Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coco Loco

(Photo by Anthony Palatta)

A friend invited us for dinner, and naturally, I volunteered to bring dessert. (Any excuse to bake...!) First, I consulted with Anthony as to what to make.

"What's she serving?" he asked.

"Shrimp," I said.

"How about something coconut? Coconut goes with shrimp," he said.

I looked through my cookbooks and found something in a book called Cupcakes that looked appealing: coconut cupcakes with a lime filling.

A word about me and cake. I've done a fair share of cake baking in my time, and I have to say, whenever I make a cake I feel on unsafe ground. Give me pies, cookies, puddings, even quick breads. But with cake, there's always the potential to overbake, and I have the garbage bags full of dried-out well-done cupcakes to prove it. Therefore, with these cupcakes, I was determined to get it right.

First, the ingredients. I stupidly thought that to find coconut, the best place to go would be Whole Foods. Unfortunately, Whole Foods only carried raw, unsweetened coconut, natural and pure. My recipe called for the pre-sweetened adulterated kind. Off to my local chain supermarket, where I found just what I was looking for. The other ingredient that caused me some grief was coconut extract. Again, Whole Foods came up short, carrying something called "imitation coconut flavor," which when I looked at the ingredients, resembled the contents of a chemistry set.

Excuse me, isn't the name of the store "Whole" Foods?

After tracking down coconut extract, I came home and began baking. I decided to experiment with the book's recipe for lime curd, for the filling, instead of my tried and true Martha Stewart Everyday Food curd. (I can't find the recipe online, but this one is similar, just add lemon zest...) The big difference here was that Martha makes curd with the whole egg, while this recipe only called for yolks. In the end, I prefer the whole egg version, which tastes softer, warmer, maybe even subtler. Using just the yolk gives a thicker, meatier taste and also a stickier consistency I didn't quite like.

Next, the cupcake, which was easy enough: creamed butter and sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Then a mix of dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, chopped coconut) alternated with wet (coconut milk). Unfortunately, I filled my cupcake holders a bit too full and when they were done, I ended up with "muffin tops" hanging over the side of the paper liners, which I definitely did not want, so I trimmed them off. (Confession: I also sampled a few and found them crunchy, sweet, and delicious!)

Luckily, these cupcakes are filled and frosted, so the surface appearance doesn't matter too much. After the cakes cooled, I scooped out cone-shaped cavities in their centers, filled them with lime curd, then covered them up with homemade coconut-infused buttercream. A final dusting of shredded coconut and green sprinkles (to hint at the lime inside) and the dessert was done.

The cake turned out fluffy and moist, so moist in fact, they stuck to the paper a bit. I recommend scooping them out with a spoon. I asked Anthony to be my taster, and he said, "I don't really like coconut, but okay." I reminded him that he had suggested making the cupcakes in the first place. "You asked me what would go good with shrimp, not what I like," he said. Still, he found the cupcake was a hit. He would have preferred the curd to be a bit limier, and for me to have tinted it green with food coloring. Frankly, I agreed. Somehow when something looks like lime, it tastes more like lime.

1 comment:

  1. I love these sweet blogs, Aaron, they are so "you," -- makes me hear your voice just as if a few of us were standing in the Stone House lunch line listening to you telling us about cupcakes. What a lovely and unusual recipe this is... I usually host Easter at my place and these cupcakes would be a perfect springy treat for Easter lunch. Think I'll try it. Totally agree that for lime to taste limey it must be green.