Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Coconut Creme Identity Crisis

I love to bake. y'all know that. But it hasn't always been this way. Long time ago.. back in the days of me being gainfully employed, I would have EASILY told you that I preferred cooking to baking.. because baking was so.. PRECISE. a little too much of this or not enough of that, and you're looking at floppy, vanilla-scented pancakes that taste like paper plates. (not that I'd know ANYTHING about that... or maybe I would. hmmm.)

However, since 'retiring' from my life as an engineer, and consequently assuming the life-long role of 'mommy'.. I have found I have a real JOY for baking. like.. REAL JOY. like.. my house is imploding from hostile laundry-takeover and the kids are jumping to and from the couches well over 4 feet apart. on hardwoods. and yet... this happy HUM comes over me as I hear, smell, and taste my way through another baked creation. JOY, I tell you.

But I'm an engineer! not a baker! no.. I'm a mommy! but the baking! ohhh the baking.... SO yeah. so what if I'm in my upper thirties and just now figuring out what I want to be when I grow up? chalk it up to a good old fashioned identity crisis, right?

At any rate, I've really been making a concerted effort lately to dig in and get to know others that operate (either by hobby or profession) in the trade of baking. I've begun following new blogs, connecting with other Twitters (twitterers? tweeters? twits??)... anyways.. I've been meeting new folks. and this is GOOD! cause WOW! the TALENT that exists out there is AMAZING!!!

One of the best things that has come of this new venture into discovering me is that I found out about a contest. Now y'all KNOW I love a good contest! I'm always trying to score stuff from Erin Cooks, and that Bakerella's always hosts contests I can't pass up. But THIS, people. this is different.


Can you BELIEVE I've never entered a baking challenge before? I KNOW! so with my new ice cream maker attachment in hand.. I knew it was a sure sign I had to pop my proverbial cherry and enter.

And seriously. cupcakes? and ice cream? together? booyakasha! I was SO down for that!

Now, the PLANNER in me had a TON of flavor combinations I wanted to do... but the PROCRASTINATOR in me waited til the VERY LAST few days to even begin creating something to qualify as an entry. So... upon finding the super-easy-my-kid-could-do-it ice cream recipe, I decided to go with something of the coconut persuasion.


First of all.. this recipe I found for Coconut cupcakes is AMAZING! I'll do a full post on the cupcakes soon, but go ahead and check it out (when you're done reading this post, of course! no need to hurry off now, ya hear?) NUTMEG! using nutmeg added such a GREAT layer to the flavor of the cake... oh! seriously the best coconut cake I've had in like.. a LONG time.

it took me a few dozen cupcakes to REALLY figure out the proper amount to put in the liners (so as to leave enough room for the ice cream, and the ALL-important crunch layer) Turns out this a mistake I did not mind.

Oh.. and I had NO LUCK with my silicone flower pan. I thought I'd be cute with a flower-shaped cupcake? nope. wrecked the first two trying to release the cakes. then decided to eat the others out of spite. oh.. the things I put up with for the sake of art!

Now that I had the cupcake portions made and the ice cream made.. it was time to make the magic happen. Now, I COULD have just slapped the two together and called it good. or GOOD-GOOD cause coconut cupcake? GOOD. coconut ice cream? GOOD. But this is my first challenge, and I wanted to do it right. and besides.. what's a ice cream cake without a crunch layer? that's right.... these cupcakes needed some crunch.

So even though y'all KNOW I can make my own graham crackers.. I went ahead and used some good ole Scooby Bones. and how could I not? I mean.. just LOOK at Scoob! Even HE seems to be giving me a secret smile letting me know I'm on to something good here.

I crushed the 'bones' up, mixed with sugar and butter, then baked the pressed-down mix in the oven. cause YES.. I wanted the crunch layer even SWEETER and BUTTERIER (is that a word?) than the regular grahams.

Topped the cupcakes with the crumbled graham cracker crust, then topped that with the coconut ice cream. (yes, a few are missing from the pan, since I wanted to test the cupcakes. I wasn't sure if baking such a small amount would dry out the cake.. but I was pleased to find out that even that little layer of cake was moist and delicious!)

After those set, I topped with a simple whipped cream. store-bought, at that, cause you know.. deadlines and all. I used my piping bag to make up for the lack of home-made, if that earns me any points back!

once they had time to freeze a little more, I began the picture taking.

Ladies and Gentlemen.. I give you...

The Coconut Creme Identity Crisis

It's a cupcake! no, it's ice cream! but it's got a pie crust! and whipped cream! Do I eat it with a fork? a spoon? my hands? aaaah!! I'm so confused!

Yes.. to pay tribute to my very own identity crisis... I offer you an identity crisis in food form. and GOOD FOOD FORM IT IS!

My husband Troy tried them, and agreed with me that these are in the "holy Mother#*&%er these are Mother#*&%ing GOOD" category. but we like coconut. we could be biased.

YOU, however, my readers, are not! (ok.. maybe one or two of you are, and that's totally cool with me!) ACTUALLY, I'm counting on a FEW of you to be biased and tune in later this week so you can VOTE FOR ME so I can win this challenge.

If you're curious, you can check out the blogs of the co-hosts of the contest... Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious. then, of course, tell them how great I am. and that I deserve to win. or.. you know.. maybe just vote for me once (or twice or like 20 times. )

At any rate.. this was SO MUCH FUN to do!! SO glad I took on the challenge of a challenge, and I totally look forward to doing another one. but maybe next month or something. I'm so full of coconut right now, it's a little hard to move.. much less bake.

Screamin' for Ice Cream

So anyone who follows me on twitter or facebook already knows that I did indeed get an ice cream maker attachment for my kitchen aide. (enter MUCH rejoicing here!)

Unfortunately, in my attempt to thank my folks for buying me such a wonderful toy... well.. I kinda bombed!

I HAD tried to make a cheesecake ice cream for all to enjoy during the last day of their visit last week, and I THOUGHT I was on to something. I even made a graham cracker crust to crunch up and swirl in!

Unfortunately, the recipe itself just didn't pan out. You see, it called for using a pudding mix.. ad while it DID provide a DEAD-ON comparative taste for cheesecake... it never really gave that 'ice cream' texture. it was, for all intents and purposes.. frozen pudding. bleh. even MORE bleh?? 10 minutes after sitting on the counter because I didn't want to finish mine? it still had the pudding texture. it just wasn't as cold. boo!

So now, you can probably imagine... I'm feeling the pressure. determined to get a good batch from this $100 toy... I researched some recipes and went to bat again. I was gonna make it work if it killed me this time.

(now in case you were wondering if I'm really that crazy-psycho-perfectionist... ok.. maybe a little... but I'm really not. I was just under the gun to create an ice cream to go with my entry for the ice cream cupcake challenge I was entering. Fear not.. I had already source a store that sold a hearty version of the flavor I needed in case I botched up yet another batch.)

So here I am... ready to make some coconut ice cream happen.

I got all my ingredients... and yes.. I was sure to get CREAM OF COCONUT.. not coconut MILK.

whisked it all together and poured it in the maker. well.. ALMOST all. I was a little sloppy, and there were some coconut flakes that went AWOL... but not so many that you'd miss them.

so just like those lame late-night commercials that beg you to 'set it and forget it'... I did just that. I let the machine churn its fatty-goodness contents, and I got us a nice batch of coconut ice cream.

The taste was so good! and I'm not just saying that cause I didn't screw it up. I really did like the ice cream! and it's going to be great for using in my entry for the ice cream cupcake challenge. but I'd for sure do this again (maybe add some pineapple bits a la pina colada? or chocolate chips? mmm... yeah. I'll do this again!)

eventually I'll take on one of those crazy ice cream recipes that calls for you to boil egg yolks and make custard and such before chilling then adding to the machine... but I'll save that for one of my 'I've had too much coffee' kind of days.

even though I linked to the recipe above.. I'll re-type it here for you. cause I'm feeling generous like that. (and it's all of what... 2 steps?)

Coconut Ice Cream (as listed on All Recipes)

1 cup milk
1 (14 ounce) can cream of coconut (DO NOT USE coconut milk!!)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (*optional, and see my notes below)


Combine the milk and cream of coconut in the container of a food processor or blender, and mix thoroughly. Stir in cream and flaked coconut.

Pour into the container of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

* NOTE!! the flaked coconut I used was very long. well not VERY, but a bit on the long side. i would, should you choose to add the coconut flakes, either chop them in a food processor or cut them up a little with a knife before adding in. it'll make for more even bites, and decrease the likelihood of you getting a long flake stuck between two teeth, which could cause social embarrassment or slight pain. either way.. you're welcome. I'm only looking out for YOU here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My First Big Gig!

I had my first BIG gig!!!

Well.. it turns out all my bake sale contributions have finally paid off. A woman at my church happened to come across a batch of my Cordially Cherry Happy Janes, and she was smitten. SO smitten, in fact, that she commissioned me to provide her with 25 DOZEN of them for a volunteer appreciation party she was charged with hosting.

(insert big huge smiling Carrie here!)

This project was a true exercise in time management, as well as a chance to create invoices and receipts for my budding business. I'm PROUD to say that the creation of and delivery of this job was done seamlessly. like.. I was done before 9pm the night before seamlessly. (I KNOW!! awesome, right??)

signed, sealed, and delivered!

In hindsight-- I COMPLETELY undercharged this order. I have no shame in saying that because it WAS an event for church, and it WAS my first big order. But yeah... The church got a GREAT deal on these... I probably averaged about $4/hour BEFORE my costs were taken out... MAYBE 25 cents/hour profit.

but that's GOOD. all part of the lessons learned!

In addition to those things, I feel I have a better understanding of ground rules and expectations when it will come to ordering and payment. I was a little bummed that it took about a week AFTER the event to be paid for the work, and when I was, the check was made out to A Taste of Stepford. (which meant I was unable to CASH the check because at the time I did not have an account set up under the fictitious name of Stepford)

But everything is a step forward in this journey. I do find it slightly meaningful that it was an order from church that forced me in the direction of above-board business practices such as proper account naming and licencing... but that's just me.

The bottom line is that I accomplished my biggest order to date with timeliness, style, and a great product.

and I got PAID.


Friday, May 15, 2009


Thanks so much to all of you who participated in my "Fan Appreciation Day" Contest! there were a number of first-time commenters, as well as my loyal readers who honestly... make this whole blogging aspect worthwhile!


Now, I know I said I was only going to have TWO winners for every fifty comments, but I decided to let the random number generator choose THREE comments. (honestly? I made a big batch this time, and I have to get rid of them before *I* eat them all!!)

so thanks to the random number generator...

I can happily say a hearty congratulations to:



I will be contacted you each very soon to make sure I have your correct mailing address! THEN, I'm off to the post office to mail your prizes!

Thanks again to each of you for playing as well as all of the promoting that was done! I've got a few more Jane Flavors I've been thinking about, so you never know when I'm going to do another contest!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fan Appreciation Day - A CONTEST!

I really should have cleaned today. or did the laundry. or prepped dinner so I'm not left scratching my head in a mad scramble trying to feed everyone when we get back from my daughter's dance class.

instead... I made a new Jane. And while I will have a full post describing the newest Happy Jane up soon... I thought I'd make the introduction short and sweet.

meet the "Fanna Banana"

There's no monkeying around with this Happy Jane... She's got a banana cookie base (which happens to be egg-less, by the way), a white chocolate and banana cream center, and then she's topped with a generous coating of extra dark and bittersweet chocolate.

These Janes were inspired because both my husband and son are fans of bananas (get it.. fanna banana = fan OF banana??) and every now and then I like to make the guys in my life happy. Then I figured.. why not make some READERS happy, too?

So here goes, gang---

I'm going to give away TWO sets of 6 Fanna Banana Happy Janes for every FIFTY comments I get on this post. All it takes is a comment telling me what YOU are a fan of. (well, that, and the random number generator picking your comment number!)

(wait.. back up.. what do I mean 2 sets of 6 for every fifty? Did I not drink my coffee today or something?)

so it goes like this: If I get anywhere from 2-99 comments on this post, the random number generator will pick TWO comment entries to each have a half-dozen happy Janes mailed to them. if this post sees 100+ comments? then FOUR winners will be chosen. 150+ comments? SIX winners. you get the drift. I will, however, limit the number of winners to 10. not that I can even IMAGINE this blog post getting more than 250 comments (snort! hah! maniacal laughing like you can't imagine going on!) but in the CRAZY chance that I DO get more than 250 comments, I'm going to keep the winner count at 10. otherwise I'd be in the poorhouse trying to ship these girls to all the winners! That's fair enough, right?

so while I'm at it.. here's a FEW other little tiny rules:

  • 1 comment per person with a valid e-mail address so I can contact you, please!

  • do NOT forget to say what you're a fan of! Keep with the theme, people!

  • Winner must reside in the continental USA. (I don't want them spoiling or melting before they have a chance to even arrive!)

  • ALL COMMENTS must be received by 9am EST TOMORROW, FRIDAY MAY 15th.

BONUS ENTRIES! want to be able to leave another comment/get another entry? Here's TWO MORE WAYS TO ENTER:

  • OPTION A - Link to this contest on Twitter! afterwards, come back here and leave a comment with the URL of your tweet. (URL can be obtained by clicking the timestamp below your tweet)

  • OPTION B - Link to this contest on your blog! afterwards, come back and leave a comment with the URL of your blog post linking to the contest.

Not bad, eh? Three chances to enter, and since I'm going to say that a person can only 'win' once... the odds are pretty good on the spread.

Good luck! now spread the word, so I can spread some appreciation!


Thanks so much to all of you who entered! I'm certainly a fan of people who enter my contests!

Speaking of contests... this one is officially CLOSED!!! check back later for the WINNERS!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Secret Lives of Cupcakes

Cupcakes remind me a LOT of people. Cupcakes.. much like people... all are different. different shapes, different colors, some good, some bad... and let's face it... there are pretty ones, and there are ones you don't want to be caught in public with.

Consequently.. you just don't know about a cupcake til you get under the wrapper and sink your teeth into one. (please note.. I do not suggest taking wrappers off of or sinking teeth into people. this might not go over very well with people that don't know you very well...)

Today I made a simple vanilla cupcake for my daughter and her friend that came over for a playdate. Then I topped with a very simple chocolate ganache buttercream frosting.

I'm sure the kids were happy enough with the very idea of cupcakes.. and CHOCOLATE frosting.

but I'd be a liar if I didn't say that it made me happy to watch them discover that their cupcakes were techno-blue with chocolate chips inside.

I guess secrets aren't always a bad thing.

Very Simple Vanilla Cupcakes (adopted from the book 500 Cupcakes)

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 cup self-rising flour (I used all-porpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat Oven to 350F, place 12 paper baking cups in muffin pan.

Place all ingredients ina medium bowl and beat with electric mixer until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Spoon mixture into the cups, bake for 20 minutes. (I have a convection oven, and took mine out at 18 minutes)

Remove pans from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then remove teh cupcakes and cool on a rack.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to three months.

yields 1 dozen


Feel free to add in whatever mixers you feel appropriate to show a little bit of YOUR inner self.

We added techno blue food coloring and a gabzillion semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Playdates just seem more fun with a gabzillion chocolate chips.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

getting there is half the fun

So I've been on a mission lately. Not only have I gotten it into my head that I need to make a cupcake counterpart to every Happy Jane flavor I create... but I also want to enter the Ice Cream Cupcake challenge this year.

Two things need to happen for me to accomplish my goals. First... I need to get an ice cream maker. I was TOTALLY hoping to get one for Mother's day... but I got a lawnmower instead. I'm not going to talk about that here, though.. because I do try to keep from using profanities on this blog. So whatever. I'm still ice cream maker-less. But I'm not too worried. my husband may MAKE the money, but I control the budget. There shall definitely be a belated mother's day ice cream maker coming my way soon.

So the second thing is that I need to figure out how to make a good graham-cracker cupcake. I don't mean a vanilla cupcake with a graham cracker bottom. I mean.. "holy cow.. this tastes exactly like a graham cracker.. but it's a cupcake!"

I found a recipe online that I used yesterday.... but the problem is that it's in grams. gar! So I made some conversions and did my best to re-create this recipe.

The 'batter' ended up being VERY THICK. like "am I making muffins or scones here?" thick.

Nonetheless... they baked up fine. At least by looks anyway. to taste one out of the oven was not what I had hoped for. They tasted a bit... well... bran muffinish. I mean.. they were OK.... but not roll over and find a glass of milk good or anything.

But I thought... let me forge forward. you never know what they'll taste like after I pipe some buttercream in there and cover them with chocolate. Oh wait.. did I say buttercream? Yeah... I did. Marshmallow buttercream, as a matter of fact. thick, sugary, make-your-teeth-hurt marshmallow buttercream. SURELY that would balance the neutral graham taste of the cake.

But wait... because I was looking to re-create my More than S'mores Happy Janes in Cupcake Formation... I needed to get some chocolate. Thank you, Trader Joe's... this ought to work nicely in a ganache layer on top.

and nicely it did. I spooned a little on each cupcake, and sprinkled with a few graham crackers for garnish.

When all was finally set... I excitedly peeled away the paper to see the treasure that would greet me. Looks good, no?

Of course... there's no point of piping in the buttercream if you can't see it in there... so here's a cross-section for you.

All in all... it was... lackluster.

I know!! so sad!!! I was really bummed it wasn't spot on. I even typed out the recipe with the conversions so I could include it here on my blog... but I don't feel right sharing it.. cause it wasn't good enough.

All in all... I need to tweak the recipe a little. I think... because I used an entire portion of graham flour... it was a little on the dry side. next time I'm going to use a mix of the graham and white all purpose flour. and instead of non-fat milk, I'm totally gonna break out the full-fat moo-juice. that little bit of fat helps to make a moist cake.. so I need not to skimp on that.

Also?? I need to pipe in MORE buttercream. The cake wasn't BAD... but with the grainy/branny/neutralnessof the cake, and the dark dark bitterness of the chocolate ganache... you really need a bit more punch of sweet for balance.

So hooray for the pictures... but fingers crossed that I can get this right. I really do want an authentic graham-cracker tasting CAKE... and when I DO get that magic combo down.. I will re-post with the winning recipe.


let it be known that I am currently doing my best to personally get rid of all these 'bad' cupcakes. They may not be great... but I'd hate to see all that good chocolate go to waste. Besides... I figure, with every one I eat, I'm one bite closer to figuring out how to make it better. I better stop messing things up, though... summer is coming, and my bathing suits will not appreciate all these mistakes I'm eating!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Send 'em Some Sugar (Literally!)

Do you ever see something and think.. oh, that's cute.. I could do that... then forget all about it?

A while back I had seen something in one of the many cake decorating books that I buy about decorating sugar cubes for a party. Cute idea, right? I thought so too.. then promptly forgot all about it.

The other day I indulged and bought myself another book called Beautiful Cakes by Peggy Porschen. It was in a discount bin, so I really couldn't resist. Sure enough, as if by fate.. the very last feature in her book (as well as the back cover art) is home-made sugar cubes.

I figured the baking gods must be screaming at me, cause sure enough.. here we are nearing the end of Teacher Appreciation Week, and a mere few days away from Mother's Day, and I have NOTHING. no gifts, no cards, nothing in the mail on the way anywhere... NOTHING. Ladies and gentlemen.. this is a time to send some SUGAR!

I will say that this was so ridiculously easy that I almost feel guilty giving this as a gift. With some sugar, a half of a drop of neon food coloring, a splash of water to dampen the sugar and my itty-bitty cookie cutters... I was totally in business.

really. if you've ever built a sand castle... you can do this. Take care that the sugar isn't TOO wet, make sure it isn't too dry, and be sure to pack it down.

oh, and wait a few minutes before trying to remove the cutter. otherwise you might end up with a jacked-up sugar shape.

or worse... a real mess.

within an hour or two, the sugar shapes were ready to be handled (GENTLY) to have their picture taken... but I'll be letting them 'dry' over night before I package them up. Nonetheless... here they are ready to sweeten a special some one's day.

Each of my daughter's teachers (and a few of my favorite friends that are moms) will be getting a box of tea and some home-made sugar cubes. While I have them slated for Teacher Appreciation and Mother's Day gifts.. these can certainly work as adorable favors for a baby shower, bridal tea, birthday, princess party, or even a get-well gift (spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right?)

Happy Mother's Day... Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, and just Happy Day in general! Now go send some sugar to someone... if they haven't already... they might just do something sweet for you in return.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I've said it before. I'm SURE I'll say it again.

This recipe for home-made graham crackers is GREAT! A certain drawback is that of any other dough I make, I just can NOT help myself from eating this raw. maybe it's the honey, maybe it's the graham wheat flour itself, but all I need is a spoon and a bowl of this stuff. (Just don't tell my daughter... I tell her all the time we can't eat things because of raw eggs. she'd have a hypocritical field day with me if she knew how much I was sneaking behind her back.)

Of course, my main reason for making this recipe is so I can get my little graham cracker rounds for some of my Happy Jane varieties. but every time I DO make them I think... "Why don't I make these more often???"

If you have ever made a sugar cookie or cookie using a cutter with any success, then you can TOTALLY make these grahams. My only suggestion is to be sure to roll them out so they are thin. In the past I've made them thick like my cookies, and the kids just end up looking at me weird. like I'm giving them dog biscuits or something.

We were super boring and stuck with squares this time around, but I did let the kids 'prick' the holes in the top and 'help' with the sprinkling of the cinnamon sugar before baking. (notice the HEAVY layer of sugar??)

no joke.. any time of year these are a light and fun snack. and it should be noted that despite my kids' habit of a heavy pour/sprinkle of sugar on top, this treat has FAR less sugar than the majority of store-bought varieties out there. Almost kind of gives you the green light to cover them in chocolate and marshmallows, you think?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Right in the Kisser!

So I've mentioned before that some the spring time, I like to find inspiration from citrus. Combine the availability of so many fresh fruits this time of year with all of the grass, trees, and flowers in bloom... and my mind kept seeing shades of green. Consequently, I succumbed to the green as well as gave a nod of respect to my days in Florida and bought myself a bag of Key Limes this week.

Of COURSE I was thinking about Key Lime Pies, but then I thought... ooooh... key lime HAPPY JANES. all the taste, tang and creamy goodness of a pie in one uber-decadent bite. SIGN ME UP!

Do you like how nice and neat I started with my bowl of key limes and clean cutting board?

Unfortunately, trying to de-pulp key limes is NOT an easy task. not only did my fingers prune in the prolonged exposure to juice, but man! I made quite a mess!

I tried everything! A peeler, a fork, knife, spoon... considered the food processor... but nothing but time and effort were the trick to removing the pulp (sans PITS!) from the little green meanies.

I strained the pulp and juice, because I was really only wanting to add the lime pulp. I knew too much 'juice' and my buttercream would not set, so I tried to minimize my liquid additions.

Once my buttercream filling was set, I piped it on to some home-made graham cracker rounds. I know I've said this before, but I LOVE this recipe for home-made graham crackers!!! So tasty!! (speaking of tasty... don't these girls look so GOOD??? )

You know the rest! do the dip.... let harden, and enjoy!! (ok, more like.. do the dip, get impatient waiting for white chocolate to set, stick in freezer, STARE at freezer willing sub-zero temperatures to make the shell harden already... THEN enjoy!) I tried to keep to the key lime pie 'flavor' as much as possible, so I stuck with white chocolate.

I joked on Twitter that my husband Troy was going to propose to me again when he tasted these.

He did. (well... no ring was involved.. but he did actually put his dishes in the dish washer, so that's close enough for me!)

Please give a warm welcome to our newest Jane----

The Key Lime Kisser!

Lessons Learned: de-pulping key limes is HARD! I have bought key-lime juice in the past, but man oh man, if I could out-right purchase key lime pulp.... I would totally do it. When I make these again (and I will... these are definitely a high-ranker in terms of flavor in our house, and I see them being made well into and through the summer!) I will try different methods of de-pulping. maybe I'll even try the food processor. you know.. once I figure out if eating key lime rinds is ok.