Secret ingredients and perseverance stroll course of attainment

Minute details should be given fullest consideration

DEBORAH LEE WALKER ¦ Contributing Writer

(Nov. 30, 2012) The sun is spreading her maternal wings in hopes Jack Frost chooses to sprinkle his wintry cheer farther north. Bright, shimmering prisms have the upper hand, but the prospect of colder days lurks around the corner. Flocks of birds feed in unison; they, too, know the change of season and significance of family.

This is the first holiday season without my grandmother. Questions of spirituality come to the forefront; I am very blessed to have shared the path of life with Nanny.

Ruby red, auburn orange and golden hues are making their last stand. In time, they will also be a thing of the past. Accepting change marks the birth of trust and signifies maturity. Maybe if I keep repeating these words, I will become a true believer.

Cookery and life tickle the spectrum of adjustment. Secret ingredients and perseverance stroll the course of attainment. We are the maker and choices become more significant; therefore, minute details should be given the fullest consideration.

Recipes are more than a grouping of food items. A reflection of personal style and memories simmer until cohesiveness brings on new meaning. How one salts and peppers her food is a matter of tradition and experience.

Cake mixes are convenient and quite tasty, but the menu during the holiday season should warrant a more sophisticated approach. Coconut cake is scrumptious year-round. The pure, white color of the cake leaves the door open for presentation. For example, during the Christmas season, place the cake on an elevated glass plate. Arrange holly underneath the glass base for an extra touch of refinement. Guests will applaud your extra efforts.

Nanny fancied coconut cake. Remembrances are permanent, no person or force of nature can take them away from you. A tear or two may be shed as I prepare for celebrations, but Nanny will always be a part of my life. Physicality is just a term, the legacy left behind opens the door for purpose and hope.

Credit must be given where credit is due. The following coconut cake recipe is by Ina Garten. The instructions are straight-forward and the result is delicious! I have made three changes: the original recipe calls for coconut to be added into the batter. I have omitted this step. Coconut adorns the exterior of the cake and I feel coconut incorporated into the cake batter would be too much. I have also increased the amount of vanilla and have suggested to lightly toast the coconut.

For the cake batter
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter at
room temperature, plus more for greasing
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for
dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk

For the frosting
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at
room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
10 ounces sweetened shredded coconut,
lightly toasted

1. For the cake batter: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two (9-inch) round cake pans and lightly dust with flour.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl during the mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled, don’t be concerned.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in three parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

4. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then remove the cakes and place back onto the baking rack to finish the cooling process.

5. For the frosting: in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioner’s sugar and mix until just smooth.

6. To assemble, place 1 layer of cake onto a flat serving plate, topside down and spread frosting and a thin layer of coconut. Place the second layer on top, topside up, and frost the top and sides with frosting. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top and sides with coconut and lightly press coconut to the finished cake so it can adhere to the frosting.

SECRET INGREDIENT: Suspense. “Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense” … Mignon McLaughlin.

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