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I’m not a huge coconut fan, but my dear husband is and it’s his birthday so there you have it. I had visions of a beautiful two-layer cake with fluffy white frosting and loads of golden toasted coconut sticking out in curly spikes. Well, this is nothing like that but man alive, it’s the best darn coconut cake I’ve ever tasted.

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Now I’m not making any claims that this is the cake it was intended to be. Let’s face it, it looks nothing like the picture. I cut the recipe in half and used a 9″ round pan, so I’m guessing mine is a thicker version of its Martha Stewart self. Oh, and there’s the matter of frosting (specifically, the fact that mine has none).

I’ve never made 7-minute frosting, but they sure did make it sound easy. Not so much. I started by scrambling the eggs. Now I know this wasn’t in the instructions but I was not deterred! So as not to waste six eggs and a whole lot of sugar, I put it through a sieve and kept going. I cooked and cooked and cooked those strained eggs until they almost reached the appropriate temperature. Then I threw them into the stand mixer and went to town on high speed for 10 minutes (as instructed). That was where the volume was supposed to quadruple, producing a light, fluffy, and highly stable frosting with a lovely sheen. Or, in my case, marshmallow fluff.

Meanwhile, I cracked, peeled, and shredded a fresh coconut and toasted it to a lovely shade of tan, only to find that it had very little flavor and a somewhat bark-like texture. With no frosting to adhere it, it just didn’t make the cut.

A little powdered sugar and a lovely cake stand to the rescue – by the time we dug in, the cake’s appearance was the last thing on our minds. Tender crumb, delicious coconut flavor, and a slightly crispy and chewy outside edge – heaven.

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It all started with some leftover whipped cream.

Leftover whipped cream is a sad sight. Before long, it turns into a floating island of whipped cream on top of a milky puddle. Mmmm.

But if you’re careful, and you act quickly (say, by the next day) you can save the part on top from being completely lost.  In fact, I once learned that whipped cream is best stored in a sieve propped over a bowl.  I had not done this in my sleepy haze the night before, so I had no time to waste.

Rewind to Sunday, grocery store day. Beautiful rhubarb in the produce section and a recipe from Gourmet Live just waiting to be tested.

That’s when this happened:

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The recipe isn’t too fancy. Chop some rhubarb and toss it in a pan with just enough sugar to keep it tart. Simmer until it turns jammy. Cool.

Whip some cream, add some sour cream and powdered sugar, whip some more, then add a splash of sherry.

Layer them together in a pretty cup and crumble some ginger snaps on top. I used the ginger snap recipe from my dear old copy of Joy of Cooking, subbing about 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat flour…combined with dairy and fruit, this might even pass as breakfast!

What’s the problem with this recipe?  Too much whipped cream. Fast forward to Wednesday.

I was going to make a quiche, so first I made some pastry dough. I like to use Julia Child’s recipe from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (signed by Jacques no less — thanks Rob!). It’s classic and easy and I realized that my past failings with pastry dough came largely from lack of confidence. Using the same recipe over and over has helped me overcome.

Letting the dough rest in the fridge gave my taste buds just enough time to start thinking about the whipped cream…and the leftover rhubarb jam…and the apples on the kitchen table…and then the quiche became a frittata with a lovely fruit pie for dessert. Perfect!

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So a few weeks ago my coworkers and I started planning a potluck. And, of course, we needed to make up goodie bags for everyone because, well, we all like to cook and bake and enjoy having excuses to do both.

For no explicable reason, I had a sudden urge to make caramel popcorn with salted peanuts.

I browsed my favorite bloggers for ideas – Deb then Joy – and then checked to see if Martha had a good recipe (or twelve, as it turns out). Fortunately, I’m not the first person to have had a sudden craving for crunchy, caramelly, nutty deliciousness.

I settled on Deb’s version from Smitten Kitchen, a spicy, salty, and sweet popcorn that she adapted from The Craft of Baking, a cookbook not in my collection but possibly soon to be if the other recipes are anywhere near as delicious as this one.

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I made a full batch with peanuts first, including just 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne (barely noticeable except a little bit at the end) and about 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.

Then I decided that I really needed to make more for the potluck crowd (plus some to keep at home) so I made another half-batch with unsalted almonds. I mixed them all up together and they were outrageously yummy!

One quick note about making the caramel. I was a little nervous about making this for the first time without a specific temperature in the instructions. I started with a candy thermometer and it ran up to about 260 degrees before I pulled it out of the pot. I then decided to let it get a little darker brown before continuing, so I’m guessing that it probably got up to 270 before I added the baking soda. For the second batch, I left the thermometer out completely and just used my judgment. Both batches came out great!

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit this month and decided to give it a try for Valentine’s Day.  It looks amazing!  Very easy to make but does take some time since you have to chill it between adding layers.  If you’re in the mood for something extremely decadent, reminiscent of a turtle but slightly more elegant, give it a try.  Sinfully delicious.  Full recipe can be found on the Bon Appetit website.