In honor of my birthday, here are a few things I’ve learned in my twenty three years:
1. When it comes to fashion, if you don’t like it or it just doesn’t suit you, skip it. And don’t ever look back.
2. It’s okay to look stupid sometimes. That means you’re changing, and growing, and learning. And those are good things, no matter how crazy I might look while squatting in the backyard trying to light a grill for the first time.
3. Saving money actually is a good idea. However, I have no idea how to do this effectively. I still stash money in envelopes and hide them from myself.
4. There is nothing worse than sand in your tent. Period. Always remember to brush your feet off before you get in.
5. Puppies turn into dogs. Case in point: that sweet Jack Russell puppy that fit in the palm of my hand when I was nine is now a blind, deaf, biting machine. She’s so lucky to have my mom to take care of her!
6. Smile at people who have no intention of smiling at you. It’s disarming, and that can really work in your favor.
7. If you really love something, learn how its made. Make it yourself if you can. Then, put a cute label on it and give it as a gift.
8. You are your number one advocate. This also means that you are the only one paying attention to how often you go to the dentist.
9. Stretch. Every morning, before coffee.
10. Make your own birthday cake! I made mine this year and it was spectacular. (Downside: no one but you is to blame if it’s a flop.)
This cake will change your life. I’m for real. It’s moist but surprisingly light and fluffy, and the secret is the cream of coconut in the cake itself. Also, toast your coconut topping! Come on!
Here’s the recipe:
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
9 oz / 2 1/4 c plain cake flour sifted
1 large egg
5 egg whites
3/4 c cream of coconut
1/4 c water
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbs / 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cooled and cut into pieces
Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
3 tsp coconut extract
3 cups powdered sugar
2 c packed sweetened shredded coconut
1-2 tsp water or milk
pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake pans and set aside.
2. In a medium sized bowl, beat egg and egg whites in bowl with fork to combine and add cream of coconut, water and both extracts and beat with fork to thoroughly combine.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt on low for 30 seconds to combine.
4. With the mixer still running, add butter one pat at a time and beat until it resembles coarse meal and butter bits are no smaller than peas.
5. Add one cup of egg mixture to flour / butter. Increase speed to medium/high and beat until light and fluffy. Add remaining liquid in steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for a bit longer. Batter will be thick.
6. Divide batter between pans and level. Bake until cakes are golden brown and sides pull away from pan or cake tester comes out clean (about 30 minutes). Leave the oven on.
7. Cool cakes for 10 min, then loosen the edges with a paring knife and turn out and back over on cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
7. Spread shredded coconut onto baking sheet and toast in oven. Watch carefully! (I’ve started fires while attempting to toast coconut.) Remove from the oven when coconut is golden brown on the edges.
8. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar together for the icing.
9. When the butter and sugar is fully incorporated, add the extract and salt. Then, adjust the texture of the icing using the milk or water. Be careful, a little goes a long way.
10. When your cakes have reached room temperature, place the first cake on a cake stand and spread icing onto the top of the cake. Then, line up cake #2 and place it on top. Ice the top and sides. Press the toasted coconut onto the top and sides of the cake.
Put candles and cake decorations on top, blow out candles, slice, and enjoy with a tall glass of milk. Celebrate being another year older and (maybe) wiser.