Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake
When you make a layer cake, you shouldn’t think about how much of a mess it will make. You shouldn’t think about how many sticks of butter go into it, or how many separate components it requires. You should instead focus on how good it will taste, how impressive it will be, and how many friends it will feed. And, if you’re like me, you can use the amount of time you spend measuring, mixing, and cleaning as justification for the calories.

When I looked to see if other bloggers had tried this recipe, I was surprised to see several negative reactions. It seems that coconut can be either refined or kitschy, depending who you ask. In Baking as Biography: A Life Story in Recipes, Diane Tye lists coconut as one of several “exotic” baking ingredients indicative of mid-century, middle-class status (along with nuts, citrus, pineapple, and dates, to name a few). Coconut appears in a majority of my family’s sweet and savory recipes, so I always regarded it as a staple. Personally, I loved this cake. I thought it was simple, subtle, and elegant.

This cake is relatively time consuming, but you can divide it into stages. It’s a basic white cake brushed with rum syrup, filled with whipped cream-lightened custard, and frosted with coconut buttercream. The cake layers, rum syrup, coconut custard, and buttercream can all be made ahead of time. Properly wrapped, the cake layers and buttercream keep well in the freezer (though you’ll have to re-whip the frosting before you can use it).
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Cardamom Cookies

Cardamom Cookies
I’ve been mailing care packages in small USPS flat-rate boxes. They’re the perfect size for a bag of cookies, which can arrive worse for wear if you don’t pad them with some crumpled paper or scrunched up plastic bags. I have yet to find a truly easy, economical way to ship baked goods. I used to use tins or tupperware wrapped in butcher paper, but the boxes are cheaper.

The term “CARE package” is actually a registered trademark that dates back to World War II. According to Wikipedia, the first care packages contained (among other things):

  • one pound of beef in broth
  • one pound of steak and kidneys
  • 8 ounces of liver loaf
  • 8 ounces of corned beef
  • 12 ounces of luncheon loaf (like Spam)
  • 8 ounces of bacon
  • 2 pounds of margarine
  • one pound of lard

I can almost guarantee that your friends will prefer a box of cookies in lieu of “luncheon loaf.” These crisp, buttery cookies are the love-child of a sugar cookie and a sablĂ© (a sandy French shortbread). Since they freeze well, they’re good for serendipitous occasions when you need a small, spicy sweet. I plan to try some variations with citrus zest or other spices. Cardamom is one of my favorites though, and I suggest you start simply.
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