German chocolate cake


Like a lot of things in America, the so-named German chocolate cake isn’t actually German. But Americans, I guess, decided it is. Or actually the history goes that it was concocted by someone named Samuel German and was originally called German’s chocolate cake. Has nothing at all to do with being German or Germany. But the name has shifted, as so many do, to make people wrongly believe that this cake is a German treat.

I’ve always been fairly disgusted by German chocolate cake. It was the go-to birthday cake for my maternal grandfather, and I, liking neither chocolate nor nuts, could never see the appeal. Recently, while thinking a lot about my grandparents (now both deceased), I wondered if I could make German chocolate cupcakes.

Before you get started, I would suggest toasting your pecans for the filling. Toast about 4 ounces or 113 grams of pecan pieces in an oven at 175C/350F for about 10 minutes, making sure they do not burn. Set aside.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cold, strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Butter and flour muffin tins (or use paper muffin cups). Sift dry ingredients together in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and vanilla.

Beat the coffee mix into the dry ingredients in two batches with an electric mixer on low. Beat in butter last. Pour into prepared muffin tins (about half full).

Bake 10-14 minutes (done when a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake in the center of the pan comes out clean).

Nut-coconut filling
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup coconut
3/4 – 1 cup toasted pecan pieces
3 tablespoons butter

In a heavy mid-sized saucepan, combine cream, sugar and yolks. Cook on medium-low until the sugar dissolves (about ten minutes). Remove from heat and add coconut, pecans and butter. Stir until the butter is fully melted. Let stand until at room temperature.

When cool, use the filling to fill/top each cupcake to the capacity you like. I made holes in my cupcakes and filled them and then topped the rest of the cake with some chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, but you could also use a chocolate ganache as a topper.

Cuckoo for coconut: Naturally gluten-free baking choices


I had an ambitious baking plan recently (don’t I always?), and – for once – I was ready, armed with plenty of time and all the needed ingredients. Then southern Sweden was hit by an unusually powerful windstorm, which knocked my power out two days in a row. While the outage only lasted a few hours, it robbed me of my motivation… ambition out the window.

I still managed to bake quite a lot, but not everything that was on my list – and the gluten-free baking options suffered most. I had very much hoped I could make my standard gluten-free paleo brownies (which I did) but also venture into the world of more adventurous gluten-free cookie options. At least in my first round of baking, I did not succeed, and the brownies were the only thing that got made.

On the second round, I still had some lingering hope for gluten-free experimentation, but the only thing I managed to do was make some very basic, simple coconut macaroons. It was a new recipe for me, which I grabbed from – apparently Ina Garten’s recipe. The final product turned out well, but I actually had to add a lot more coconut than the recipe asks for. I’d suggest adding the amount listed in the recipe and see if you get the right consistency for a “dough” that can hold its form and bake into a cookie but that is not too “wet” from the condensed milk.

Give it a shot.

Coconut macaroons
14 ounces of coconut (4.27 cups or 397 grams)
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 extra large egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine coconut, condensed milk and vanilla in one bowl and set aside.

Whip egg whites and salt on high until medium-firm peaks form.

Carefully fold eggs into the coconut mixture.

Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto baking sheets covered in baking paper.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden.

Coconut caramel macchiato bars

Gone in a flash! Coconut caramel macchiato bars

Gone in a flash! Coconut caramel macchiato bars

I found a very simple recipe for coconut caramel macchiato bar cookies a few months ago – and the recipe, seriously, was so dead simple that I thought I would try it out immediately to thrust upon my hungry co-workers. But weeks, even months passed, and I never tried it. Never mind that the “recipe”, if you could even call it that, is an easily whipped-up concoction of pre-made ingredients, so it’s barely even what I would call baking.

Grab a packet of Oreo cookies or some other chocolate cookie you can pulverize into dust and make that into your crust. Get your hands on some dulce de leche – you can make this yourself from a can of sweetened condensed milk, but most brands are available pre-made as dulce de leche caramel. Get some espresso powder (I used Starbucks Via Italian roast). Get some coconut. And you are more or less ready to make these.

I finally got around to making these recently when Mr Firewall visited – a kind of late birthday “cake-like” thing along with thousands of dollars worth (in Oslo or Reykjavik cafe prices anyway) of cranberry pistachio biscotti. He ate one rich little square and took them back to Glasgow with him (and promptly put them in the freezer – supposedly, these bars will freeze well if need be – if you manage to keep them on hand long enough). I did not have nearly enough Oreos to make a thick crust like the original recipe calls for, but it turns out fine because these are very rich.

When I made these again this past weekend, I had more than enough Oreos – but the crust really did not work out very well. I think the thin-crust variant is actually preferable in terms of how they handled/turned out.

Either way, this is an easy and quick coffee-tinged caramel cookie that probably goes well with a coffee. If the rate at which these disappeared from my office this morning is any indication, they are luscious. I am only guessing – this is not a scientific fact. It could be that people took them because they were small – and then chucked them in the bin!

Coconut Caramel Macchiato Bars
2½ cups (or more) chocolate cookie crumbs
½ cup melted butter (maybe even a bit less)
1 can dulce de leche (or sweetened condensed milk made into dulce de leche)
2 tablespoons espresso powder (I used
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I did this the first time I baked these, and then not the second. Easier to deal with without the chips – and I don’t think the chocolate chips really added anything)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F/175C. Line a rectangular 9”x13” pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray (such as Pam or the Norwegian equivalent whose name escapes me now)

On low heat on the stovetop, melt the butter. Stir in the chocolate cookie crumbs until moistened. Press gently into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a bowl, mix dulce de leche and the espresso powder until completely combined. Spread over the cookie-crumb crust.

Sprinkle with the coconut. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned.

Allow to cool completely (at least two hours). Cut, store in an airtight container – freeze if you want to.

Coconut macaroon shells with dark chocolate ganache filling

coconut macaroon chocolate ganache tarts

coconut macaroon chocolate ganache tarts

Yes, a whole new experiment. Gluten-free and probably delicious if you like coconut and/or dark chocolate. I tried to make some gluten-free carrot cookies the other night – no dice. Horrible disaster.

But these – they look and seem (although I don’t know about taste) lovely.

You can make them yourself – not difficult!

Coconut macaroon shell recipe
1 1/2 cup coconut
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Combine ingredients. Mix and press into mini muffin pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 175C for 18 minutes until the edges of the shells are golden brown (but the inside is not!). Let the shells sit for five minutes when removed from the oven. Remove from the pan while still warm. Let them cool completely.

gluten-free coconut macaroon shells

gluten-free coconut macaroon shells

Dark chocolate ganache filling
8 ounces dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Heat cream to a simmer. Pour over chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute to soften. Whisk until completely smooth and thick. Fill cooled coconut cups with the ganache and refrigerate.

coconut macaroon chocolate ganache tarts

coconut macaroon chocolate ganache tarts

For whom to cook? Chicken pho and coconut tapioca pudding with mango


Everyone knows I love to bake – and I bake and bake to the point of exhaustion and then come up with creative solutions for transporting all those freshly baked morsels to my office.

Sometimes, though, I go through cooking phases. I read a lot of recipes and gather inspiration for making real food. Trouble is, during the week I do not have a kitchen. And cooking only for myself is a drag. I need food guinea pigs and lab rats. And much more time at home in my kitchen.

Today I am overdosing on reading the archives of the Smitten Kitchen blog – filled with magnificent recipes, stories and pictures. Of course, what kicked it off was the post yesterday about chicken phở (me being a soup-obsessed wolf eel) caused a great stir in my brain. It also made me scroll through loads and loads of the recipes, dreaming about trying some out, experimenting. But why would I make a beyond-tempting coconut tapioca pudding with mango just for me – if I could even find tapioca with ease?

Bring on the Baking Improvisation: Coconut Macaroon Pumpkin Pie


Sometimes the best discoveries come when you just don’t have all the things on hand that you would normally need. Recently I wanted to make a pumpkin pie but didn’t have cream, milk or condensed milk in stock. I thought about how I might make a non-dairy version and decided a coconut milk (which I always have!) variety might work well. Not completely sure what measurements I should use, I turned to the trusty internet and discovered the most lovely website: The Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Her recipe for coconut macaroon pumpkin pie sounds perfect on every level – so it’s up next on my baking plan. (Sadly, I did not get around to making it the other day because I had only one egg.)

The site, though, is filled with fabulous stuff like pretzel challah, rum and coffee beef brisket, gouda macaroni and cheese with pine nuts and golden raisins (I’d skip the raisins – but it otherwise sounds amazing), a gorgeous Mediterranean seven-layer dip and about a million other to-die-for recipes complete with mouthwatering pictures, and step-by-step instructions on how to do just about everything.

The Shiksa site does it for me in particular because I’m a baker through and through but not that creative or adventurous when it comes to cooking – so the recipes here for cooking actual food pique my interest and actually make me want to go in the kitchen and try stuff out. I’m in love.

Coconut macadamia cookies – Don’t need flash to make a little splash


As much as some folks like to cite shiny bling things as important, I’m convinced that very basic things done well can get the job done.

I have only made these coconut macadamia cookies once before – many years ago when I first moved to Norway. I don’t recall anything about it but decided, wanting to get rid of both coconut and macadamia nuts, that this would be a good way. Not the most popular girl at the dance, I did have a few people come up to me after trying out several cookies from the giant smörgåsbord I provided the other day, commenting that these unassuming and seemingly very plain cookies were by far the best ones they ate. Job done.

not flash but solid: coconut macadamia cookies

not flash but solid: coconut macadamia cookies

Coconut Macadamia Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup flaked coconut
3 1/2 ounces or so of macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix butter, sugars and egg. Stir in flour and baking soda, dough will be very stiff. Stir in coconut and nuts. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I rolled into balls, then flattened). Bake until light brown, 8 – 10 minutes (centers will be soft). Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and cool completely.

Raffaello-candy-stuffed cupcakes


The candy of Ferrero (most recently, the coconutty Raffaello candies) makes me think fondly of one of my best friends back in Iceland, an Italian woman who has routinely brought Ferrero candies into our lives. In my case, being the coffee fiend that I am, she introduced the inimitable Pocket Coffee, which features a chocolate housing for a liquid espresso inside. Brilliant.

While Pocket Coffee is not available here in Sweden, Raffaello is everywhere. Taking inspiration from the blog Bake It in a Cake (check out the new book based on these concepts, Bake it in a Cupcake), I decided to pop some Raffaello candy into a basic vanilla cupcake and then frost with a vanilla bean Swiss buttercream icing topped with coconut.

How to do it?

First make the vanilla cupcakes:

Vanilla cupcakes
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups milk

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and milk in alternating turns with the mixer on low. Beat mixture just until combined/smooth.

Fill cupcake liners in your cupcake pan with about one heaping tablespoon of batter. Drop an unwrapped Raffaello candy in and gently press it into the batter. Put another heaping tablespoon on top of the candy to cover it. It does not matter if the candy is completely covered because you will be frosting the cupcake.

Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes until the cupcakes have begun to turn a light golden brown and the cupcake top springs back when touched. Let the cupcakes cool (ten minutes) before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (liquid)
Some vanilla bean powder or vanilla beans scraped from one vanilla pod

Mix the egg white and the sugar over a double boiler. The sugar should be completely dissolved when you remove it from heat. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (preferably the mixing bowl of a stand mixer — Swiss meringue is mixing intensive, so a stand mixer works best). Whisk on high speed until stiff but still wet peaks form. Continue to beat for about five or six minutes after these peaks form.

Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the speed to medium low. Add the butter in one or two tablespoons at a time. The mixture might start to look lumpy and curdled. Don’t worry. Keep mixing. When things start to come together, beat in the peppermint extract and keep beating for another two minutes. It might take some time to get to the right texture. You will know when it comes together in a solid, fluffy, frosting-like consistency.

I sprinkled on some coconut on the batch I took to work; I sprinkled on some toasted coconut on the batch I offered my friends for Thanksgiving. They are good on their own or with either type of coconut.

Samoa cookies and thoughtful contemplation: A labor of love or… just labor?


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