Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes + Spokane Wrap-Up

So, Spokane was really really great.  Basically I got home and crashed and didn't get up for a week.  Also, it was my birthday week, so I was extra lenient about time off.  But it was wonderful to meet so many supportive and fantastic people!  I sold a bunch of stuff, and took a lot of orders which I will be cranking out this week.  I think one of my favorite highlights from the trip was the spontaneous purse party at the P.I. wherein I sold two purses while perched on a barstool.  And when I say "I," I really mean my friends and rockstar sales team Katie and Brian.  Thanks guys!

And now the birthday part.  We did the annual backyard party, which works great since my birthday falls on or near enough Memorial Day weekend.  And this year I decided to try one of my grandma's recipes I discovered a few weeks ago in my mom's stash.  My grandma, who passed away several years ago, was an incredible home cook.  I still dream about her potato salad.  So when I found this recipe for coconut cake, I knew it was going to be this years' birthday dessert.

Candied Coconut Garnish=Deliciousness!

Grandma Aldridge's Coconut Cupcakes

A few notes on my tactics:  First, I haven't consumed a ton of coconut cake in my lifetime, but this seemed pretty mild on the coconut scale.  I even won over a few devout coconut-haters!  Second, since it was a backyard party, I turned it into cupcakes.  Third: her recipe calls for fresh coconut, which is a legitimate hassle, but kind of a fun one.  I went for the caveman approach and split it by whacking it on the back sidewalk.  Classy!  After prying chunks of the meat out of the husk, I trimmed off the brown skin on its backside with a paring knife before shredding it on a cheese grater.  And finally, fresh coconut isn't sweet like that angel stuff you buy in the grocery aisle, so I candied some for garnish.  Which was DELICIOUS.  Instructions for that follows the recipe.

Grandma Aldridge's Coconut Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coconut milk
1 coconut's worth of freshly grated coconut, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two round cake pans with baking spray and flour or parchment paper (or line 24 cupcake tins with papers).  Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.  Scrape into a separate bowl and rinse out the bowl of the mixer.  In the mixer bowl, combine butter, confectioners' sugar, and egg yolks.  Beat until smooth.  Add a third of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat until smooth.  Add a third of the coconut milk to the bowl, and beat until smooth.  Continue until all of the flour mixture and coconut milk are combined with the butter mixture and the batter is smooth.  Fold in the egg whites.  Spread batter into prepared pans.  Sprinkle about half the coconut over the batter and bake until top springs back when gently pressed, about 30 minutes for rounds, 15-20 minutes for cupcakes.  Cool completely before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting

6 heaping tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk.  Continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency.  Cool completely.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the pudding base, butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat until very thick and fluffy.  (If the frosting "breaks" or starts to look like cottage cheese and makes you cry, this means the butter was too cold when you added it.  It's ok!  Soak a couple of clean towel, wring them out, and microwave 2 minutes or until steaming.  Wrap these around the base of your bowl to warm things up, whisking by hand until it starts to come back together.  Then you can return the bowl to the mixer and beat until it's fluffy.  I'm speaking from experience.)

Candied Coconut

Reserved half a coconut's worth of grated or finely chopped coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar

In a saute pan, combine the coconut and about half a cup of the sugar.  Turn heat to medium, and stir until the sugar melts and the coconut just barely starts to brown.  Stir constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula while you do this to keep anything from burning.  When the coconut starts to brown, scrap the mess out onto a sheet of parchment paper.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the coconut and toss to coat.  Allow to cool completely before garnishing the cake.

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