Tag Archives: coconut

Banana Coconut Cream Easter Cupcakes

Easter and I have a checkered past.

When I was a little girl, there were Easter baskets involved, and that seemed pretty awesome. An entire basket of treats and toys surround by that annoying-but-simultaneously-endearing Easter grass? A chocolate bunny bigger than my head that I’d eat about a quarter of before giving up? Plastic Easter eggs my mom had painstakingly filled with candy? Count me in.

Other Easters, though, were fraught with peril. Well, okay, peril might be a little dramatic. Perhaps fraught with inconvenience.

One Easter, for instance, I woke up and immediately realized that I was sick. I was nauseous, feverish, and definitely not interested in holiday cheer. My big plans of jumping out of bed and searching out the nearest stash of candy were dashed.

It was awful; birds were chirping joyfully in the freshly-bloomed Bradford pear trees outside while inside, little Julie was lying, miserable and a tad melodramatic, in the floor.

My parents brought my big Easter basket in and set it in front of me. They apparently thought the effect of this action would be to motivate me towards wellness. However, the piles of candy that should’ve been appetizing to me actually made me want to puke. I languished for hours before I so much as unwrapped a creme egg.

Maybe that Easter wasn’t the easiest one for me to celebrate, and nowadays I don’t even get an Easter basket, but the holiday is actually my favorite time of the year.

Easter is when Christians celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died in our place, taking the punishment for our sins, and the fact that He then rose from the dead is an unspeakable victory that I will try my best to speak: a triumph over the power of death and the power of sin.

I walk around feeling bound a lot of the time. Bound by sadness, bound by financial worry, or bound by indecision; the truth is, what I have in Christ is the ultimate freedom. This holiday reminds me to rejoice, and to give away my worries — to recommit to living a free life for Him.

To celebrate this year, I made these moist banana cupcakes stuffed with my favorite edible substance in the universe, coconut pastry cream, and topped with my other favorite edible substance in the universe, Swiss meringue buttercream. They’re heavenly, dense little bites of Easter JOY.

I decorated the cupcakes with tiny chickie faces and some ginormous, delicious birds’ nests. The recipe below will tell you how to create the former, and keep an eye on Maranda’s blog in the coming days for instructions on how to create the cute nests!

If you want to know more about Christianity, what Jesus did, and what it means for us, please leave me a comment below and let me know that you’d like me to email you.

Banana Coconut Cream Easter Cupcakes

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from multiple sources including Piggly-Wiggly, Gina DePalma, and Zoë Bakes
Yields: about 32 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temp
~4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5-1.75 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:*
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
yellow food coloring (I used lots. Just add it slowly until you reach desired color)
mini chocolate chips (optional, for decorating chicks)
candy corn (optional, for decorating chicks)

Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a mini-bundt cake pan or cupcake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture may look curdled — just keep mixing), followed by all the sour cream and finally, the rest of the flour mixture. Fill each well of your prepared pan about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full and rap the pan on the counter to remove bubbles from the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack. Let cool to room temperature before adding cream filling and glaze.

Make the Coconut Pastry Cream: While cakes are baking and cooling, make coconut pastry cream. Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.

To make Swiss buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and food coloring.

To assemble the cakes: When cakes are cool, hollow out the center of each mini-bundt cake (use the cone method). Pipe in as much of the coconut pastry cream as will fit and replace the top of the “cone.”

Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth a layer of frosting over the top of the cupcake. Use a star tip to pipe a small circle of frosting in the middle of the cupcake (covering any imperfections). Give it two mini chocolate chip eyes and a candy corn beak (note: the color of these will start to run after a few days in the fridge, so if you aren’t serving these right away, you may want to wait to add them. You’ll have to remove the cupcakes from the fridge for a bit to let the frosting soften and then stick them on). Voila!

*NOTE: This recipe actually makes twice as much coconut pastry cream as you need to fill the cakes. I split my pastry cream and made these with half, and filled donuts with the other half. You can also just double the number of banana cakes you make to fill, or find some other creative use for the excess cream. I suppose you could also try halving the coconut pastry cream recipe, but I didn’t want to fiddle with halving three yolks and a can o’ coconut milk.

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Heart-Shaped Palmiers and a Pesto Giveaway

What does it say about me that I have more fun at middle school dances as a grown-up than I ever did as a middle schooler?

Woodlawn’s 7th graders hosted a February dance last night. The theme was BRIGHT COLORS to avoid any romantic drama involving Valentine’s Day, so everyone dressed in their rainbow best.

I waltzed in fashionably late in a magenta and turquoise get-up, danced with a gaggle of my 6th grade students to “Fly Like a G6” (though we sing, “now I’m feelin’ so fly / like a fruitbat,” which we feel more accurately characterizes us), and filmed all the hair-whipping that occurred when “Whip My Hair” came on.

We stopped mid-dance to run outside and play freeze tag. I ditched my heels and joined the math teacher, also named Julie, as “it.” Once our feet and hands were frozen, we all filed back in for more dancing. Julie and I sang a duet of “Ice Ice Baby” at one point, showing our age.

Every now and then I’d have a chaperonely duty to perform: directing cleanup, vetoing a song or two, telling the 6th graders to stop screaming. But in general, the dance was exactly what a middle school dance should be: fun and happy. Why didn’t I have this much fun when I was actually in middle school?

I vividly recall my 7th grade Valentine’s dance. My teachers were apparently not as sensitive to the delicate hormonal phase we were in, so they thought it’d be a great idea to make the dance as sappy as possible. Everything was covered in red and pink, with hearts papering the walls. It looked like cupid had thrown up love and romance on every available surface of the multipurpose room where the dance was held. Not only that, but a table was set up outside the bathrooms where the PTA was selling roses and candy for the suave middle school boys who had come to the dance unprepared for their dates.

Someone had asked me to this particular dance. We’ll call him Jeb, and he was not my type. I told him I would go with him as a friend because I wanted to be nice, but once I arrived at the dance, the middle school social pressure overwhelmed me. I didn’t want to be seen with Jeb, much less have to, like, dance with him and stuff.

Just after walking in, I caught sight of him at the aforementioned table buying a rose for me and I booked it to the girls’ bathroom, where I hid for the majority of the night. Every now and then I’d poke my head out and watch him wandering around quizzically, looking for me in the crowd, and then I’d duck back in to hide some more. Part of me felt guilty, but the part that felt mortified won out.

Jeb moved away shortly thereafter, and I felt so bad for having ditched him at the dance. Thankfully, he returned in high school and I got the opportunity to apologize. I chalk the whole experience up to middle schoolitis, the inflammation of your social nerve. For some reason when you’re a middle schooler, it matters so much what others are thinking about you. You don’t want to dance, because what if people think you dance funny? You don’t want to hang out with certain people, because what if people think you’re like them? You don’t want to wear certain clothes, because what if they send the message that you’re uncool?

Phew, I’m so glad that’s over. And so glad that I, unlike a lot of grown-ups, have a second chance at the middle school dance! Call it one of the perks of being a teacher.

Anyway, after all that fun last night, I didn’t have much time for baking. I knew I wanted to make something sweet and Valentinesy, but it also needed to be quick. Voila: easy heart-shaped palmiers that can be sweet or savory depending on what you spread in them.

Pestos With Panache by Lauren sent me two pesto flavors to review, Fig & Gorgonzola and Pumpkin Chipotle, so I decided to make two varieties of pesto palmiers. To satisfy my sweet tooth (who’m I kidding? it’s insatiable), I also made Fig Jam & Almond Palmiers and Chocolate, Pecan, & Coconut Palmiers. I love that palmiers are so customizable that you can create a variety of them at once (the method below will inspire you to get creative!), but what I love even more is that you can whip up a batch of these cuties in 20 minutes. Perfect for a last-minute addition to your Valentine’s meal!

Speaking of Valentines — the Valentine’s Fairy heard my lamentations about not getting any valentines as an adult, so I got this in the mail from my Sunday school teacher, Joyce. Too sweet!

Regarding the pesto, Pestos With Panache by Lauren has all-natural, preservative free products. The pestos keep well in the freezer for up to two years, and the company boasts a number of zany, creative flavors.

I wasn’t wild about the Pumpkin Chipotle Pesto; it combined mild pumpkin with some heat, and it seemed like it would work better in a recipe with bolder flavors to complement it. The Fig & Gorgonzola Pesto, though, was deep and delicious, and I can’t wait to try some of the other fruity flavors. I can imagine lots of creative uses for them, including (of course) palmiers!

Would you like to win two of the fun pesto flavors from Pestos With Panache? They’d love to send one lucky commenter a sample. To enter:

1. Required Main Entry (your other entries won’t count unless you do this one!): Visit Pestos With Panache by Lauren and tell me what 2 pesto flavors you’d love to try.

To get up to five extra entries, do each of the following items (one entry per item). Please be sure to leave a separate comment for each item you complete, or you will not receive the entry for that item. If you already do these things, it still counts (just leave me a comment and tell me so).
2. “Like” Pestos With Panache on Facebook.
3. “Like” Willow Bird Baking on Facebook.
4. Follow Pestos With Panache on Twitter.
5. Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter.
6. Tweet the following message: “Just entered to win 2 pesto flavors from @PestosWPanache on Willow Bird Baking! http://su.pr/2diNLK #giveaway @julieruble”

The contest will close at 12 noon (EST) on February 19, 2011, and the winner will be chosen via random.org. In the meantime, make some palmiers!

Heart-Shaped Palmiers

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 25-28 palmiers

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed (or use homemade puff pastry!)
sprinkle of flour
moist spread*

*you can use pestos, jellies, Nutella, thicker sauces, etc.
**such as cheeses, toasted nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface so that it’s just slightly longer, and then cut it in half horizontally with a pizza cutter. You now have two rectangles of puff pastry.

Spread your pesto, jelly, or other moist spread onto the puff pastry sheets leaving about 1/4-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle toppings on lightly, taking care not to overstuff and make your palmiers difficult to roll. Apart from my two pesto palmiers, I made palmiers spread with fig jam and sprinkled with toasted almonds, and palmiers sprinkled with sugar, cocoa powder, toasted pecans, mini chocolate chips, and toasted coconut. The sky’s the limit in terms of the combinations you can create.

Once you’ve spread and topped your pastry rectangle, grab the long edge and fold it in toward the middle. Repeat with the other long edge, such that they meet in the middle:

Now fold one side of the dough onto the other:

At this point, stick the dough in the freezer on wax paper for about 10 minutes so that it’s easier to cut. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/2-inch slices:

Set each slice on one of the prepared baking sheets with one of the cut sides up. If the knife smooshed them a little, prod them back into shape. Bake at 425 degrees F for 8 minutes before turning the temperature down to 400 degrees F and gently flipping each palmier. Bake for 4-5 minutes extra. Remove the palmiers from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack. Serve slightly warm.

Note: Pestos With Panache by Lauren provided me with 2 pesto flavors to review at no cost to me and offered to sponsor this giveaway. I’m committed to giving you my honest opinion about any product mentioned on Willow Bird Baking.

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Magic Bars and a Tate’s Bake Shop Giveaway!

I can be kind of a trainwreck sometimes. I don’t mean a lose-my-pencil or knock-over-my-milk trainwreck (although I can be those too). I mean a National Lampoon trainwreck.

Christmastime always reminds me of this fact, mostly because of something that happened a few years ago. My parents had decided to travel to South Korea for the holiday to visit my sister, who was living there at the time. I was sullen about having to spend Christmas alone, and on top of that, I had been appointed petsitter.

Magical, magical Magic Bars

Everything would have been okay if this position merely entailed taking care of my parents’ toy poodle, Abbey, who — while getting crotchety in her old age — is still a little scoop o’ sweetness. But no. Petsitting meant taking care of the dog, the finch, the very animated Roomba, and THE RABBIT.

THE RABBIT, y’all, who — I KID YOU NOT — eats two freshly made salads per day. I don’t even eat two freshly made salads per day! Or, uh, even one freshly made salad per day.

THE RABBIT, who snuggles and kisses everyone EXCEPT ME, because he hates my guts.

THE RABBIT, who attacks me whenever I’m within range.

THE RABBIT, who was THIS CLOSE to being turned into a stew and not making it out of the experience alive.

Don’t worry — no rabbit in the Magic Bars.

It was clear from the very beginning that this was going to be an interesting week, but I had no idea what kind of shenanigans were in store for me. I thought the worst of my troubles was THE RABBIT. Not even close. Because:

1. In the middle of one of my first nights at my parents’ house, I woke up to a waterfall raining down from the living room ceiling. There was apparently a leak in an upstairs bathroom. Over the next few days, what started as a tiny crack in the downstairs ceiling became a gaping hole.

2. The Roomba stopped working after a few days. It already required daily maintenance to manually clean out the gobs of bunny hair it had to consume, but halfway through the week, it gave up the ghost. I barely fiddled with it before giving up, which meant being buried in bunny fluff the rest of the week. It was EVERYWHERE. Covering every article of clothing, stuck in my eyelashes, garnishing every bite of food.

3. Abbey decided to start spontaneously bleeding from her head midweek, staining the couch and sheets. Still no idea what happened there.

4. Speaking of Abbey, she and Byrd (my toy poodle) were mortal enemies all week long. Byrd likes to pester Abbey. Abbey wishes Byrd would fall into a hole and get swallowed by the earth. This makes for interesting interactions, including what I like to call “the great potty war,” during which each dog was determined to out-pee the other.

5. That $#@*% RABBIT attacked me and almost broke my hand as I was cleaning up his gross cage. Apparently he’s territorial about his hay. Noted.

6. The bird died. IT JUST UP AND DIED. I promise I fed it, watered it, milleted it, cooed at it, kept the temperature steady. Mom later assured me that it was an old bird. At this point I kind of felt like telling her that she was an old bird. Just kidding, Mom. Love you!

7. The day had finally arrived when I was supposed to pick my parents up from the airport after school. Everything was going to be okay! I was on my way to work, gleeful at the prospect of leaving the demolished ceiling, bleeding dog, dead bird, and vicious Monty Pythonesque bunny behind — when I totaled my car. TOTALED. Some dude pulled out in front of me leaving me no room to stop, and bang! Cue the airbags, the traffic jam, the police report, etc.

All of this occurred without a reliable way of contacting my parents since they were, you know, across the globe and all. I picked them up from the airport that night in Mike’s car, and I’ll bet you can imagine how well that went: “Hi guys. Your ceiling’s destroyed, your bird is dead, your house is one giant furball, your dog may or may not still be bleeding, and I just totaled my car. How was your trip?”

Anyway, I can be a trainwreck of epic proportions. That’s why when I received a copy of Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook to review a few weeks ago and promptly failed at the first recipe I made from it, I knew I needed to give it another go.

My first try was the Lemon Wafers. They’re described as “cake like,” but mine were thin, crisp, and burnt around the edges. They still tasted amazing (I may or may not have eaten half a batch by myself), but they were quite the ugly ducklings. With no photographs of some of the recipes, it was hard to decide how they were supposed to look; nevertheless, I’m pretty sure they weren’t supposed to look like that.

I’m so glad I tried again, because the next recipe was a winner. Magic Bars consist of pecans, bittersweet chocolate, and coconut bound by sweetened condensed milk on a graham cracker crust. They were so simple and quick to make, but were definitely magical! I took them to a crafting party (I feel so hip to have gone to a crafting party – did you see how deftly I slid that tidbit into this post? Am I ruining it now? Oh.) and they were a huge hit.

Pocket Review

Book Stats: 156 pages, $25.99 list price (~$18 on Amazon), indexed.
Accessibility: Perfect for a beginning baker!
Examples of Recipes: Mocha Pecan Muffins, Ginger Scones, Zvi’s Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Double Chocolate Almond Cookies, Peanut Butter Squares, Apple Cream Cheese Tart, Hummingbird Cake, Raspberry Charlotte, etc.
Overall Impression: I love the simplicity and accessibility of the recipes, but I would’ve preferred more photos — particularly to see how things were supposed to turn out.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Kathleen King, the author of the cookbook and owner of Tate’s Bake Shop in the Hamptons, has received recognition from Ina Garten, Everyday with Rachael Ray, The Gourmet Retailer, and The Boston Globe for her simple handmade treats. The cookbook is filled with easy, accessible recipes perfect for whipping up at a moment’s notice. In addition, the lovely folks at Tate’s sent me some buttery, thin and crisp cookies to sample. I loved them, and can’t wait to make some of the famous chocolate chip cookies to share with family.

Would you like to try some Tate’s Bake Shop goodies? One Willow Bird Baking reader will win a gift-pack of cookies including oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia nut, and chocolate chip, as well as a copy of the Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook. To enter, leave a comment on this post answering the question, “What’s your favorite cookie?” To receive up to three extra entries:

1. Become a fan of Tate’s Bake Shop on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did so (or if you’re already a fan, just say so in your comment!)
2. Become a fan of Willow Bird Baking on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did so (or if you’re already a fan, just say so in your comment!)
3. Tweet about the giveaway using this message: “Just entered to win a Tate’s Bake Shop gift pack and cookbook at Willow Bird Baking! Enter here: http://bit.ly/eFtQi6 @julieruble” and leave a separate comment telling me you did so.

This contest will run through December 28, 2010 at noon EST, but even if you don’t win, you can still enjoy some cookies! Tate’s Bake Shop is offering a 15% discount for Willow Bird Baking readers on tatesbakeshop.com from now until December 31. Just use the code “cookie” at checkout. Enjoy!

Magic Bars

Recipe by: Kathleen King of Tate’s Bake Shop
Yield: 24 bars

1/2 cup salted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/3 cups dessicated shaved coconut (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chunks (I use Ghirardelli)
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 x 13 inch pan, mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Press the mixture evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the coconut over the crumb base. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks over the coconut. Sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate chunks. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake it for 25 minutes. Cool it completely and cut it into bars. I like these magic bars served cold.

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