Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Anna!

Today is Anna's birthday - 17!!!! We celebrated with the extended family on Easter, and blew out the candles both for her and for one of her uncles. Anna doesn't actually like cake (I does that happen?), but this coconut cake was a big hit even with her! Some people even had seconds, and that was after a pretty fabulous Easter dinner and one or two chocolate eggs.

Two little cousins on Easter - Jane's squeeeezing Mary!

The recipe is this one. It results in a a subtly flavored cake...I added a little coconut extract to the batter and it was just right. Just a little coconutty. You have to be careful not to mangle the egg whites when you add them - fold them in patiently - or you'll get a coconut pancake for sure. I made three layers (1 1/2 recipes of batter) and frosted with this buttercream (2 recipes of frosting).

Two bigger cousins on Easter

I made one recipe of frosting on Saturday and refrigerated it, intending to revive it with a little whip of the flat beater - imagine my reaction on Sunday morning when the whole thing turned into a watery, curdled mess in the beater bowl. Really, nobody should be cursing on Easter. But anyway, I managed to save it by swirling the bowl in mid-air over a flame on the stove and whacking the heck out of it with a wooden spoon until it looked salvageable, and by the time I re-beat it in the mixer it was fine. In fact, I couldn't tell the difference between the two batches of frosting by the time I was done. Three cheers for kitchen chemistry!

Today Anna has school and then practice and then homework, so we'll be celebrating very quietly here at home, but I believe there may be some presents in her future...and maybe some donuts...that's what she really craves.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I Swing Both Ways...

I don't usually stick my baked goods into the shrubbery, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

That's right, baby...chocolate AND lemon. I know a lot of people, including members of my own family, that have a dessert preference. They are either chocolate people, or lemon people. Rich decadent dessert people, or berry dessert people. I say, life's short - why choose? Lately it's been lemony around here. It's Spring.

In the spirit of the season, yesterday evening I went over to a friend's house to make Spring care packages for our college freshmen daughters. We get together every couple of months, and we all bring a little food to share for dinner and a little something for the boxes.

Look what other people brought: those are homemade chocolate-covered strawberries, people!

Last night there were 16 of us, so the girls will each get a box with 16 items ranging from homemade cookies to peeps (gotta have peeps!) to little bottles of hand lotion. And of course we all had fun visiting and making the boxes up, although really the boxes are just an excuse to get together.

Do you find it interesting that I took pictures of the food and the boxes but not of my 15 friends? I'm worried it means something fundamental about my personality, but in the meantime I'll just take another picture.

My contribution was this lemon pound cake, which also came with a berry coulis I didn't take photos of. This is the recipe here, although I did make some changes...I used Neufchatel cheese, which I think has a more delicate flavor, and when I added the vanilla I also added the zest of one lemon, cuz I'm all about lemon zest. (Unless I'm being all about the Valrhona chocolate. But I digress.) And since I used the zest, I omitted the almond extract. Mine takes longer than the suggested time to cook, and about 45 minutes in I made it a little aluminum foil umbrella so it wouldn't burn on the top while it was still goopy in the middle. That's not good.

For the coulis, I used a bag of frozen mixed berries that I let thaw on the counter while I was making the cake, and I did add a little water to help make it the right consistency. This is the third time I've made this cake, and the last time I made blueberry coulis, which was also very good and, I think, a nice combo with the lemon. The cake is dense, slightly crunchy on the top, and has a really really nice flavor. If you bake it in a tube pan I think you can easily get 24 - 32 servings from one cake, too, which is nice for a larger party.

And since we're here, let's see another shot of that lavender.