A Long Awaited Coconut Cake

COCONUT CAKE! COCONUT CAKE! COCONUT CAKE!

That is just about all I have heard for the past couple of months when I asked Greg what I should bake. I know how much he loves his mom’s coconut cake, and I knew it was only a matter of time until I had to make one for the boy too. Normally when I see a recipe that I don’t have a few ingredients for already, it slips lower and lower on my list of things to make. And I’m not talking about needing chicken or flour. I’m talking about the lesser used ingredients like coconut milk, coconut extract and cream. 
Well, I gave in.
I actually think this is the first cake I have ever baked completely from scratch. Not including cupcakes obviously! After baking the cake batter evenly in two 9-inch round pans, you have to cut across the top of one half to even it out for layering. Of course I was not about to let that rounded top go to waste. So Greg and I got a sneak preview of what was in store for the final product. As much as I LOVE frosting, this cake doesn’t even need it. The cake itself was the star of the show. I just about ate the entire “top” of one of the cakes in a matter of minutes.
But I didn’t. Aren’t you proud of me?
I was only saving it for later. 
The second dinner was over, we dug into that cake like it was our last day on earth. 
It’s not pictured here, but we topped our slices off with some chopped pecans straight off the tree! We had gone on a walk before dinner and carried some of the nuts home with us. It was all Greg’s idea and I was pleasantly surprised with the look and taste of the pecans sprinkled on top. Something I will definitely remember for the future. 
Coconut Cream Cake
(Cake adapted from the Food Network’s Alton Brown)
Makes 10-12 servings
Ingredients:
For the cake-
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup half and half (I used fat free)
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
4 egg whites
1 cup shredded coconut, for topping
For the frosting-
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
2 egg whites
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
For the cake-
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a small bowl, stir together coconut milk and half and half.
4. In the bowl of a stand alone mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and continue to mix until light and fluffy. Add coconut extract and mix for an addition minute.
5. Turn the mixer on low speed and gradually add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture until just combined.
6. In a separate medium bowl, add egg whites. Beat with hand mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold this mixture into the batter.
7. Pour batter into the two cake pans evenly. 
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake becomes a golden color and separates from edges of pan.
9. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. To allow for easy layering, lay butcher’s knife flat on it’s side on the top of one of the cakes. Slice straight across the top to remove the rounded top. 
10. Continue to allow cakes to cool completely before frosting. 
For the frosting-
1. Combine sugar, cream of tartar, salt, egg whites and water in the top bowl of a double broiler. Place over boiling water and beat with hand mixer for about five minutes on medium speed.
2. Add vanilla and coconut extract and beat another minute until completely combined.
3. Remove from heat and let cool 5-10 minutes before spreading onto cake.

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CInnamon Oatmeal Cake

Breakfast is my favorite meal. Maybe not necessarily breakfast itself, but mostly I mean breakfast foods.  Don’t get me wrong, I love waking up in the morning and breaking my fast with a big bowl of cereal or oatmeal and some fresh fruit. And we all know my obsession with pancakessee?
But honestly, the best time to have these richer, more sugary ‘breakfast’ foods like pancakes is for dinner. I crave pancakes more for dinner than I ever do at normal breakfast hours.

When it comes to these oatmeal cakes, the best time is for dessert! Oatmeal cakes are not rich or even too sugary. In fact, they are are hardly high in calories at all and contain a lot (I could be exaggerating by saying a lot….maybe just a couple) of healthful ingredients. They make a great dessert without having to feel too guilty.

It could be easy to get carried away with these and add all kinds of mix-ins. Chocolate chips, raisins, peanut butter or icing (like I chose), can add lots of calories quicker than you can say, “GimmeMore!” (while channeling your inner Britney Spears). I recommend just picking one extra ingredient to go crazy with. The cinnamon-y oatmeal is filling enough that you really don’t even need extras. But frosting is my weakness.
I may or may not eat by the spoonful straight from the jar. But who doesn’t?
Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake
Makes 1 cake
Ingredients:
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 packet of Splenda (or another choice of sweetener)
1/4 cup reduced sugar applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
Dash of salt
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (for topping)
1 tablespoon cream cheese frosting (I used Pillsbury)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line one well of muffin tin and fill the other wells 2/3 full with water. 
2. In a small/medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Whisk together until just combined. Pour into muffin well. 
3. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Remove from heat and top with brown sugar and cream cheese frosting. 

Spontaneous Sushi at Umi

About half way through the day yesterday, I was talking to Greg and we both agreed it was not the best of days. Work was taking its toll on us. No particular reason, it was just one of those days. Anyway, I was already thinking about what dinner would be and thinking how I had no desire to cook whatsoever.

Date night!

I really wasn’t planning on spending more money on food this week…we’ve been grocery shopping so much recently. But there was no way I was going to cook.
Greg and I met up after work and he left it up to me to decide where to go. Knowing how indecisive I am, you can imagine how long it took me to choose. Even after I said I wanted to fulfill my sudden (as in the last couple of weeks) craving for sushi and picked a place, I kept naming other restaurants until the moment we parked the car. Like I said, I’ve been wanting to try sushi. I tried a bite a couple of years ago and didn’t hate it, but wanted to give it another go.
UrbanSpoon helped us choose the right place: Umi Japanese Restaurant.
I wasn’t expecting much, but the atmosphere was much nicer than expected. Not a five star restaurant by any means, but definitely not the standard Asian take-out place. The lights were dim and there were booths along the wall for semi-private seating. We were seated right away and checked out the menu. Greg already knew he wanted hibachi chicken. It took me just a few minutes longer to choose what sushi I would try for my first real experience.
I went with the Spicy Shrimp and Cucumber. As always with my restaurant photography, this doesn’t look nearly as pretty as it did in person. And that’s actually a white sauce on top, not yellow.

 

I also ordered a side of vegetables. Yes, that is their “side” portion. Enormous. Half of that will be my lunch today.
I did like the sushi, but I think I am ready to turn it up a notch and not get something so mild next time. It wasn’t the least bit spicy for me. Maybe spicy in terms of sushi means something different? I don’t know. Either way, I am excited to join the sushi-eating world and try new kinds. One of the other types of rolls that appealed to me was the Philly with salmon, cream cheese and cucumber. Yum.
The service was extremely fast and our total was right around $20. For a good meal and pleasant atmosphere, it doesn’t get too much better.
Until this…
Menchie’s just happened to conveniently be right on the way home. With the BOGO coupon that came in the mail last week, Greg and I both got bowls of froyo for $2.09!!
You: “Are you kidding??”
Me: “Nope!”
Now, it doesn’t get too much better than THAT.
I think I’m in love with Menchie’s. Everything about it. Especially the combination I had tonight. Pumpkin, Praline Pecan and Country Vanilla topped with strawberries and cherries…NOT mixed with the pumpkin side though. Don’t you worry. I am a pro at pairing the right toppings with the right froyo and keeping them separated. Finally I added a pump or two of marshmallow cream to finish it off.
Goodness gracious. That was a good night.
The end.

Triple Berry Smoothies

Smoothies may be more of a summer drink, but when I have a fridge full of the ingredients for a perfect smoothie I don’t have another choice!
Seriously, just LOOK at those strawberries. B-E-A-utiful. 
After my Saturday morning workout this past weekend, I came home sweaty, red face and all. I knew exactly what I could make. Just a few short minutes later, I had a flavorful, fruity smoothie to cool me off.

I spent a lot of time at Planet Smoothie in high school. Captain Kid anyone? Brooke–I know you know what I’m talking about 🙂 There is a Planet downtown, but not any place like it too close to me anymore. I really miss those smoothie days. 
While smoothies can be full of added sugars and pack on the calories, a homemade smoothie can be very low cal and a great way to start the day. This particular one comes out to around 180 calories.

Triple Berry Smoothie
Makes 1 medium smoothie
Ingredients:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup low fat raspberry yogurt
3/4 cup Almond milk
Splash of cran-grape juice (optional)
Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth, stopping to stir occasionally. 
2. Pour into glass and serve cold. Top with extra berries and whipped cream if desired.

Single Serving Pumpkin Cakes

I was experiencing pumpkin overload a couple weeks ago. Not even just baking and eating it, but just reading about it on every other blog was getting to be overwhelming. I almost made myself sick of it. ALMOST.

After a couple of short days of avoiding the beloved fall flavor, I was ready to rekindle our relationship.

Although Mrs. How Sweet created these precious babies as a breakfast cake, I wanted them for dessert. As you might have figured out already, I love recipes that make just enough for a serving or two. The batter filled two ramekins of cake, but it actually probably could have served three or four. And that’s saying a lot coming from me. I can normally eat large portions of dessert, no problem. Then again, maybe I just had a big dinner so wasn’t as hungry. I don’t remember. Either way, one ramekin per person is plenty.

I have to say, I should have used the original name of these as a hint that they might not be the best dessert. They were not as sweet as I expect desserts to be. Greg just about licked his clean and thought it was delicious (interesting because he has previously told me he doesn’t like pumpkin. Hmm…). So I guess they do make a great dessert for some. But next time I would stick to making these for breakfast. They would be great in the morning as more of a pancake type of thing. 
Check out How Sweet It Is for the recipe!
I am glad to be back on the pumpkin band wagon, because I still have at least five more recipes I want to make before fall is over! 
What has been your favorite pumpkin food (or drink!) so far this year?

Sunday Blessings – Highlights of My Day

What am I thankful for today?
This banana for one. It might be ugly to some, but in my eyes its a bowl of fresh banana ice cream waiting to happen! I have seen blended banana ice cream all over food blogs and I am anxiously waiting for this banana to ripen a bit more so I can make some for myself!

Ever since I gave up soda (“pop” as I used to call it until I moved south) for lent one year in middle school, I haven’t cared for it too much. Water is almost always my drink of choice, although sometimes I find myself craving the carbonation. I haven’t bought packs of soda to keep at home in a couple of years, but I saw some on sale for dirt cheap so picked up a case. Diet Coke is my fave and with zero calories, it’s an easy way to keep me from eating extra sweets. Having an occasional soda can be enough of a treat for me.

An even better treat are Honeycrisp apples. These were on sale too so I was sure to buy plenty to keep up with my apple addiction. Seriously, if apples weren’t so good for you, I would consider this a problem. But this has got to be one of the best, healthiest addictions in the world.

This might not be quite as healthy, but things could be a lot worse. Homemade baked sweet potato fries and an asparagus/mushroom medley. That’s what I had for dinner the other night. Details on that later, but let me just say, if you have never had sweet potato fries, find yourself some as soon as possible. Even though I don’t have any leftovers to eat today, I am drooling just looking at my pictures of the fries.
How are you spending your Sunday?