  Slowly, I have been introducing coconut into my life and it all started with these little gems...Girl Scout Samoas Cookies, and according to Little Brownie Bakers that makes me brainy, complex and mysterious! hehehe

Image courtesy of Little Brownie Bakers
and Girl Scouts of America
Seriously though, these cookies are A-MAZ-ING!  I began to wonder, maybe I do like coconut!  But I will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER like Almond Joy or Mounds EVER, EVER, EVER!! YUCK!

Now, if you have already been a long lover of coconut or even a recent convert like me, you will love this recipe by David Lebovitz, which I have adapted to include a huge short cut because let's face it, time is of the essence these days so if you need to cut a few corners to continue to enjoy homemade creations, I say do it!  I have taken a box cake mix from good to great by adding sour cream to make it moist and delicious and chocolate chips to pack a little extra chocolate punch.  You could also cut out the simple syrup step...not really necessary.  I also divided the original recipe between two 6" inch cake pans and 6 cupcakes instead of the two 9" inch cake pans because the cake is for my boss' birthday and the cupcakes are for the hubby (he would never forgive me for leaving him without his favorite dessert).

German Chocolate Cake (4 layers - 6")

German Chocolate Cake & Cupcakes!

Makes 2 – 6” cakes and 6 cupcakes or 2 – 9” cakes

For the cake:
1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted

For the syrup: (I did use this, but I may not next time - maybe too moist)
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum

For the chocolate icing: (Flavor is to die for!!)
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ ounces unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

1.    Butter two 6-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or dust with cocoa powder. Line 6 cupcake/muffin tins with cupcake liners.  (Or butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or dust with cocoa powder) Preheat the oven to 350°.

2.    Mix the cake baker according to the directions on the box and add in the sour cream.

3.    Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans and cupcake tin, smooth the tops, and bake for:

  • About 28 minutes for 6” cakes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • About 19 minutes for the cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  •  About 45 minutes for 9” cakes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cake layers and cupcakes completely.
While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling:
1.    Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.

2.    Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)

3.    Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

To make the syrup:
1.    In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.

To make the icing:
1.    Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.
2.    Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.

To assemble the cake:
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.
Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread some of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.
Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer and spreading the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.
Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

To assemble the cupcakes:
Using a paring knife remove a portion of the center of each cupcake and fill the holes with a generous amount of the coconut filling creating a mound in the center of the cupcake.  Then, pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

Please enjoy and left me know if you try this out or how you feel about coconut!

Happy Baking,

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Customize Your Kitchenaid!!

Check out my BEAUTIFUL, ONE OF A KIND, and OUT OF THIS WORLD Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, which was previously just a simple white, but has been transformed by Casey at Headcase Kustom Art to a stunning shade of purple with sparkly metal flake, silver leaf and lavender pinstriping adorned with my blog name.   I am floored by his work and couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  Now and forever I will have a working work of art that I will happily pass down to my future little baker(s).
Paint by Headcase Kustom Art
Paint by Headcase Kustom Art
He works with customers all across the country (USA) and can work with you to create a piece that you will love and cherish for a very reasonable price.  You can check out his other works on his Instagram page or his website or you can contact him directly at headcase_220@yahoo.com

Happy Baking!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Honey Graham Cracker Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

Honey Graham Cracker Cake
with Toasted Meringue Frosting
If you haven't heard about Food52.com by now, please, let me introduce you to an amazing site for all things sweet and savory.  A real foodie's happy place with articles, recipes and contests.  I often daydream about working there and developing and testing recipes all day, but since their offices are on the other side of the country I guess I will just have to continue to daydream...boo hoo!

Anyways, I digress, recently I found a terrific article by Posie Harwood that made me drool instantly. She discovered an old recipe from Nabisco that used graham crackers in place of AP flour to make a deliciously moist cake that actually tastes just like graham crackers!!  I was so excited and I knew right away I wanted to make a cake reminiscent of campfire s'mores and this is what I came up with and it was so easy! A Honey Graham Cracker cake with Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding filling and toasted Swiss Meringue frosting, which is Sweetapolita's Swiss Meringue Buttercream without the butter...yum!

Graham Cracker Cake
Adapted from Food52.com
·         1/2 cup all-purpose flour
·         1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
·         2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
·         3/4 cup sugar
·         eggs
·         teaspoon vanilla extract
·         3/4 cup milk
1.      Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
2.      In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder and set aside.
3.      In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
4.      Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.
5.      Mix in the vanilla.
6.      Add the flour mixture and the milk a little bit at a time, alternating between each. Mix thoroughly but be careful not to overbeat.
7.      Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans. Bake for about 25 minutes (or until golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pans).
8.      Cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling.
Honey Graham Cracker Cake Mise en Place
Chocolate Pudding Filling
Adapted from Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding
·         1 - 3.9 oz box Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding
·         cups cold milk
1.      Beat together pudding mix and cold milk for about 2 minutes (pudding will be soft set)
2.      Refrigerate until ready to use as filling
     **NOTE: One box makes way more filling than you need so you will have extra for dessert or a sweet snack!
Chocolate Pudding Filling
Swiss Meringue
·        5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g)
·        1 ¼ cups (250 g) sugar
·        2 tsp vanilla
·        Pinch of salt
1.      Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with a paper towel and lemon juice to remove any trace of grease.  Add egg whites and sugar and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly, but gently until the temperature reaches 140°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.  Remove from the heat.
2.      With the whisk attachment of the mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (about 10 minutes of whipping).
3.      Add the vanilla and salt and whip until incorporated...that’s it!!
Whipping & Toasting
of the Swiss Meringue
TO ASSEMBLE: Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand and pipe a ring or dam of meringue around the edge of the cake to keep your pudding filling from spilling out.  Then, fill the inside of the the piping ring with your chocolate pudding.  Take the second cake layer and carefully place it on top of the first layer.  Then, using an offset spatula slather the remaining meringue all over the cake using short strokes to create waves and peaks.  Lastly, and this is the fun part, using a small kitchen torch start toasting the meringue, but be careful because the meringue can easily burn.

I was a little nervous that the cake would turn out dry from the graham cracker crumbs, but it was so moist and light.  Posie Harwood was so right!  Plus, the chocolate pudding added the perfect amount of moisture to the center of the cake while the meringue frosting was like a sweet cloud that tasted just like toasted marshmallows.  A perfect cake to take to a potluck or to keep for yourself!  Give this recipe a try and I promise you will not be disappointed!!
Moist, Tender & Toasty!
Happy Baking!!