Heavenly Coconut Cake

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My mamaw’s favorite dessert is coconut cake. I remember my mama making a simpler version in an oblong cake pan every year for her birthday. I thought the recipe was always okay, but I like a little pizzaz in my baking.

I combined a few recipes I found online to create the cake listed here. The nuts in the cake batter give it an almost German chocolate cake taste, but the sweetness of the creme of coconut lets you know this is really tropical and not European! I bake it in rounds and add toasted coconut on top of the frosting for some crunch.

A friend liked it so much that I made a double-decker one for his wedding.

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HEAVENLY COCONUT CAKE

Ingredients:

CAKE

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package French Vanilla cake mix
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (or applesauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • small can sweetened condensed milk
  • small can creme of coconut (look in mixed drink aisle)
FROSTING

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese (softened, lite is okay)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 Tbsp butter (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. Blend the cake mix, water, eggs and oil in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of coconut and the chopped walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 15 minutes then remove and finish cooling on rack.
  4. Put first cake onto presentation dish. Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes throughout the cake. Mix sweetened condensed milk and creme of coconut and pour 1/2 of mixture across the top.
  5. Stack the second cake on top of the first and repeat the process with the holes and milk mixture.
  6. Let the cake stand until all of the liquid is absorbed before adding the frosting.
  7. To Make Frosting: Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a skillet and toast 1 cup of flaked coconut until golden brown, about 2 minutes. This can be added into the frosting mix or sprinkled on top when complete. Another option is to use the flaked coconut on top without toasting.
  8. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside.
  9. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Fold in whipped cream.

Footnotes:
(1) It’s best to stir the creme of coconut before pouring as it separates like buttermilk. (2) You may want to use a spatula to spread out the condensed milk and creme of coconut. (3) I usually make my cake the day before and let it soak all night in the creme of coconut and condensed milk. (4) Another suggestion for the “soaking” is to turn the cakes into a springform pan and then soak — easier soaking and less mess to clean up. (5) You may want to add more whipped cream for more “fluff.”

Blackberry Wine Cake

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I’m a baker at heart. There is just something fulfilling about whipping (literally) something up and letting the house smell of homemade baked goodness.

This recipe is one I’ve had for years and made several times. I’ve used both blackberry and raspberry wine. Both taste equally delicious. It would probably work with any sweet fruit wine. Adding the wine into the batter creates a really moist cake that stays fresh for several days. Always a win in my book.

For a printer-friendly version click here.

 

BLACKBERRY WINE CAKE

Ingredients:

CAKE

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 3 oz. blackberry or raspberry gelatin
  • 1 1/2 c. oil OR applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. blackberry or raspberry wine
  • 1 c. walnuts, chopped

GLAZE

  • 1 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. wine
  • 1/2 c. butter

Instructions:

  1. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Chop nuts and put in bottom of pan.
  3. Mix cake ingredients and pour into pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for at least 1 hour. Test with a knife. It should come out of the middle of the cake clean. If not, continue cooking in 5 minute increments until done.
  5. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.
  6. Place the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  7. Pour 2/3 of glaze over cake while hot. Let stand for 25 minutes.
  8. Turn out cake onto plate. Pour remaining glaze over cake.

Full Length Reversible Apron

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Full Length Reversible Apron

I’ve been wanting to make myself an apron for a long time, but just couldn’t seem to find the right pattern.

I wanted a full apron, not just one that covered me from the waist down, but I don’t like the aprons that go around your neck. I’m vertically challenged (aka “short”), and they don’t lay right on me.

Then this summer I came across Simplicity’s 3746 (see here).

It’s a full length apron for mom, daughter, and doll with 3 different front versions. What I liked most about the pattern was the back construction — the straps criss-cross, go through loops on the sides, and then tie. This is great because I can cinch up the straps to fit my height and lay correctly around my waist. Plus, there’s nothing irritating the back of my neck!

Here’ my lovely apron. I used Hip Happy (pink paisley heart) by Henry Glass and some lime green ticking. I also made a matching wrist pincushion (see here).

This pink/green combination is one of my new favorites for quilts too, but that’s another blog coming soon.

The pattern is not reversible, but who follows the pattern exactly anyway? The first picture above follows the pattern front. The back side is supposed to just be a lining, but I decided to add a bottom trim and a partial top trim along with some pockets so that I can wear it either way (the second picture).

Although the whole project took my just under a day, I would rank this as an INTERMEDIATE sewing level. It was so much fun, that I made ones for my mama and my sister Nikki whose birthday is the day after mine later this month!  Here’s theirs.

On my mom’s apron (the vegetables), I decided that the top straps felt too bulky with all the extra fabric I had added on mine, so I cut off the top of the apron backside panel before I added the coordinating fabric. It lightened the weight of the apron.

I experimented further on my sister’s apron (the chefs) by widening the panel through the center by about an 1″ to give the apron more coverage on top. I think I like this better and will do it on all the aprons I make in the future. It’s easy to do since the panel is layed on the fold, just move the panel 1/2″ up from the fold and cut as usual.

Well, I’m waiting on some wine bottle fabric to come into the store (Ryco Creative Sewing Center) to make my sister Jodie’s apron. Her son who’s 7 heard that I was making aprons and asked for an art smock, so I’ve got that coming soon too…with Angry Birds!

Handy Wrist Pincushion

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Handy Wrist Pincushion

Recently I saw the neatest little sewing accessory on a co-worker at Ryco Creative Sewing Center.

Just a quick word about Ryco’s if you live in the Providence area. Ryco’s is the funnest (I know this is not proper English, but I used to be an English teacher so I’m allowed) place to work – the people are the greatest, there is a huge, I mean HUGE, selection of fabric and trims, and the patterns and notions run the gamut!

But back to my post. I’m forever searching for my pin box at home and at work and have been known to stick pins in various places when the box is lacking — the ironing board pad, my clothing (and yes, sometimes I forget them), or a scrap piece of fabric that often gets lost in the shuffle of projects.

So when I saw Shellie wearing the cutest little wrist pincushion, I wanted one! She got the pattern from June Gilbank’s blog (see here). June’s tutorial is very clear and precise, so check it out for instructions.

Here’s a picture of mine. It matches my reversible apron that I wear at work (see here).

  

I only had a couple of problems. First, I used some leftover ADHESIVE velcro. DON’T DO IT!!! I needed to sew through the velcro to secure it to the looped end, and I wasn’t thinking until my thread broke several times that the adhesive was clogging the bobbin and needle. If I use the adhesive again for this project, then I’ll just hand sew around the edges.


Secondly, I had to pull out my stitches about 3 times when sewing the squares together. Just so you know that even long-time sewers can make mistakes, I’ll confess mine here. The first unstitching occurred because I sewed one wrong side to one right side. Hmmmmm, think I like the right side out on my project. Then I had to take stitches out again because I didn’t line up my registration marks properly, so the squares were WAY lopsided. And finally, the third time was the charm when I forgot to put the presser foot down and my bobbin thread made a bird’s nest.

So there you have it – silly errors by someone who’s been sewing for over 25 years! What are your common sewing errors?

First Choice Quilt: Alternating Stars and Patches

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First Choice Quilt: Alternating Stars and Patches

I’ve had this pattern for a very long time but decided I was ready to make it 2010 when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby. It’s called First Choice  by the House of Quilts (see here). It’s designed to be a good choice for a first quilt.

I’ve purchased a few quilt patterns, but this one is AWESOME because it has very clear directions and gives fabric requirements for the crib, lap, and queen size.  There is even a handy cutting chart showing exactly where you need to start.alternating star and 9 patch quilt

Sadly we lost the baby in the second trimester and the quilt got put on hold. It sat in my “Current Projects” box until last year. We’d been trying to get pregnant again since the miscarriage, and I was very frustrated when over a year later it still hadn’t happened. I needed to expend some energy, and I had the thought, “If you quilt it, they will come.”

That might sound hokey to some, but when you’ve lost a baby and start seeing your friends get pregnant one right after the other, you need something to keep you going. As I began working on the quilt at open sew days at a local fabric shop, people would ask, “Oh, that’s so cute. Who is it for?” My answer, “The future Hamlet. He’s coming some day.”

close-up decorative quilt stitchIt made me feel better. I completed the quilt last October, but we’re still not pregnant nearly 18 months later. But that quilt gives me hope.

One of the things I really love about the quilt is the decorative stitch I used through the center of the 9 patch blocks. I also used 2 different thread colors – turquoise to stitch-in-the-ditch through the stars, and green for this decorative stitch. It turned out lovely I think.

I tried a new batting as well called Soft and Toasty by Fairfield (see here). It is 100% cotton with a slightly higher loft than the all natural versions. Soft and Toasty also has scrim which is great if you have pictorial panels that you don’t want to quilt through.

After washing, the quilt is so soft and toasty! Future boy or girl Hamlet will be all snuggly warm. I’ll keep you posted when he or she is finally on the way.

 

Quick Louisiana Gumbo

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bowl of gumboI lived in Louisiana for over 15 years and learned many Cajun recipes. There are so many flavorful, spicy dishes that make your mouth water – jambalaya, dirty rice, boudin (pronounced “boo-dan”), gumbo, etouffee (pronounced “eh-too-fay”), meat pies, and on and on.

Although I am usually a purest when it comes to cooking, preferring to make things from scratch rather than a box, there are times when a box mix is really what you need to save time or money. Gumbo is one of those foods in my opinion.

I’ve eaten all kinds of gumbo – shrimp, seafood, chicken, sausage,  some with okra, some without okra.

I’ve made tons of varieties, but my favorite is the chicken and sausage combo. You can slave for 5-6 hours to make gumbo from fresh ingredients because you have to create a stock before you even begin. Or you can cheat and use a box gumbo mix (see picture of gumbo I made yesterday).

I use Zatarain’s Gumbo Base (without rice in the mix). To make it truly taste authentic, I add some veggies to the gumbo and then top with filé (pronounced “fee-lay”) and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

Filé is ground sassafras leaves and adds an earthy taste to the stew. It also is used as a thickening agent. I searched high and low here in New England and finally found some at Williams-Sonoma. The Creole seasoning is a spiced salt mixture that is put on almost every Cajun dish at some point in the cooking or eating. You can usually find Tony Chachere’s at any chain grocery store. If you are watching your salt intake, there is a low sodium version.

Quick Louisiana Gumbo

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Zatarain’s Gumbo Base
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 8 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6-7 green onions, chopped (DO NOT substitute other onions, like white or yellow, it will NOT taste right)
  • 8 c. of water
  • 16 oz. Andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
  • 2.5 c. chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 6-8 c. cooked rice
  • gumbo filé (optional)
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning (optional)

Instructions:
In a large stock pot combine the gumbo base, oil, and water. Stir on medium heat until all the powder is dissolved. Add the celery, onions, and sausage and bring gumbo to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the chicken and cook an additional 5 minutes. Pour over cooked rice and sprinkle with filé and/or Tony Chachere’s.

Yellow Sunshine Quilt

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Yellow Sunshine Quilt

This is the very first quilt I ever finished (well, a copy of this quilt). I had purchased several different yellow fabrics way back when, intending to make a simple patch quilt for my bed. But years went by, my tastes changed, and when I looked at the fabrics again, I didn’t really like them…much.

I decided to cut them into much smaller squares (finished size is 2.25″ square) than the original 6″ ones I had planned. There are  a TOTAL of 234 squares in the quilt. Whew!

The longest part wasn’t cutting the squares out, but laying them out on the floor to make sure I had a “random” pattern for the 9 different fabrics. I didn’t want any one fabric too close to itself. I then chain pieced all the rows and then put them together.

Yellow Sunshine QuiltI learned my lesson about pressing the seams on the first version of this quilt. Because I just pressed them whichever way, the piecing sometimes got a little off when putting all the rows together. This one was much easier to stitch as I alternated the seams on the rows so the squares lined up better at the corners.

I bought so much fabric the firs time that I have enough to make a 3rd version of this quilt…but that will have to wait behind all my other current projects.

I think this mono-chromatic scheme actually turned out rather nicely. Do you like mono-chromatic quilts?