Here are three things that I learned today:
One: I learned about "smash cakes." Up until last week, if you would have asked me what a smash cake is, I would have likely guessed that it is the name of an uber-hip up and coming college rock band. In reality, a smash cake is a second smaller cake for a child's first birthday, which possesses the sole purpose of being smashed beyond edibility. The cake is placed in front of the birthday girl/boy, who is then encouraged to go nuts, smearing buttercream everywhere while mom and dad snap photos. Before smash cakes were invented, the other party guests were pretty much out of luck in the dessert department, forced to nibble on grapes or Tic-Tacs for their sugar fix. Thank goodness someone with a sweet tooth wised up.
I spent part of today, longer than I had allotted for, making a smash cake for a friend's daughter's first birthday.....which leads me to the second thing that I learned.
Two: I learned that I should never bite off more than I can chew the day before I am supposed to leave for a trip that could earn me some major moolah and one of those really big checks that I have always wanted to hang on my wall. Ironically, I smashed the smash cake. There I was, practically done with my toddler-sized masterpiece, when I overestimated the length of my counter, resulting in the cake taking a nosedive onto my kitchen floor. Splat. Completely unsalvageable. Back to square one. Grrrrrrrrrr.
The second cake turned out perfectly, but I had lost a few hours in a day that was already overbooked. Tomorrow morning, I am leaving for Napa to compete in the annual Sutter Home Build a Better Burger cook-off, where I have a one-in-five chance of bringing home the coveted $50K grand prize, not to mention an appearance on The Today Show the following Monday. In other words, this is a big deal. I have been practicing my Blue Corn Desert Oasis Burgers with Cactus Corn Salsa, Ancho-Honey Bacon, and Pepita Guacamole (I'm not big on short titles) for weeks, as I obviously want to be as prepared as possible for this gig. I was planning on using the balance of today to get organized for the trip, pack all of my equipment, etc. I figured that one simple little cake would be no problem. Ha! On the bright side, I'd rather be dropping things today than on Saturday afternoon, when the big prize is at stake. Hopefully such clumsiness is now out of my system.
Three: I learned that my friend, Leah, could be in the running for (assume Dr. Evil voice here) one MILLION dollars (evil laugh, stroke evil-looking cat.) Now a $50k prize is nothing to sneer at, but a $1 million prize is in a league of its own. Leah is a potential finalist in the biannual Pillsbury Bakeoff, the grand-daddy of all cooking contests, which is taking place next year. Her recipe, Coconut Cream Almond Brownies, was selected from thousands of entries to compete against one other recipe for a spot in the Bakeoff, where the grand prize is--you guessed it--$1 million buckaroos. Here's the thing--she needs to get the most votes in order to get that golden Pillsbury ticket. SOOOOO, if you have a minute, pop on over to the link above and give Leah a virtual shout-out (in other words, vote for her.) Just think, if she wins, YOU will have had something to do with it. YOU will have helped make someone a millionaire, just like Regis! Feels pretty good, doesn't it?
Personally, I adore coconut. Looking at Leah's recipe got me in the mood to fill my kitchen with that distinctive toasted coconut aroma. Because I was short on time this week, I decided to make one of my favorite quick bread recipes, featuring the tropical mix of coconut, coconut milk, toasted macadamia nuts, and orange zest. Actually, I made two loaves--in case I dropped the first one. Enjoy! Here are some extra tips for making this tropical-inspired treat:
- The bread should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. It can also be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to two weeks.
- You can also pre-slice the bread, wrap each slice, and then store the individual slices in the freezer. That way, you can take a slice out as you need it, and you can toast the slices directly from the freezer.
- The bread can be a bit crumbly when you slice it fresh from the oven. It slices best after it has been tightly wrapped overnight.
- In my opinion, this bread tastes the best when it has been toasted. The coconut-macadamia flavors really come through when the bread has been warmed.
- If you like dried fruit in your breads, stir in 1 1/4 cups of chopped dried pineapple, apricots, golden raisins, or a mixture.
- Full-fat coconut milk works better than the low-fat version for this recipe.
Toasted Coconut Macadamia Bread
Makes 1 large loaf
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
Zest of one orange (optional)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted shredded sweetened coconut
1 1/4 cups lightly toasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Spray a large loaf pan with nonstick baking spray. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt into a large bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and coconut extracts, orange zest, and coconut milk.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the toasted coconut and the macadamia nuts.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the bread for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean.
Place the pan on a rack to cool for 15 minutes, and then invert the loaf onto the rack to cool completely.