Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Coconut and Lemon Layer Cake

Harry Nilsson may have told us to put "Da Lime in Da Coconut" but I think a little lemon in the coconut is better. Since Easter is quickly coming upon us I thought I'd trot out an old southern favorite - the coconut cake and combine it with one of my favorite taste treats - lemon curd.

The result is a great layer cake featuring a wonderfully light and white cake delicately flavored with coconut and vanilla filled with a crisp and bright lemon flavor. Add some sweetened coconut to some cream cheese frosting and, man! this is one good cake!

Coconut cakes are a staple in the south for holidays. You'll find them at both Christmas and Easter. Often the filling will be coconut and pecan. However, for Spring it just seems more appropriate to have something a little brighter for the taste buds.

I use Dickinson's Lemon Curd for this because it's one of my preferred brands (alongside MacCay's). But you can make your own or use whatever brand you prefer. You'll need about one jar for this cake to get a nice thick filling between layers.

This recipe also calls for coconut milk. If you aren't used to working with coconut milk in recipes here are a couple tips. Coconut milk tends to separate and solidify while sitting on the shelf. Before opening the can you'll want to shake it up really well. Most of the time, this won't solve your solidity problem though. To get the milk into a liquid form you'll need to heat it some. There are two ways. First, you can open the can fully and place it in a warm water bath until the solids liquify and mix with the liquids. Stir it up really good before using. Second, you can dump the whole thing into a glass measuring cup and heat it for about 15 seconds in the microwave and give it a stir. Either works.

I'll warn you now, this cake smells delish when baking! I couldn't wait to get it out and cooled so I could frost it and dig in! By the way, I took a shortcut on this one and used a whipped cream cheese frosting you can buy in the cake section of the grocery store. I was surprisingly pleased with the result. The frosting was a nice consistency and tasted very good when topped with the shredded coconut. If you want to make your own cream cheese frosting you'll find a recipe here.

If you want to take your cake decorating up a notch there's nothing prettier on a white coconut cake than edible flowers. In this case purple, pink, or lavender pansies would be a nice addition since they also have a tart flavor. If you like the flower idea but not the eating them part, you can always decorate with silk flowers and remove them when ready to cut the cake. Obviously, I was lazy and didn't go in search of pansies or silk flowers!

Happy Easter and slice you a piece of Coconut and Lemon Cake!

Recipe: Coconut and Lemon Cake

Description: Delicate white coconut cake filled with tart lemon curd and topped with cream cheese frosting and sweetened coconut flakes.


  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 10 oz. lemon curd
  • 1-2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • cream cheese frosting


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with greased parchment rounds.
  2. In small bowl mix together the egg whites, milk and vanilla together.
  3. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment stir together cake flour, baking powder, and sugar on low speed until combined. Add butter and coconut milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add egg and milk mixture scraping bowl as needed.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on wire rack. Allow cakes to cool in pan 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn cakes out on wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Once cooled spread the lemon curd over the bottom layer evenly to just about 1/4-inch of the edge. Place top layer on lemon curd and frost cake with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle shredded coconut over top of cake and carefully holding cake at an angle sprinkle coconut along sides of cake as well.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)
Copyright © 2012.
Recipe by Sugar Pies.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Golden Brown Sugar Spice Cake

I love spice cakes. Whether it's a traditional gingerbread or something with more exotic blends, I just can't get enough. Although it's Spring and temperatures here in the desert are fluctuating between the upper 80's and the 50's with no seeming rhyme or reason, I decided to bake a spice cake which seems more associated with Autumn to me.

This particular cake is a variation on a Sorghum Spice Cake. Obviously, finding sorghum syrup outside the south is pretty difficult so I had to adapt. If you're wondering what sorghum is, it's a type of syrup. It's made from a plant that was primarily grown for cattle feed originally. Of course, someone back in the 19th century figured out you could squeeze it like sugar cane and produce a very sweet syrup with a milder flavor than molasses. At one time it was quite popular all over the country. Now, it's limited pretty much to the south.

Since sorghum syrup was in short supply I decided to try something the Brits use pretty much the same way - Lyles Golden Syrup . It's made from sugar cane like molasses but is lighter in color and flavor. Over there it's used in baking and also on breakfast dishes much like we use maple syrup (or sorghum in parts of the south).

I'm pleased to report that the results were great. The golden syrup allows the flavors of the spices to really come through in the finished product. It's hard to describe the flavor of this cake. You'll find it has similarities to gingerbread in some respects, but the flavors are much deeper and more complex. The addition of the tart lemon glaze creates a wonderful taste treat against the warmth of the spices. The brown sugar lends just enough molasses flavor and color to make this cake a delight both to the tongue and eyes.

Recipe: Golden Brown Sugar Spice Cake

Description: Golden syrup and brown sugar let the spices in this cake put on a real show!


  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup Lyles Golden Syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. Garam Masala (or ground Cardamom)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
Lemon Glaze:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan and set aside.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment add brown sugar and stir briefly to break up lumps. Add oil, golden syrup, eggs, and buttermilk and stir on slow speed to combine.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix on low speed just until combined. Scrape down the bowl and finish stirring by hand.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake on center rack for 50-55 minutes (NOTE: if using a dark pan your cooking time might be as short as 45 minutes.) Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake for 10 minutes on wire rack then remove from pan. Allow to cool completely before glazing.
  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth. Pour over cooled cake.


If you have access to Sorghum Syrup you can substitute it directly for the golden syrup.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 55 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 14
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coconut Chews

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love coconut! There are at least 23 recipes on here that include coconut as an ingredient. So, let's make it 24.

These wonderfully chewy coconut cookies are simply scrumptious. The recipe is really quite simple and involves a semi sugar cookie base into which coconut is added to flavor the cookie and give it the impressive chewy quality. I could eat these all day! If you've ever wanted macaroons but didn't want to fight through whipping egg whites and babying the cookies to get a decent result, this might be your answer. They're wonderfully chewy and full of coconut flavor like macaroons but without all the hassle. In fact, if you grew up on American bakery macaroons versus the dainty French version you'll find these infinitely gratifying.

Give them a go. As for me, I'm off to finish off the plate full I used in the photos!

Recipe: Coconut Chews

Description: Chewy and flavorful coconut cookies!


  • 8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add the flour and baking soda and mix until combined.
  3. Fold in the coconut by hand. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons on the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are just golden. Repeat with remaining dough. Remove to wire rack and let cool completely until eating.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 3 1/2 dozen
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Apple Butter Walnut Bars

I have been so remiss in my baking and posting lately. It's not that I've not been cooking. No, I've been trying to cook "heart healthy" thanks to Michael's recently uncovered medical issues. It seems that I just forget to photograph or write about those dishes. At any rate, I'm finally feeling competent enough with our new home menu to get back to baking more regularly. I've got several things in the works over the next couple weeks that I want to try out - including a cocktail that sort of popped into my head just as I dozed off to sleep!

Our first new recipe is a wonderful Apple Butter Walnut Bar that is actually pretty healthy as cookies and sweets go. I've adapted this from a Strawberry Jam Bar recipe in an edition of Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe and included some extra whole grain goodness. I also used my own homemade apple butter (remember our orchard trip last Fall?). If you don't make your own a good store bought variety will do.

We've really enjoyed these and they make a great breakfast "dessert" or mid-morning snack. Think of them like a much better version of your favorite apple cinnamon pop-tarts. These come together very quickly so you can have fresh Apple Butter Walnut Bars ready in a jiffy.

Recipe: Apple Butter Walnut Bars

Description: A great morning pick-me-up or breakfast dessert!


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned or rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces diced fine
  • 1 1/2 cup apple butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and line with a parchment sling or one made on nonstick foil. If using parchment grease the paper as well.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Stir briefly to combine. Drop in cubes of butter and mix on low to medium speed until the mixture resembles a crumble topping. (Note: if you do not have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, do this step in a mixing bowl and use your hands or a pastry blender to cut in the butter.)
  3. Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture. Press the rest evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  4. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until it is an even golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Spread the apple butter over the warm crust. Sprinkle the walnuts over the jam and top with the reserved crumble mixture. Press the toppings lightly into the butter.
  5. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the topping is golden and the butter slightly bubbly. Let the pan cool completely before removing the bars. Once cooled, use the sling to remove from the pan. Place on hard surface and use a sharp knife to slice into 2 inch squares.


To make Strawberry Jam bars simply substitute strawberry jam for the apple butter and pecans for the walnuts.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 24 bars
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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