• Wildflower Coconut Cake

    Hello!! How convenient that my birthday falls on the same day of my Sweet D posts. As a result, I bring you my birthday cake 2019, because yes, I do bake my own birthday cakes! It’s great because I can do whatever flavors or designs I want, and no one can tell me not to! This year I chose a crowd pleaser though, who doesn’t love coconut cake?? This particular recipe comes from Queen Ina Garten herself, because I was looking for the classic flavors of the coconut cake from the bakery by my house: vanilla, almond, coconut, and the sweet tang of luscious cream cheese frosting. And, to pull out all the stops, I tried my hand again at some buttercream flowers, and I get better every time!

    Before baking this year’s cake, I took a trip to Michaels and got some supplies, including some cake boards, baking strips, a wire cake trimmer, a flower nail, and some fancy gel food coloring. The cake board goes on your cake stand or plate, and allows for easy transfer from one surface to another. The baking strips are something I should’ve gotten a LONG time ago- you soak them for 5 minutes before baking, and then wrap them around the sides of the cake pans. This keeps the sides of the pan cooler, and results in a cake that bakes more evenly and flat. The cake trimmer lets me take the uneven top off in one motion, because I am notoriously bad at cutting my cakes evenly. The flower nail and gel food colors are for the buttercream flowers and wow does the flower nail make a difference! It lets you get every side of the flower in one motion, and results in much more even flowers.

    I’m excited about what my 24th year on this earth holds, hopefully many more cakes and a pie or two (or seven). Until then, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Zippy limes.
    TWO. Bike baskets.
    THREE. The glow you get from being outdoors.
    FOUR. Pitchers on the porch.
    FIVE. Strawberry Rhubarb jam.

    Let’s bake!!

    MAKE: 1 2-layer cake
    PREP TIME: 2-3 hours (depending on flowers and decorating)
    BAKE TIME: 45-55 minutes.

     

    COCONUT CAKE INGREDIENTS

    ¾ lb. (3 sticks)  unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    5 eggs, at room temp
    1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
    1½ tsp almond extract
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp baking soda
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    1 cup milk
    4 oz. shredded sweetened coconut

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

    1 lb. cream cheese, softened
    ½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    ¾ tsp vanilla bean paste
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    1 lb. powdered sugar
    Shredded sweetened coconut (for decoration)

    BUTTERCREAM FLOWER INGREDIENTS

    1 stick butter, softened
    1 lb. powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3-4 Tbsp whole milk

    CAKE STEPS

    ONE. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease 2 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. If you’re using baking strips on the outside, start soaking them now.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bow one or two times during this process to make sure it’s all being evenly mixed. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, then add them one at a time to the butter mixture. Once all the eggs are incorporated, add in the vanilla and almond, and mix to combine.

    THREE. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl. You’ll be adding the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture in 5 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold the shredded coconut into the batter.

    FOUR. Divide the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for 30 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and almond extract on low speed until combined, but do not whipped.

    TWO. Carefully spoon in the powdered sugar a few at a time until it’s all smooth and incorporated. Repeat for a second batch.


    BUTTERCREAM STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar until combined. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached the desired consistency, but make sure it’s not too wet because it will be harder for flowers to hold their shape. Repeat as necessary for more flower colors.

    CAKE ASSEMBLY

    ONE. Place one cake flat side down on your cake stand or plate. Add a cup or so of frosting to the top and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top so that the flat bottom of this cake is the top. Crumb coat this cake with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting, and chill for 20-30 minutes.

    TWO. Coat the cake with a second, thicker layer of cream cheese frosting and smooth out. Gently press the shredded coconut around the sides of the cake evenly. Top the cake with the chilled buttercream flowers and fill in any gaps with extra buttercream. Now cut yourself a generous slice and enjoy!!

    *Pro Tip #1: for buttercream flower tips, see here.

    *Pro Tip #2: when storing leftover cake (assuming there is any!), press two pieces of sliced sandwich bread over the cut sides. This will prevent the cake from drying out and keep it nice and soft.

    YAY! XoxoxoxoxD

  • Coconut Paris Brest

    Hello and happy Tuesday my blossoms! Today’s recipe sounds super fancy because it IS, but it’s also not super hard to make, which in my book is always a plus. What is a Paris Brest you ask? Aside from something that made all my siblings laugh every time I said it, a Paris Brest is a ring of choux pastry, the kind you would have in an eclair or a cream puff, cut in half and typically filled with praline cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. When I served this to my family the other day, my Grandpa, being the world traveler that he is, wondered if this pastry got its name by being served on the train between the cities of Paris and Brest in France. Turns out he’s not that far off, because when I searched for the origin of this dessert, I found that it was commissioned by Pierre Giffard, a French journalist, to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris. Who knew?

    So, recently, I came across this recipe from Zoe Bakes for a Raspberry Paris Brest and I was immediately interested. However, I had been using too much raspberry in my baking recently, so I decided that I would take the basic idea for this pastry and try something different. We had a lot of shredded coconut leftover from the holidays so suddenly it hit me: a Coconut pastry cream filled Paris Brest complete with toasted coconut. And wow was I happy I tried this because it is a DREAM. The pastry cream is made with cans of coconut milk rather than whole milk, which provided a delicate coconut flavor amplified by the toasted flakes that I sprinkled on top. While this is best consumed the same day that it’s been assembled, that won’t stop me from eating this until there is not a scrap left. Also a note, the dough recipe below will leave you with a lot leftover if you’re simply piping the three rings for your pate a choux. I got nervous and underestimated how much it would grow while baking, so I added more piped rings until I had used all the batter, and it produced a truly enormous ring. Like bigger than my head, could have maybe used it as a hoola hoop. This was not a problem for me because I have a big family and I love baked goods, but if you fear it will be too much, only pipe the original three rings and save the rest of the dough for some eclairs or even a second Paris Brest with a different flavor combo!

     

    Now that that’s settled, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon waking you up on a Saturday morning.
    TWO. Getting an unexpected letter or message from someone you love.
    THREE. Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
    FOUR. Trying something new at a restaurant and discovering you love it.
    FIVE. When winter days start getting longer and the sun stays up past 5pm.

    Happy? Good. Let’s bake!

    Makes: 1 12-inch choux ring, or 1 8-inch ring with leftover dough
    Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Bake Time: 50 minutes

    Pâte à Choux Ingredients

    ½ cup whole milk
    ½ cup water
    1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut small
    1 Tbs white sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs, room temperature
    Egg wash; 1 egg + 1 Tbs water
    ¼ cup slivered almonds

    Pâte à Choux Steps

    ONE. To start, set up a large sheet pan with parchment paper, and trace an 8-inch circle on the opposite side of the paper. Flip the paper back over so that you can see the traced circle but no pencil lead will get on the pastry.

    TWO. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a rapid simmer (not before!), add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 4-5 minutes.

    THREE. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and begin mixing. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough becomes smooth and sticky, and not too stiff so that the mixture can be piped and will rise nicely.

    FOUR. Set up a piping bag with a large round tip, then fill the bag with your dough. Pipe an even circle around the outside of the traced circle on your parchment paper, then pipe a second circle inside of the first. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, in the seam between the two. Now, because I had so much dough left, I then added a third ring to the bottom layer, then a second to the middle, and one on the very top, but be warned, this makes a very wide Paris Brest (not that that’s a bad thing AT ALL). If you have a lot of dough left over but don’t want to make an enormous pastry, you could always make some eclairs as well! Just pipe the remaining batter into logs and bake.

    FIVE. Paint the ring of choux dough with egg wash, and sprinkle the almonds evenly on top. Bake the dough at 375ºF for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 350ºF ad bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is evenly golden. Turn the oven off and allow the pastry to cool there for one hour.


    Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients

    4 cups canned coconut milk (I used Goya)
    1 cup white sugar, divided
    4 Tbs unsalted butter
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or 1 whole vanilla bean, deseeded
    6 Tbs cornstarch
    2 eggs
    6 egg yolks

    Coconut Pastry Cream Steps

    ONE. Bring the coconut milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla to a light boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

    TWO. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to get rid of any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks to this bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.

    THREE. Carefully and slowly drizzle some of the hot coconut milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs but not cook them. When the eggs are warm to the touch, pour them back into the saucepan with the milk and return to a boil. Stirring constantly, the mixture will get thick pretty quickly, but continue to cook for 2-3 minutes so that the custard will set and won’t separate.

    FOUR. Strain the pastry cream through a sieve into a large bowl to catch any stray cooked egg, then press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool the eggs, then keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.


    Assembly Extras

    ½ cup coconut, toasted at 325ºF until golden
    Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

    Assembly Steps

    ONE. Using a flexible bread knife, slice the pastry ring in half long ways. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with the pastry cream. Pipe a generous layer of cream inside the bottom ring, then top with a generous sprinkling of toasted coconut. Repeat with another layer of pastry cream and coconut, then place the top ring back on top. Generously dust with the confectioners sugar and TADA!! Serve in slices and tell everyone you went to culinary school in Paris.

     

     

    YAY!! xoxoxoxoxD