Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Treats: Cold & Snowy Cupcakes

Summer hasn't officially begun, but the heat has already made me missing the cold winter and snow! Yes, I know I am weird. Maybe because I am never a sunny girl (I prefer to stay in shade whenever possible) and swimming is definitely not my thing (in fact, I am aqua-phobic), so I feel quite awkward when summer approaches. Especially so when shops start displaying bikinis on their windows, and people start talking about going to beaches more often than any other time of the year. I can only nod, but feel sorry that I can't share the same enthusiasm for summer. The only reason I like summer, I guess, is the arrival of juicy sweet summer fruits!!!!

Would you be shocked if I tell you I come from Sabah, a beautiful place surrounded by sea and beautiful islands? It is a secluded little place that not many tourists know. If you have been following The Survivor, one season was recorded in a place called Pulau Tiga, not too far from where I stay. Isn't that cool? The place was promptly turned into a tourist attraction. Despite of the abundance of beautiful beaches, I never picked up swimming, and would rather sit under a shady place to drink coconut juice and eat Satays while the rest of my friends went for a dip in the sea. That is my ideal of beach outings. I would kindly agree to look after their belongings.

Anyway, let's talk about the food-related stuff. While searching for ideas on what to make for OCT's Friday lab meeting, I decided to go back to my favorite "Barefoot Contessa" and make one recipe from it. I chose the coconut cupcakes, which Ina also included a large cake version in her latest book. I wanted to make cupcakes, because they are easier to eat in the meeting.

Like the rest of the Barefoot Contessa recipes, the coconut cupcakes are nice. But to be perfectly honest, I secretly hoped that the coconut flavor can be more distinct. Ina's coconut cupcakes get their coconut flavor solely from the shredded coconut, which I find not sufficient to impart the quintessential coconut taste I am after. Of course taste is something highly subjective. And people have different preference. OCT tried the coconut cupcakes and find the flavor to be perfectly balanced. The rest of his colleagues are divided into two camps. Those who tried like it, the one who didn't, refused to eat because there is no chocolate in it. And his name is Shaun. A funny guy that has been eating whatever I baked except this coconut cupcake. In the spirit of experiments, I may try to replace some of the buttermilk with coconut milk next time and see if the flavor can be further enhanced.

One of the reasons for making these cupcakes, is because they reminds me of the snow in winter! And the cold that follows. Maybe it's the heat, I wasn't my usual logical self the day I made these cupcakes. I started singing "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" while sprinkling the coconut flakes on the cupcakes.....

Coconut Cupcakes
adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Cookbook

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature (I used 3 large eggs for a half recipe)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, 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.
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.
Line a muffin pan 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.
Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.
Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Note: I halved the recipe, and made 13 stardard size cupcakes. The frosting eventhough halved was still aplenty. Consider halving the frosting even when you are making a full batch of cupcakes.They are more than enough)


Anne said...

Same here, I was never into summer things such as swimming and beaches despite the fact that I grew up where beautiful beaches abound. Sabah is pretty near from my country the Philippines.

Your little cupcakes are so adorable :)

Freya said...

These cupcakes look stunning and who cares if it's summertime!!
To make them more coconutty, you could use coconut extract which I actually buy from the US so you should be able to find it quite easily - be sparing with it though, it can taste a bit too OTT!

Mandy said...

hi Anne,

we are neighbour! Philippines makes me think of the famous juicy sweet mango!

thanks for the tips! Guess using coconut extract is less fattening as than coconut milk too :)

Helene said...

Just gorgeous! I love the way the tops are peaking out in the first shot!

Mandy said...

Thanks for visiting!

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