Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake

I love pound cake and I adore coconut, so when I found a Southern Living recipe for Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

The recipe called for bourbon in the batter, but I substituted it for an equal amount of heavy cream. I know people say that the bourbon intensifies the flavor of the cake, but I just don't care for liquor in my baked goods (no Tortuga rum cakes for me). I also baked the cake in mini loaf pans (7) instead of one large tube pan. The mini loaf pans had two advantages: 1) I could split the batter and make some with coconut and some without (weird family members who hate coconut) and 2) any loaves that remained uneaten by the end of the party could be sent home with guests and thus kept away from my greedy pound cake lovin lips and hips.

Here are the loaf pans waiting to go into the oven. I divided the batter between seven of the eight available wells. I could have used all eight, but I thought that it would make the loaves too flat.

Just out of the oven, puffy, golden brown and oh-so tempting.

Waiting for their bath in shiny glaze.

The original Southern Living article gave two glaze options. One was a plain powdered sugar glaze and the other was a brown sugar-praline glaze. I always go for the more calorie packed option, so I opted for the praline glaze. Here is the glaze cooking on the stove.

After I drizzled the praline glaze over a few of the loaves, I decided I didn't like the way it looked. The glaze looked splotchy and coarse, and it didn't flow like I wanted. Plus it hardened immediately and I didn't have time to smash the coconut into the glaze.

So I whipped up a batch of shiny butter cream icing, and used it instead of the praline glaze. The butter cream stayed soft for a while so I was able to coat the entire thing with coconut flakes. Perfect.

And here are the few slices.

While stuffing my face with pound cake I did noticed that the loaves with coconut in the batter were moister than the loaves without the coconut. Did the coconut help to hold moisture during baking? The loaves were all baked at the same time and the pans were rotated halfway through the baking period, so the only thing different was the coconut.

So don't omit the coconut, without it the finished cake is slightly dry.

If you want a deliciously moist pound cake without coconut and pecans try Elvis Presley's Favorite Whipping Cream Pound Cake. It is one of the best pounds cakes I have ever tried.

Cream Cheese-Coconut-Pecan Pound Cake
from Southern Living - December 2004, 2008


* 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
* 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 3 cups sugar
* 6 large eggs
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup bourbon (I used heavy whipping cream)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
* 1/2 cup shredded coconut


* Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread pecans in a single layer and bake for 5-7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Cool completely.
* Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
* Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
* Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy.
* Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yellow yolk disappears.
* Sift together flour and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with bourbon (or milk), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition.
* Stir in vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch/12-cup tube pan. (I used 7 mini loaf pans.)

* Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. (I baked my mini loaf pans for 35 minutes.)

Brown Sugar-Praline Glaze
from Southern Living - December 2004, 2008


* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
* 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 2 Tablespoons milk
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


* Melt butter in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat.
* Whisk in brown sugar and corn syrup; cook 1 minute.
* Add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; whisk until creamy (about 2 minutes).
* Remove from heat and use immediately.

Shiny Butter Cream Icing
from Tongue-N-Cheeky


* 2 cups powdered sugar
* 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
* 1 teaspoon heavy cream


* In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. With an electric mixer, at medium speed, beat until mixed well.
* If thinner consistency is desired, add corn syrup by the teaspoon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowy Chocolate (Brownie) Baby Cakes

Last year in Southern Living's December 2008 issue there were the cutest little Christmas cupcakes called Snowy Chocolate Baby Cakes. These little gems were simply upside-down chocolate cupcakes topped with white glaze and garnished with red cinnamon candies and fresh bay leaves.

I didn't get a chance to make them in 2008, but I put them on my list of "Things to Bake for Christmas 2009". And surprise, surprise I actually made something on my list. Here they are…

Too cute.

The original article in Southern Living used a doctored devil's food cake mix for the cupcakes, but I already had Birthday Cake on my Christmas menu so I decide to make baby brownie cakes. I used a Curtis Stone brownie recipe adeptly named "Best Fudge Brownies". And believe you me they are indeed the best fudgy brownies I've baked (so far). They are not fudgy to the point of goo, but not cake-like in the least. They are just right.

Even the batter looked yummy...

Baby Brownie Cakes just out of the oven...

One of the brownie cupcakes stuck to the pan, but the rest dropped out without a problem...

I iced the brownie cupcakes using the Winter White Glaze recipe given in the Southern Living article, and I garnished with mini M&Ms and mint leaves (I didn't have any cinnamon candies or bay leaves). I had a little trouble with the mini M&Ms bleeding into the white glaze, so make sure the glaze is completely dry before topping with the candies. The M&Ms may not melt in your hands, but they sure do melt on wet sugar glaze. The mint leaves also caused a bit of crisis because they started to wilted after just a few hours. Next time, I'll solve all the problems by making the garnishes out of fondant.

Best Fudge Brownie Cupcakes
from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favourite Mood

Yield 8 cupcakes

6 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, (60-70% cacao). Chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

To make the cupcakes:
  • Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Using a standard 12 wells cupcake pan, generously spay the top of the pan and 8 of the wells with non-stick cooking spray (or line with paper cupcake liners)
  • Stir the chocolate and butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat until they melt and the mixture is smooth.
  • Stir in the syrup and salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl for 2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and light.
  • Slowly stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Add the flour and baking powder, and stir just until blended; then stir in the walnuts.
  • Divide the batter equally among the 8 cupcake wells, filling them completely.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes puff and crack on top and a skewer inserted into the center of one comes out with fudgy crumbs attached.
  • Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Winter White Glaze

Yield: 2 cups

4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon meringue powder
1/4 cup (or more) hot water

  • Beat together all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Add more water as needed to achieve a pourable consistency.
  • Use immediately. Cover the glaze surface directly with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Brown Sugar Butter Buttons

A beautiful photo on FoodGawker lead me to a posting by Tongue-N-Cheeky for Brown Sugar Butter Buttons. The cookies looked so cute and cheeky that I decided to give them a try.

The dough came together beautifully…

And the cookies baked up without any problems.

Tongue-N-Cheeky said that the Butter Buttons baked up flakey and surprisingly hollow. I was dying to see the hollow center so as soon as they were out of the oven I cracked one open. But instead of a hollow center I found an ooey, gooey mess.

Sad and dejected (I wanted hollow cookies) I abandoned the baking sheet of failed Butter Buttons and went on to making my next holiday treat. A few hours later I picked up a Button, broke it open, and prepared to photo document my failure. But instead of a gooey mess, I found a perfectly hollow cookie. Amazing. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. Somehow in the cooling process the inside of the cookie shrank and a cavern formed in the center.

Isn’t baking a strange and wondrous thing? If anyone can explain the physics/chemistry of how the cavern forms in the cookie I would appreciate it.

As far as the taste, well honestly, I didn’t care for them much. The cookie was ultra sweet and very crisp. I don’t think I’ll make them again, but I sure would like to know how that hollow center formed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cran-Apple Crisp Pie

I wanted to bake an apple pie for our Christmas Day lunch, but I couldn’t decide which recipe to try. Should I use a recipe that called for pre-cooking the apples or one that used raw? Raisins? Nuts? Did I want a double crust pie or one with crumble? The possibilities were infinite.

In the end I decided to use Dorie Greenspan’s Cran-Apple Crisp recipe but baked in a 9” deep-dish pie shell instead of a soufflĂ© dish. Like all of Dorie’s recipes, it turned out yummy.

Here are the filling ingredients just waiting to be tossed together.

And here are all the yummy sugar-coated goodness squeezed into their pie-shell home.

And the crumb/crisp topping. (Not very pretty, huh?)

Such a shame to hide all those beautiful bright red cranberries and crisp green apples, but I new the end product would be delicious. Thanks again Dorie. Your recipes never disappoint.

Cran-Apple Crisp Pie

Adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours – Dorie Greenspan

For the topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

For the filling
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, don’t thaw)
1/2 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1/2 cup pecans
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 - 9" deep-dish pie shell (frozen or home made)

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

To make the topping:
Put all the topping ingredients in a large bowl. Using your fingers or a fork, cut the butter into the topping mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumb. (You can make the topping up to 3 days ahead and refrigerate it in an airtight bag.)

To make the filling:
Toss all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl. Place frozen (or home made) pie shell on the lined baking sheet. Pour the filling into the pie shell, and spoon the topping evenly over the top of the filling. Bake 40-45 minutes or until the topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling up around it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

WOW! Can I say it again? WOW!

These little bacon-chicken wraps were a huge hit at our Christmas Eve party. I baked three batches and within minutes of each batch leaving the oven they were gone. Everyone wanted the recipe and to me that is a sure sign of success.

This recipe is compliments of Paula Deen. Thank you Paula.

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes.

  • Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick.

  • Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture.

  • Coat a rack and broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken on rack in broiler pan.

  • Bake at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

"Uncle Bill's" recipe for Whipped Shortbread cookies has been sitting in my "to bake" box for ages. I found the recipe on Recipe Zaar and at the time of this posting there were 227 review of the recipe with 99% of them being positive. With all of those 5 star ratings I decided to give them a try.

The ingredient list was very basic: butter, flour, icing sugar, vanilla. And the cookie dough came together quick and easy.

They look simply scrumptious unbaked...

But honestly I was a little disappointed in the finished product. The cookies were tasty, but they were so tender and delicate that they crumbled and dissolved as soon as they touched my lips. I had no chance to bite down on the little buggers and chew. Big disappointment. To me chewing slowly and reverently is a huge part of the whole "cookie" experience.

I also wish mine had come out a little thicker. My dough was a little soft and sticky (I should have added more flour), and the cookies spread substantially during baking. They ended up big and round and flat as pancakes.

Christmas is right around the corner, so I'm going to try these cookies again. Hey, 200+ positive reviews on Recipe Zaar can't be wrong! But this time I'll add a little more flour (to give the cookie more bulk) and substitute half the icing sugar for regular granulated sugar (so they are not as delicate).

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Red Velvet Cake Taste-Off: Round 2

In mid-November I conducted a taste test of Red Velvet Cake recipes (see blog entry here). I baked 8 different cakes and recruited 25 people to sample and rate the entries. The undisputed winner of the Red Velvet Taste-Off : Round 1 was:

Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet Cake
But the day after I compiled my results, I ran across yet another distinctive Red Velvet Cake recipe. This one was from Rose's Levy Beranbaum book Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The actual cake is called Rose Red Velvet and for its fat is uses butter and oil. It also uses more eggs than any of the other recipes I tested. The person who brought this cake to my attention said it was better than Cake Man Raven's! That got my attention. Better than Cake Man Raven? Red Velvet Cake Taste-Off #2 was on.

For this round I baked three different recipes:
  • Rose's Red Velvet - Rose Levy Beranbaum - the challenger
  • Cake Man Raven's - because it had won the first round of the taste test
  • Waldorf Astoria recipe with a tweak - My original reason for conducting this taste test was to find a recipe that mimicked the Red Velvet Cake sold at Piccadilly Cafeteria (the absolute best RVC). Flavor and color wise I think the Waldorf cake comes the closest, but it is not nearly as moist as Piccadilly's. So in this test I added 1/4 cup of light corn syrup hoping to give it a little more moisture. Sadly my tweaked Waldorf did not produce a copy cat of Piccadilly RVC. Granted my tweak cake was better than the original, but still not measure up to Piccadilly's caliber.

So here are the three cakes all stacked up:

And sliced open:

So which do you think won? Which do you think looks the best?

Well the winner yet again was Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet Cake.

The Waldorf cake came in second and the Rose Red Velvet cake came in third. In this round I only had 9 taste testers, as opposed to the 25 testers in round one. Two of the tasters (the kids) picked the Rose cake as their favorite (they said it was the sweetest), but the other 7 had it as their least favorite. One of the biggest complaints about the Rose RVC was that it was too dry and two people remarked that it had a spongy, angel food cake texture. If you want to see a spreadsheet listing all the results click here.

So after two unbiased tests, the oil based Red Velvet Cake is still reigns as the undisputed favorite.

BUT even as I write this someone handed me yet another RVC recipe. It is Red Velvet time of the year. This one used uses brown sugar instead of white and a 1/2 cup cocoa. I must test this recipe, so stay tuned for round 3 of the Ultimate Red Velvet Taste-Off (some time around Christmas).