How-To Tuesday: Coconut Cake Balls

Our town has a cupcake store that is dangerously close to my front door. Their cupcakes are good, but definitely not my drug of choice. (Unless it's their red velvet. Then I can eat my weight in them.)

There is one item in their store, however, that I would buy each and every single day of my life except for two things:

1. They are almost two dollars a PIECE (and they're so small that I really need about 8 to satisfy my thirst for them)
2. I would weigh 900 pounds in less than a year

So I took it upon myself this week to try and recreate their tasty bites of awesomeness, if only to save the Husband's wallet a few dollars. (And to save me the shame of showing up there to buy any more. Last time? I placed my order for a dozen, and the clerk said, "Oh, you're the cake ball lady!" Yikes.)

While they do not taste exactly like the store's, they still taste absolutely divine. I will totally be making them again. And possibly again.

I give you, dear internet, the coconut cake balls:


First step is whipping up a batch of my version of the coconut cake (adapted originally from the goddess that is Paula Deen). Bake according to my directions and cool. Crumble cooled cake into a bowl and squish until you have fine crumbs. (Note, this cake makes three layers and is A LOT of cake balls. I only crumbled up about 1 1/2 layers and got around 50 balls, FYI.)


Some interesting observations here about me, my workspace, and the way I operate.


Moving on.

Add a cup or two of your favorite buttercream frosting. This one is my personal favorite and the only one I let touch my perfect cake. My darling. My preciousss....


Mix the cake and frosting with your hands until combined, adding more frosting to taste. Then pour in some coconut. I added roughly 1 1/2 cups.


Then roll them into balls and pop in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes.


Then (are you tired of using your mixer yet?) mix up a batch of my sugar cookie glaze:

2 3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. shortening
3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla

I wanted it pretty thin, so I ended up adding easily 9 Tbsp of water or more. Just keep adding water until it's the consistency of Elmer's glue.

I dipped the balls into the glaze and basically rolled them on the edge of the bowl to get most of the glaze off. Otherwise, it's just too much. You only want a light coat.


Then dip, roll, and cover these babies in coconut. Be prepared for the coconut explosion in your house. It gets E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E.


Garnish as desired and try not to eat too many of them. I popped them into mini-cupcake papers (though I was wishing I had a color other than white so as to make them stand out more), but I'm pretty sure no one is going to complain about that.

Except the angry voice in my head.

And nobody listens to her.


And that, my friends, is how you win friends and influence people. Amen.

Your turn!

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Grandpa's peanut butter fudge

This is my Grandpa Johnson. Isn't he handsome?


He was a big man, about six-foot-two or six-foot-three, with broad shoulders and (when I knew him) a head full of thick, silver hair. He liked to swear and drink coffee (though both were against his religion). He cut off two fingers in a shop accident and liked to do irreverent things with the nubs. He had a passion for his country, having served it honorably during World War II.

He loved to travel and had an unusually large collection of bowling balls in the basement. He made jewelery, and always wore turquoise rings on his fingers.

He was gruff and loving, all at once. He was the type that was embarrassed at affection, but would be thoughtful and generous to others. He liked order and discipline. It used to drive him crazy that I never finished a meal.

Oh, if only he could see me now. Grandpa, don't worry - I finish PLENTY of meals.

He had the best garden. I fell in love with crisp, green vegetables sitting around his table, the multi-colored terrycloth linens underneath the pink desert rose plates.

He loved his grandchildren and was tragically taken from them far too soon.

Here is a picture of Grandpa and Grandma at their wedding. Doesn't it look like he just can't get enough of her?


I love that picture. I think every woman ought to be worshiped and adored by her husband.

This time of year, I think of him fondly when I make his peanut butter fudge. I have no idea of the recipe's true origin, but when I taste it, I am transported back to a warm kitchen in a small, modest home. A bowl of nuts sit on the table next to the large toaster oven. The shiny, textured wallpaper smiles down on my freckled cheeks, pink from climbing a tree in the front yard.

A gruff voice yells as kids run in and out, though he shakes his head in laughter when they can't see. Ice cream is always in the basement freezer, and cookies are always in the bread box.

It's a place that is woven into the fabric of who I am. It's a home where hours of my childhood were spent happily climbing trees, playing the dusty organ in the basement, and hiding in the metal wardrobe. A place where cousins were always laughing and the love and soul of family was so thick you could taste it.

I love you, Grandpa. Miss you terribly, even after all these years. This batch is for you.


[And this, dear internets, is for you:]

You're welcome. Think of him when you make it, will you?

Sharing my mad skillz

Internets, we are full in the swing of the ONE TIME each year when I go off my rigid, healthy, vegetable-laden diet and indulge in sugar-filled sweeties like these:


What? French fries are a vegetable, are they not?

Oh, shut up.

Well, I do make these gorgeous cookies every year for Halloween, and as part of blog tradition, I share them here with you, too. After all, you really should benefit from the awesomeness that is my dessert recipe book. As should your heinie.

I start with the top-secret family sugar cookie recipe, shown here:


Do not mock. EVERYONE always asks me for the recipe when I show up with a batch of Betty's. They are moist, soft, and just the right amount of sweet. I swear by them and make nothing else anymore. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the extreme laziness of my nature and my inability to wait while dough chills. Ahem.

Mix according to the package directions, and drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake as directed on the bag. (See, you're liking this, aren't you? No rolling out dough. No cookie cutters. No counters covered in flour. Yeah, you're welcome.)

While cookies are baking, combine all ingredients for the glaze and beat well:

2 3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. shortening
3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Glaze should be fairly liquid. You don't want it solid like frosting, but it should be slightly thicker than the white glue the children use at school. Add water or powdered sugar to reach the perfect consistency. (Helpful, aren't I?)

Dye 1/4 of the glaze black and put it in a pastry bag with a small writing tip. Leave the remaining glaze white.

These cookies work best when frosted warm, so I recommend baking and frosting just a pan at a time. When the cookies are a minute or two out of the oven, begin to frost with white glaze.


Pipe a bulls eye onto each cookie with your black glaze:


Taking a toothpick, start at the center, and gently draw lines going toward the outside edge of the cookie. Repeat around the entire bulls eye until your spiderweb is complete.


Top with a plastic spider, and voila! Look who gets to one-up all the other mothers at the school party. (Don't even pretend you don't want to. We ALL want to one-up the other mothers. Shameful, but true.)


I did let the minions help this time, though that generally goes against my inner Martha. It is very hard for me to let go of the control and allow little hands to smudge and smear. But since they were for the primary kids at church, I figured it'd be all right.

[Disclaimer: I never let the minions touch things that will be fed to adults. That's just gross. So, friends who have eaten my creations, rest easy.]


See what I mean? You can't see it, but there is almost as much frosting on the boy's fingers as there are on the cookies. Gross.

Hurry now. There's still time to make these and show off your awesome skills. I promise you, they will help you win friends and influence people.

Hershey's peanut butter chip cheesecake

All right, all right. I'll help you people out. Because I love you.

And because it is my life's work to fatten the rest of you up so that maybe eventually I'll look thin.

[Insert maniacal, evil laugh and diabolical hand wringing]

Okay. Got that out of my system. Let's make a cheesecake.

Take 1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup sugar

Combine and press into the bottom of a greased springform pan. Set aside.

Take 3 packages of softened cream cheese (the 8 ounce size) and combine with 1 1/2 cups sugar.

Do not, under any circumstances, notice how many calories are in the cream cheese or make mental calculations as to the calorie content of this dessert. It will cause depression and self-loathing, which require the making and eating of MORE cheesecake. Which will in turn cause more depression and self-loathing. Let's just avoid that vicious cycle all together, shall we?

Beat sugar and cream cheese well. Add 4 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla. Beat just until combined.

Add 1 2/3 cup Reese's peanut butter chips. This is the small 10-ounce bag found in the baking aisle of your grocery store. Or measured out of the extra large billion-ounce bag they sell at Sam's Club. You know, the one you can grab handfulls from anytime you happen to be in the kitchen?

Yes. Get that one. My bum will thank you.

Fold in peanut butter chips gently.

Pour over prepared crust and pop into a 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes.

Bake until slightly puffed and center is set except for a 4-inch circle in the center. I have found that with my oven, I end up cooking the cheesecake probably 60 to 63 minutes total.

Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes. With a knife, loosen cheesecake from the side of the pan. Cool completely.

When completely cool, remove side of pan, and get ready to make the chocolate drizzle.

For the chocolate drizzle: Melt 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp shortening in microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds or until smooth when stirred.

I like to fill a pastry bag with the melted chocolate because I'm uber fancy, but you can easily drizzle it from a spoon if that's how you roll.

Drizzle chocolate until you're satisfied or it's completely covered- whichever comes first. Pop into the fridge to set for several hours.

Invite people over to partake and find that you have won friends and influenced people.

Yeah. You're welcome.


Tap. Tap. Is this thing on? Anybody out there?

Well, I am back from my unplanned and very annoying hiatus. You will be happy to know that Mack is back in school and fully recovered. (Although I did hear today that one of the schools in our district has 18 percent of the student body out due to the swine flu. Makes me wonder how all the rest of us escaped unscathed?)

ANYhoo, I have decided to share with you one of my absolute favorite treats. I helped throw a baby shower this week and thought it was the perfect opportunity to get my cake on.

The sweetness of the cake, however, was momentarily ruined when the husband glanced at the recipe on the counter and commented out loud on the number of calories in the cake.

I know, right?

That was quickly remedied by me:

I found this recipe about a year ago, and it actually belongs to the fabulous Paula Deen, but I borrowed it, tweaked it a little bit, and can safely assume it is the reason I cannot button my jeans today.

First you need three cake pans. I use the classy, no-washing-needed version seen here. Generously grease and flour these babies and set them aside.

Then you take 1 cup butter, which is supposed to be at room temperature - a step I somehow always forget to do ahead of time. The microwave does a great job, and if you accidentally forget to pull the butter out in time, it works just fine if it's a little melted, too.

Cream the melted room temperature butter and 2 cups of sugar for six to eight minutes. Then add four eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition.

There is a little person in our house that has a sixth sense for when the kitchen aid is on. She is like one of Pavlov's little dogs - she hears that humming and she comes a running. Once in a while I'm nice and let her crack the eggs.

Add one teaspoon of vanilla and mix just until combined. Then you're going to take one cup of coconut milk:

And 3 cups flour. Add them alternately to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.

Lots of times when I'm baking, things look like this, which is always hard for my OCD brain to ignore:

When you're done, the batter will be very, very thick. Almost cookie dough like. But don't worry, you've definitely done it right if it looks like this. If it's thin and cake-batter like? I don't know how to help you. You might want to consider professional help and get your baked goods on the outside.

Next, pour the batter into your three greased pans (ignoring, of course, the disgusting Crunch Berries cereal on the counter. In my defense, it was only a little after seven a.m. when I made this and breakfast was not fully put away yet. See the clock on the wall for proof.)

Once the batter is spread around each pan, lift them up off the counter and slam them back down to pop any air bubbles. Yes, people, this is going to be a dense cake. Lovely, dense, and incredibly moist.

Slam the cake pans, at least four or five times each, until all the air bubbles are released. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.

Cool five minutes or so in the pan, and dump the cakes onto a cooling rack to cool while you prepare the frosting. When I'm not feeling lazy, I like to use the Wilton buttercream frosting recipe. But I have to confess, I have just made this with frosting in a can, and it by no means impacts the deliciousness.

Next, spread some frosting over your first layer like this:

Top that layer with the middle child, I mean, middle layer, and slather that bad boy with some frosting of his own.

Repeat again for the third layer. Do not be alarmed by the imperfect appearance or unevenness of the layers. All will be made right by the coconut. You must trust the little Stie. Has she ever steered you wrong before?

When you have finished frosting all layers and the edges, it will look like this:

Sprinkle coconut over the top, covering any and all mistakes.

Pat coconut up the sides of the cake next, and be prepared for a coconut explosion in your kitchen. That stuff gets EVERYWHERE during this phase of the process. It would be annoying if the end result weren't so darn delicious.

Pipe a little frosting around the bottom of the cake and voila! An absolutely gorgeous specimen, if I do say so myself.

So pretty that I think we need a close-up. Why hello there, lover. What's that? You want Christie to eat a big, thick slice of you? All right. If you insist.

For the baby shower, I also made some of these. Chase came in and asked me why I was making diaper cookies. What say you, internets? Diapers or onesies? I'm sticking with onesies.

The buffet of gluttony, just waiting to be devoured:

And the gorgeous mom-to-be in a pre-shower photo shoot by yours truly:

It's almost wrong how cute she is pregnant, isn't it? I can't wait until the baby is born so I can get myself some newborn lovin'. Yum.

That's what I've been up to this week. Stay tuned for the long-awaited Traveling Shoes winner, a little visit from my brother Dan, and gorgeous photos of gorgeous people.

I think it's shaping up to be a good week after all.