Coconut Layer Cake

Last weekend we had my mom's birthday at the house. She wanted an all-coconut cake for her birthday, and this is the cake I made for her. It's a four layer white coconut cake made with lots of egg whites and coconut cream. The frosting is a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream infused with even more coconut cream. I got the recipe through America's Test Kitchen, and while I have to say the recipe - and all their recipes - was fantastic, the cake came out a little bit dry. It could've been a problem with my oven temperature but I followed the recipe to a T and even took it out of the oven early since I sensed it was over-cooked. I think a good soaking syrup of milk and a little vanilla extract would have solved the problem. Visually, the cake is stunning and I love the look of it on the retro blue cake stand. Mom, if you're reading this, happy birthday and I love you!!!

*Note - I re-wrote this recipe in my own words. To get the full/original recipe you need to buy your own America's Test Kitchen membership!

Coconut Layer Cake
Yield: one 9" cake

For the coconut cake layers:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
1 large egg
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut
1/4 cup water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coconut extract
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp

For the coconut swiss meringue buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 lb unsalted butter (4 sticks), at room temp
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp table salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachments beat together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, egg whites, cream of coconut, water, vanilla and coconut extracts until combined. Set aside.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the mixture resemble course sand. Add in 1 cup of the cream of coconut mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the remaining mixture and beat until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream: set the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a bowl of simmering water. Whisk together constantly until the mixture reaches 120 degrees. Remove from the heat and beat with the whisk attachment until cooled and stiff peaks form. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until completely incorporated. Add the cream of coconut, extracts, and salt and beat to combine.

To assemble the cake: slice each cake in half to for four layers. Fill each layer with buttercream before frosting the entire cake. Garnish with more coconut, if desired.

adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Cookies (Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free)

I think I may have to switch to these cookies permanently as a rule. They're so rich, fudgey, and peanut buttery that they satisfy my craving for Reese's and then some. My mom even loved them, and she's more of a salty person than a sweet person. Unfortunately we at all of them by ourselves before poor sick Riley could taste them. She's got croup, or something like it, and a wicked fever. On the plus side, by the time she's feeling better I'll have plenty more ready for her in place of all the Halloween candy she'll want to be eating.

That's the thing with these cookies. They're super healthy!!! There's zero flour, sugar, buter, or eggs in them. They're strictly made up of dates, peanuts, and cocoa (and a few other dashes of things) which makes them vegan and gluten free. I'm just excited that they taste so freaking good!

On a side note, you can see from the pictures that I'm having a hard time making up my mind tonight. The bottom two were taken on my counter using incandescent lighting. The top two were taken right in front of the window with natural light. Huge difference, right?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Cookies
Yield: 8 cookies

5 dates, pitted
20 roasted, unsalted peanuts (a small handful)
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
dash vanilla extract
pinch salt
splash almond milk
chocolate chips, optional

Add all ingredients except almond milk and chocolate chips to a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add enough almond milk to form a very thick dough. Roll the dough into 8 balls, flatten slightly, and garnish with chocolate chips. Eat as is or chill until firm.

inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie

Butternut Squash Farro Salad

I'm pretty obsessed with this salad.  It's oil-free, flour-free, vegan, low-calorie, and delicious so how could I not love it? I've been thinking a lot about low-calorie, vegetable-based meals lately since I need to drop a lot more weight, and I'm pretty much on my own with it. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to still stuff my face with delicious enjoyable vegetables. Thanks to Pinterest, blogs, and the internet I now know that there's a million super healthy vegetable based meals out there to stuff my face with. There's even muffins and desserts, too!! This makes me uber excited, and I can't wait to go shopping next week armed with a new recipe list.

Butternut Squash Farro Salad
Yield: 4-6 servings

2 cups butternut squash, 1/2" cube
2 onions, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 cup farro, rinsed
3 cups water
2 ounces toasted pecans, roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the butternut squash and onions in a small roasting pan. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of the balsamic vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper. Toss to combine and roast for about 20 minutes or until visibly charred in spots. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the farro and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the farro is al dente. Drain any excess water.

In a large bowl combine the roasted butternut squash-onion mixture, farro, remaining 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and pecans. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Sarah Cupcake original

DIY Owl Cupcake Toppers

OMG. Aren't these the most adorable things ever?! I just LOVE the huge eyes and color. I made the owls with leftover fondant from my post about how to create your own fondant from scratch (it lasts about 3-4 months in the cupboard if wrapped well). These were just a random craft I made with Riley as an activity. She'd rather eat the fondant than play with it! The idea came from a pin on Pinterest (sounds familiar lately). I drew and cut out the owl shape and nose freehand. The eyes were made using two different sized pastry tips as cutters and the half-moon detail is also just the imprint of a pastry tip.

DIY Marshmallow Fondant

DIY Cupcake Toppers How-To

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Cupcakes

The wait for these cheesecakes to cool completely in the fridge might have just been the longest wait ever with the exception of labor and delivery! These start off with a graham cracker crust, then a thick layer of cheesecake, and on top of that, cinnamon apples and streusel. After the pumpkin swirl cheesecake cupcakes were so popular on here - and with everyone that tried them - I had to make another cheesecake cupcake. The base cupcake recipe in itself is to-die-for. Now that I've made these, I'm pretty obsessed with them!

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Cupcakes
yield: 14 mini cheesecakes

For the crust:
7 graham cracker sheets (or equivalent in gingersnaps)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

For the apple topping:
2 granny smith apples, peeled and diced small
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a 24-cup muffin pan with 14 cupcake liners (double them up if using paper liners).

To make the crust: in a food processor, grind up the graham cracker sheets into fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, place the graham crackers in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Place the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl, and stir in the ground cinnamon and sugar. Add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are evenly moistened.

Put about one tablespoon of the graham cracker crumb mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Press down the crumbs with your hand. Set aside.

To make the cheesecake: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (a handheld mixer works fine, too) mix the softened cream cheese on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes. The cream cheese should be smooth without any lumps. Add in the sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl and fully incorporate the ingredients. Add the sour cream and beat until the cheesecake mixture is smooth. Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full with the cheesecake mixture.

Make the apple topping by mixing all ingredients together until combined. Evenly top the cupcakes with the apple filling, pressing down slightly to adhere the apples into the cheesecake mixture.

In a separate bowl make the streusal topping by mixing together all ingredients until combined. Generously top each cupcake with streusal. Pile it high, these cupcakes barely rise so don't be skimpy.

Bake for 27-30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through the baking time. Once the cheesecakes are done baking, cool them completely in the refrigerator overnight (keep them in the cupcake baking pan). Enjoy!

slightly adapted from Gingerbread Bagels and Polish the Stars

What I Ate Wednesday

Spooky Snacks and Healthy Halloween Treats

I've got a few spooky treats for my WIAW this week. First of all, I made a delicious green monster smoothie for breakfast that looks as green as the Hulk and tastes nothing like spinach. It's been Riley's favorite new smoothie, and she asks for it almost every day. My other spooky snack is a light vanilla ice cream with hot mulled apple cider poured over it. I'm pretty happy with these two healthy snacks since I've been cutting out junk food, sugar, dairy, and most carbs lately. Basically, I've just been trying to eat clean as much as possible. I've got two cakes to bake this weekend that aren't at all for me so I can get into my happy place without sacrificing my diet. That being said, I also made sugar cookie dough for fall cookie baking with Riley, and I may just have to eat a few of those. 

You can scroll through the picture version of my day of eats, because you know you don't want to read. If you do then you can read everything down at the bottom.

Breakfast was a half bottle of Synergy kombucha's Trilogy flavor (my fav) and a green smoothie made with a banana, flax meal, spinach, blueberries, and almond milk. A medium pumpkin latte made up my snack. For lunch I made a blackened salmon salad with baby romaine, tomatoes, and my homemade asian sesame dressing. Dinner was sauteed kale with pecans, roasted butternut squash, and tomato cucumber salad. For dessert I made some mulled apple cider and put some of it over light vanilla ice cream

Healthy Slow-Cooker Enchilada Soup

I definitely have a mixed identity when it comes to blogging. One day I post cheesecake and cupcakes, the next a recipe for braised beef, and the next a recipe for a clean appetizer. I don't know what niche I fit into in the food blogging world (cupcakes, health food, and comfort food?). I think a lot of bloggers feel the need to fit into some category, but I don't mind straying from "cupcakes". I do know why I post what I post though. When it comes to savory food, it's just what I'm eating at the time - whether it's healthy "clean" food or processed garbage (which I say lovingly). When it comes to the bottom of the food pyramid, i.e. dessert, that's what I really love to do. I bake for the sheer joy of baking. Sometimes I don't take more than a taste of what I've made because I'm only looking to enjoy being in the kitchen and putting together the final product. That's one of my happy places. This is a recipe for healthy chicken enchilada soup that I made in the slow-cooker the other night. It's what I'm really eating right now (because I don't eat cupcakes as a daily meal, although it should be required). I made it for dinner and for no other reason.

Healthy Slow-Cooker Enchilada Soup
Yield: 8 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, minced
5 stalks celery, minced, leaves included
2 small green bell peppers, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 cups fresh, frozen, or canned corn, drained and thawed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
4 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and sautee the onion, celery, and bell peppers until softened, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the chili powder, cumin, granulated garlic, and cayenne pepper and cook for another minute. Add the can of tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add the contents of the skillet to the slow cooker along with the corn, black beans, crushed tomatoes, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Nestle the chicken thighs in the mixture and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or high heat for 4-6 hours.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and shred the meat with a fork, discard the bone. Add the shredded meat back into the slow cooker with the cheese. Stir to combine. Cook for another 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve.

Sarah Cupcake original
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