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A wondrous thing happened this week. Spring arrived. Winter’s blanket lifted and in its place … the first hesitant days of spring.

Excited, I took a little trip to the backyard to survey the garden. And as I peeked at the little garden that in a few short months will be planted with all sorts of wonderful things, I saw the most magnificent sight. Peeking out from under the piles of dried leaves that were never collected … under the naked trees that stand so silently … I saw them. They had pushed their way through the cold, hardened ground. Pushed their way up up up and were now waving to me. Calling me. These sweet little coconut babies. Saying hello.

I bent down and immediately smelled the coconut aroma that swirled around them. How it came to be that these coconut babies would grow in my garden, I have no idea. Maybe it’s my passion for all things coconut. If I see it on a menu, I order it. If I smell it in a soap or perfume, I buy it.

Maybe it’s that I often find myself thinking about the first time I ever tried coconut, the fruit of the coconut palm. I was 8 years old and it was in Italy, of all places. I remember that the coconut was cold and so crisp. The sweet nutty flavour (interestingly enough the coconut is actually not a nut) was instantly entrancing.

Or maybe it’s that these sweet little babies bring so much pleasure to whomever tries them. They are bright and buttery and tender and the surest sign of spring.

Elated, I picked them. They didn’t mind. In fact, they asked me to pass along a message to all of you.

"Happy Spring!", they exclaimed. "Happy New Beginning!", they cheered.

And then I ate them.

Ciao!

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Coconut Cupcakes

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa by Ina Garten.

Dscn1319For the cupcakes:

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  5. Add the vanilla and coconut extract and mix well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. (Dry ingredients … then buttermilk … then dry ingredients … rest of buttermilk … rest of dry ingredients.)
  7. Dscn1316Fold in the shredded coconut.
  8. Using either a regular-sized muffin tin or a mini-muffin tin lined with cupcake liners, fill each liner about three-quarters full.
  9. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  10. Remove muffin tin to a rack to cool for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes.
  11. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound (2 packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1-1/2 pounds icing sugar, sifted
  1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and the butter until light and well-mixed, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut extract and mix well.
  4. Add the icing sugar and mix until smooth.
  5. Frost the cupcakes to your heart’s content.
  6. Enjoy!

Dscn1346_1 Note:  This recipe will make 18-20 large cupcakes or 50-55 mini-cupcakes. I prefer to make mini-cupcakes as they are quite heavy (what with all that yummy butter). Also the mini-cupcakes look so cute!

The original recipe uses vanilla extract and almond extract. As I am all about coconut, I have changed the recipe to vanilla extract and coconut extract in the cupcakes and coconut extract in the frosting.

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