Monday, March 14, 2011

We're Nuts for Coconuts

After some early confusion, it turns out that a coconut is a fruit.

Not a nut. A fruit. More precisely, a drupe or "stonefruit" (like peaches, plums and cherries).

Either way, Hannah was committed to Coconuts for this week's Fruit & Veggies challenge. She handpicked a recipe from Food Network's Ina Garten for Coconut Cupcakes and convinced Olivia to serve as her assistant chef.

We try to use the kitchen as a classroom with the girls. It's not just about learning to cook (though we're shocked by the number of Miranda's teenage friends who don't know how to do anything in the kitchen!). It's not just about learning to like new foods (though that's a bonus).

We also talk about why we make the food choices we make (i.e. buying local, organic, humanely-raised) and the countries and cultures from which our recipes come. The kitchen's also a great place to learn to read, calculate fractions, and follow directions.

And it's on that front that I often fail! Like the time in college when I made my Dad a carrot cake for his birthday. I was so excited to present him with his birthday present. But I was too impatient to let it cool before frosting. So I handed him a gooey mess of Betty Crocker frosting sliding off a hot heaping mess of cake.

Or the time, shortly after Jason and I married. I made lemon poppyseed cake... with concentrated lemon juice instead of fresh lemon juice. Who knew you couldn't substitute the two? (okay, the recipe knew. But whatever!)

I like the comfort of recipes, but I'm a little bit of this, little bit of that kinda cook. And that doesn't really work with baking. Which is why I've never been much of a baker. And why I freaked a bit about Hannah's plan to make homemade cupcakes and homemade frosting. Homemade... as in, "not from a box". And it's ranked "Intermediate" level. Oy!

Okay folks, tighten your seat belts. Here we go!


  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Here's the finished product (via Food Network)

So yummy! And not that hard to make (maybe I'm a better baker than I thought). And Hannah was so proud of her accomplishment. She took some up to Grammy and Dampa's to share with these yoodlies.

What's your biggest baking disaster? What tips do you have for new bakers?


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