Casper, the Fresh Coconut Cake

don't you want to lick it?

This cake is reserved for coconut enthusiasts and very special occasions. I say that because it is a major project that requires some serious love and determination. However, it is THE MOST AMAZING coconut cake that I have ever tasted! So, if you are up for an adventurous day of baking, this recipe is definitely worthwhile.

I saw Alton Brown prepare this cake on Good Eats a few months ago and at that time decided to make it for John’s birthday. My friend Jolene came to visit for John’s birthday weekend (it was her birthday too) and wasn’t surprised when I mentioned that I had all the ingredients and plans to make a coconut cake from fresh coconuts. She knows me well and during the labor of love mentioned that she actually expected that we would be baking something unique and challenging.

That morning, we woke up and immediately got to work. We drilled, drained, baked, cracked, peeled, sliced, shredded, soaked, and toasted coconut. We frequently stopped for a moment to indulge in the amazing smells and tastes of the fresh coconut. What an incredible food! Jolene and I took a short break for lunch and then continued our baking. It was 7pm by the time we threw the toasted coconut on the frosted cake and marveled at our beautiful creation. So beautiful and laborious that we decided it deserved a name, and Casper seemed appropriate.

Fortunately, we had an eager group of brunch eaters join us the next day to celebrate John’s birthday and indulge in this decadent cake. It was really fun to share the cake and talk about the process. If you have the time and energy to make this cake one day, just once, you won’t regret it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lovely Lemon Poppyseed Cranberry Muffins

These muffins rock! They are packed with delicious lemon flavor, sweet dried cranberries, and crunchy poppy seeds. On top of that they are light, fluffy, vegan, and easy to make! What more could you ask for on a Sunday morning? I like to prepare these the night before and then pop them in the oven when I wake up. I love the lemony aroma that fills the house!

I based this recipe on one of Sarah Kramer’s called “Hayley’s Lemon Cranberry Muffins.” This recipe yields 11 muffins. I’ve tried to make it yield 12, but they come out too short for my liking. If you don’t have vegan margarine, you can substitute vegetable oil.

For the Muffins:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 3 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup soymilk
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)

To Make the Muffins:

  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.
  3. Whisk together the flour, cranberries, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, set aside.
  4. Whisk together the margerine (or oil), sugar, apple sauce, soymilk, and lemon extract.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  6. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, until 2/3 full.
  7. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top (or omit if you like your muffins less sweet).
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Sweet Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Mmmmmm, cinnnnnnammmmonnnn rolllllssss. I have always loved cinnamon rolls… cinnamon, sugar, nuts and sweet dough rolled into pretty buns. I found this recipe in Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” This is the first time I have made cinnamon rolls from scratch. Even though I have thought about making them for a long time, I was hesistant to commit to the total preperation and baking time of 4 hours. Who wants to get up 4 hours before eating breakfast?

I was going to prepare them and then refrigerate the dough overnight, but I got antsy and just had to cook them up for dessert (with leftovers for breakfast the next day). I have included instructions in the recipe for refrigerating the prepared dough overnight so you can have them fresh in the morning without having to wake up at the crack of dawn.

Even though this recipe takes hours to be ready, most of that time is allowing the dough to rise. The actual work involved is pretty minimal. I made mine with the walnuts rolled up inside the dough, but I think it would be better with the nuts on top of the buns, so I have indicated that method in this recipe.

This recipe yeilds 14 sticky buns. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chilean Sopaipillas Pasadas

My family recently adventured to Chile for a short vacation where they enjoyed eating delicious food at every opportunity. Unfortunately, I was unable to join them as I had just recently moved and everything was just a little chaotic. But, I was able to join in the fun of creating a Chilean dinner for Christmas this year!

My mom and sister prepared the bulk of the meal- since they have actually experienced the food and I had not, they felt I was less qualified to prepare the main dishes. So, I got pushed to dessert, which is fine by me! I’d choose dessert any day!

That being said, I actually had a difficult time finding a Chilean dessert recipe that sounded remotely interesting or good. There were also many variations of recipes with the same name which made it hard to choose. I finally narrowed it down and combined recipes from gosouthamerica.com and celtnet.com for Sopaipillas, a fried dough made from squash and served with a dark syrup called Chanaca. I added powdered sugar on top for presentation.

I couldn’t help but think of breakfast food when I took my first bite… I think it was the syrup and slightly sweet and thin pastry that reminded me of a cross between a donut and a crepe and a pancake. Nevertheless, it was quite tasty- even the overstuffed family, recently returned from Chile, approved.

This recipe makes about 8 small servings. They are quite rich, so I prepared them pretty small, but I’ve seen pictures of them larger. Also, I chose to cut the dough in squares with a pizza wheel instead of cutting circles (the traditional way) because it is recommended to not patch or re-roll the dough and I didn’t want to be wasteful! Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy Petite Chocolate Cakes

The other night, around 10:30pm, I had a sudden and severe chocolate cake craving. But, I wasn’t feeling like doing a lot of work, making a mess of my kitchen, and eating the cake at 2:00am. And going to the store was definitely out of the question. So, I browsed my cookbooks for something simple and quick to satisfy my craving.

Fortunately, a recipe from Petrossian Boutique and Cafe in the New York Times Dessert Cookbook was just what I was looking for. I had all the ingredients on hand, it was easy to prepare, and it didn’t yield a massive dessert. The only thing I changed was to add chocolate chips to the batter and to cook the cakes for longer so they weren’t gooey in the middle.

This recipe would be perfect for a small dinner party because it makes four small and cute individual cakes. These little cakes bake up in no time, will satisfy the chocolate lover, and are very versatile. I made mine plain, but you could add a dollup of whipped cream on top, ice cream, frosting, chocolate glaze, or even a berry sauce.

I think this just might be the easiest recipe that I’ve posted on my blog so far! Read the rest of this entry »

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Sweet and Tart Coffee Cake

My friend Laurie is so kind as to share her many successful cooking and baking experiences with me. When I don’t have the book with the recipe she used, she goes to the trouble of typing it up and emailing it to me. I am so grateful!

So, as you may have guessed, Laurie sent me this recipe after she made it over the holidays. It is based on a recipe published in the San Jose Mercury News in an article by Liz Scott. I love the balance of the sweet almond flavor with the slightly tart fresh cranberries in this recipe. It makes for quite a unique coffee cake! Read the rest of this entry »

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Ruga-Ruga-Rugalach

I’ve always fancied these mini rolled up pastry-like cookies called rugulach. Although, I never knew how to pronounce them. To myself, I called them roo-gaa-lash, but man I must have sounded like such a hick! They are to be pronounced ru-gu-luhk (or something like that). I’m just glad I don’t have to be able to pronounce the things to blog about them!

The traditional rugalach recipe is made with cinnamon and sugar and sometimes raisins and nuts. I wanted to try something a bit different, so I found a recipe called Golden Rugalach on the Food Network’s website. I made the dough ahead of time and froze it, so all I had to do was remove it from the freezer, slice and bake to have warm delicious cookies anytime!

These cookies are so cozy and warming. They are soft and sweet with a little bit of crunch around the edges. They are also fantastic with tea!

This recipe makes 50 2 1/2 inch rugalach. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brrrandy Balls

Our neighbor gave us some cherry brandy when we moved in as a house warming gift. Hmmm, what to do with cherry brandy? A booze ball of sorts seemed in order for the season. And, I am a big fan of all things chocolately, so I found a recipe that met both requirements. These are super duper easy to make and they are quite warming on a brrrrr winter day!

I rolled the balls small, about 1 inch each, and came out with 78 of them. I rolled some of mine in powdered sugar and some of them in crushed pecans, but I prefer the taste and look of the powdered sugar, so that’s what I indicated in the recipe below. I couldn’t find plain chocolate wafers, so I bought Newman’s O’s and removed the filling. I got this recipe from the good ol’ reliable Food Network. Read the rest of this entry »

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Baby Raspberry French Macaroons

Until recently, I only knew a macaroon to be a big chewy coconut cookie. However, I discovered a very different type of macaroon when my friend Jojo took us to a bakery in San Francisco called Miette. What they called a macaroon looked to me a lot like a meringue. I have never been fond of meringue, so I wasn’t attracted to these cookies. But, the friendly lady behind the counter offered me one to sample. Oh boy! These were no puffy air-filled balls of sugar! They had a chewy almondy texture and a rich flavor. And the bakery had so many different types to choose from! Besides tasting good, these little treats were sooooo cute that I was determined to make some for myself.

In doing research on the french macaroon, I learned how finicky the batter is and how easy they are to mess up. I also learned about an italian method which involves heating the ingredients before baking them. I read that the french method is easier to learn, so I went with that. They are actually pretty easy to make if you take your time and pay attention to the details. They have remarkably few ingredients and don’t take long to assemble.

I decided to go basic with my first recipe and found a plain macaroon shell with a raspberry white chocolate filling recipe in Desserts Magazine. These cookies turned out to be really cute, but a little too sweet for my taste buds. Both the cookie and the filling were a little on the sweet side. They also didn’t taste as almondy as I would have hoped. So, if you like sweet meringue and sweet berry filling, this recipe is a good one. They turned out beautifully and so adorable! I think I’ll keep searching though for that amazing confection made by Miette.

This recipe makes approximately 50 1 1/2 inch macaroons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gingery Stars & Snowflakes with Frosty Icing

Q. What’s better than watching snowflakes fall? A. Eating them! Especially if they aren’t made from frozen water, but instead from gingery spicy cookie dough and sweet smooth icing. Yum! I absolutely love anything with ginger in it and ginger and molasses are an amazing combination! What’s even better is that these cookies are so easy to make and so fun to decorate.

I made tiny stars and snowflakes (about 2 inches) so my recipe yielded almost 250 cookies… yikes! Although this is good if you plan to give them as gifts for the holidays (as I plan to). If you like your cookies soft, you should roll them thicker and bake them for less time. And if you like your cookies crispy, do just the opposite. I also decorated mine with sugar crystals and round white sprinkles, but the sky is really the limit for decorating, so be creative!

I found the cookie recipe in Gourmet Magazine and the icing recipe on the Food Network’s website. Read the rest of this entry »

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