Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy birthday with a big coconut cake, monte cristo sandwitches, and salad de maison

So last week was such a busy week for me and I am finally able to take a breather and share with you what I have been up to! First off, it was my moms birthday on Thursday! The big 50! And I know she wouldn't mind me sharing her age because she looks fabulous for 50. For her birthday cake I wanted to make something extra special. She loves coconut as much as I do so I thought a coconut cake would be very appropriate. But it couldn't be just any coconut cake it had to be extra fabulous. I found Ina Garten's coconut cake recipe and decided to give it a go. I also found a yummy lemon curd recipe on the joy of baking site and thought that would be amazing as a filling. The cake turned out delicious! Such a moist cake with a perfect coconut flavor. I find I am never unhappy with Ina's recipes and this wasn't an exception. Mom said, "It could be in a restaurant," and dad said "This is the best cake I have ever had!" It truly was a delicious cake. The lemon curd filling paired beautifully with the cream cheese frosting which was to die for by the way! I will be making this cake again soon, maybe next time I will make them into cupcakes with a lemon curd filling...mmmmm....
Happy Birthday Mom!
So lucky to have a mom like you! Love ya!

For my mom's birthday dinner we made monte cristo sandwiches with salad de maison. Some may think having sandwiches for a birthday isn't special enough, but let me tell you, I would prefer these sandwiches over a steak dinner. So delicious and unique. Definitely suitable for a special occasion. And as for the salad...amazing. My family has been making this salad for a while and there hasn't been a salad that has come close to how amazing this one is. It could be the 3 whole garlic cloves in the dressing that makes it so tasty. I am definitely a garlic fan and tend to overdose on it. It is a common comment from my husband at the dinner table when he says "I see you put some extra garlic in" , I guess it's the Greek in me which makes me always want to add more to recipes, but with this dressing 3 cloves or garlic is just right. I hope you have a chance to try all of these fun recipes!

Whenever I take pictures at my moms house people
always comment on how beautiful my kitchen is...although
I would love to pretend that my mom's kitchen is mine I wont:)

Coconut Cake

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).(Ok so this is the one time I deviated fromIna's recipe, I did whip it and it was delicious, smooth and creamy!)

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Lemon Curd:

3 large eggs

1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)

1 tablespoon (4 grams) finely shredded lemon zest

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar

4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces

Lemon Curd: In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate until cold. The lemon curd can be made several days (up to a week) in advance.

Salad De Maison

Yield: 10 servings

2 cups Romaine lettuce, torn in pieces (I use a whole head to romaine)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated (I cut mine into cubes)
2/3 cup almonds, slivered
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup croutons
1/4 cup bacon (or bacon bits), to taste

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Lightly toast almonds. Cut up bacon in 2-inch pieces and cook until crisp (or use bacon bits). Toss lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, almonds, Parmesan cheese, crou-tons and bacon together and set aside. Prepare dressing by blending lemon juice, salt, canola oil, garlic and pepper together at high speed in a blender or food processor. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

This longtime favorite is on the menu at the Blue Bayou Restaurant

1 egg

1 3/4 cups plus 2 T water

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 t. salt

1 t. baking powder

8 slices egg bread (challah works well), sliced 1/2 inch thick

2/3 pound ham, cut into 4 slices

2/3 pound turkey, cut into 4 slices

1/4 pound Swiss cheese, cut into 4 slices

3 cups canola oil

Confectioners' sugar

Blackberry preserves

1. Line a cookie sheet with paper towels; set aside

2. Whisk the egg and water together in a mixing bowl. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk thoroughly, scraping side of bowl. Continue to whisk for 20 minutes, until smooth.

3. On one slice of bread arrange a slice each of ham, turkey, and cheese, covering the bread evenly. Place another slice of bread on top and slice sandwich in half diagonally.

4. Heat oil to between 365 degrees F. and 375 degrees F. in a 10 inch pan. Do not let the oil reach a higher temperature than this; if the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down. Dip half of the sandwich into the batter, allowing excess to drain, and very carefully place into the oil. Repeat with the other sandwich half. Cook 3 minutes on each side. Place the cooked sandwich on the prepared cookie sheet in a warm oven until ready to serve. Repeat for other three sandwiches. Cook the sandwiches one at a time, and allow the oil to reach the desired temperature in between each batch.

5. Sprinkle sandwiches with confectioners' sugar and serve with blackberry preserves on the side.


  1. That cake looks amazing! I have been seeing a lot of coconut/lemon cakes in the blogosphere lately and now I want to make one.

  2. I gave you an award! Check it out here:

  3. I am finding so many lemon recipes today!!

    Happy Birthday to your Mom!