cupcakes and family

I grew up in a very French family. 

Both sides of my grandparents (known as Memere and Pepere) are from Canada (and their grandparents’ grandparents are from Canada too.)  As they made their way to the US, one of their main goals was to find jobs, with an effort to support their family as best as they could. 

Family, you should know, is really important.  It was important to my grandparents, it’s important to my own parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  And, it’s important to me.

My family values family. 

We laugh a lot.  We’re not afraid to be loud and crazy and wild.  We’ll hug you as you’re coming in, as you’re leaving, and we’ll hug you again just in case we forgot the first time around. 

We’ve cried together over sad moments.  I’ve been held more than once by my sister.  A cousin.  Just when I need it.  Just because they know.  Supportive.

Most of all, my family is filled with love.  There’s no mistaking that feeling when you walk through the door. 

We also like to eat. 

My mom has this thing where she “wants to make sure that everyone has enough food on their plate.”  And so, when you walk into my sister’s housewarming party, there is food for vegetarians, carnivores, and everyone in between.  All members of the family contribute by bringing a dessert, an appetizer, something to share. 

Obviously, the housewarming party for my sis and brother-in-law was a smashing, family-filled success.

I have a fascination with making and baking desserts.  It’s one of my greatest pleasures.  

And so, I was more than happy to contribute to the party on the foodie front. 

You all know how obsessed I am with cupcakes.  I like to think that a whole lot of thought and consideration went into each individual one.  Personalized dessert! 😀

I’ve also recently become obsessed with the Barefoot Contessa.  I don’t actually own any of her cookbooks, but after meandering my way through the local book stores, I certainly wish I did.  I decided to settle for second best and went to FoodNetwork.com to find the recipe for her coconut cupcakes. 

Yes.  Coconut cupcakes. If you’re like me and wish you could put coconut on everything that enters your mouth, you will love these cupcakes.

I’d like to say that you need to a be a baker, a chef, or some sort of artist to make these cupcakes.  I’d like to say that unless you have culinary expertise, you should not make this recipe. 

But it’s simply not true.  This was actually the first time I’ve ever made a homemade cake from scratch, and it could not have been easier.  Foolproof is what it is.  Trust me! 

Delicious.

Coconut Cupcakes—courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa

When I make dessert, I want it to be the real deal.  These cupcakes were.  Filled with coconut, smeared with a cream cheese frosting, and a fluffy, flavorful cupcake that was still worthy of standing alone.  A deliciously perfect treat for that special occasion, birthday, or celebration.  You’ll love it!

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

Frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Line a muffin tin 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.
  5. Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a medium bowl, with the mixer on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.
  6. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.
  7. ENJOY!

Question: What is your favorite kind of dessert and how do you fit it into your healthy lifestyle?  I love indulging in a favorite dessert when the occasion arises.  I keep the richer desserts out of the house (out of house, out of mind! 😉 ) and I always have whatever I like when I’m at someone’s house or going out with friends.  Balance, balance, balance.  It’s a great place to be. 😀

(p.s. my favorite dessert, by the way, is cupcakes :mrgreen: And dark chocolate, which I always have on hand. )

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weekend post: time to visit

My older brother—Matthew—and Kelsey—his fun and awesome girlfriend—live in Boston.

Matthew has lived there for a year.  And here’s the thing: I’ve never actually visited him.

I hate admitting that, even here on the blog.  I mean, he’s my brother.  The guy I looked up to as a kid.  He was always the life of the party.  The environmentalist who went vegetarian because he felt so strongly about the subject.  The guy who told me to just block out the pain of a hard run—just keep running.  The guy who convinced me to eat tree sap because “it taste like honey” (which it does NOT, by the way 😉 ).  The protective big brother who came to visit me while I was working in a grocery store, asking me where the creepy, jerky guys were, just so that he could beat them up for me.   

Somehow plans came and went.  I constantly told him, “I’ll visit you soon!” while the weeks and months flew by.  So it was about time that I actually visited him at his “new” location.

His apartment is in such a perfect little location.  Trees outside the front porch make you forget for a moment that you’re in a big city.  A quiet side road leads you directly to a cozy cafe.  A turn around the corner is like pulling back the curtain, allowing you to see the heart of the city.  A quaint little cupcake spot (more on that later!) is little more than a half a mile away.

Old world style wood floors make your shoes clink, clank as you make your way to to the spacious, airy kitchen.  And the pantry!?!   Adorable.  Just too adorable. 😀

There was also a cat named Ellum.

And a batch of kombucha sitting atop the fridge. :mrgreen:

After my initial tour of the apartment, Matthew, Kelsey and I headed out for food and fun.  There was so much covered in one short little day, that it’s almost impossible to narrow it all down.

I could tell you about the seaweed salad or the eel & avocado roll that I ate at a favorite sushi spot.  (Yes, eel!  I loved it!! 😀 )

I could tell you about the Spinach Waldorf Salad that I bought at a cafe, studded with buttery, sugared walnuts and sprinkled with bleu cheese.  Bursts of flavor in each crunchy, creamy bite.

I could tell you about the dog I fell in love with (as my mom would say, what dog don’t I fall in love with?) :mrgreen:

BUT, this is a food blog.  And I’d much rather talk about cupcakes.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest “sweets” person in the world.  I’d much rather have a big ol’ caprese sandwich.  Or a melted brie sandwich.  Or even a larger than life salad with fun ingredients.  I’ll never eat dessert first, because I would rather save the extra room for a cheese and fruit platter before the entree.  It’s how I roll.

Unless we’re talking cupcakes. 

I love how personal they are.  Like little pillows of delight, made especially for you.  It doesn’t matter if there are a dozen or so cupcakes that look identical to the one in your hand.  This is your cupcake and it was made with you in mind.  Right?  Of course.   

Everyone placed their orders.  Matthew ordered the cookies and cream.

Kelsey ordered the red velvet.

And I took a flying leap out of my own cupcake comfort box and ordered the white chocolate espresso. 

I felt like a little kid at a candy store, as I purchased my cupcake and dunked my finger into the fluffy frosting.  But there was nothing “little kid” about this all-grown-up cupcake.  The rich flavors of coffee intertwined with the black speckles of vanilla beans.  Sweet, but not overly so.  The white chocolate became an afterthought, in a very good way. 

It was so fun catching up with Matthew and Kelsey over sushi, salads, coffees and cupcakes.  A very full day, in every which way.  And, I don’t plan on waiting a full year before visiting him the next time around. 😉 

Question: What is your favorite kind of cupcake?