18 April 2011

A Retrospective

After many many years, too many of them really, I'm leaving the job that introduced me to the Balkans and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. I'm not sorry to be leaving the job but I am sorry to lose the trips to see my friends in Serbia and Kosovo. I have been incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to come to know these countries and people (and the food!). They're what kept me at my job for so long and I will miss them.

 Belgrade Parliament

 Jewish Cemetary, Belgrade

 Kalamegdan, Belgrade

 Radnom side street, Belgrade
 St. Mark's Belgrade
I can't believe I've never been inside

 Busy cafes, Novi Sad

 Novi Sad

 Mocaccino from my favorite coffe house, Belgrade

 Dinner at Iguana with friends, Belgrade

 Skadarljia, Belgrade

 Mother Teresa museum, Skopje

 Old city in Skopje

 Yummy yummy meat, Pristina

 Prizren, Kosovo




 Bas Carsa, Sarajevo

 Sarajevo, BiH

 Sarajevo, BiH
 Old city in Dubrovnik, Croatia

 Old city in Dubrovnik, Croatia

 Kotor, Montenegro

 Cetinje, Montenegro

 Cetinje, Montenegro

However all is not lost. My new job comes with vacation, which I'm hoping I'll get to use more than every other year, and I will return! Even Bill wishes me well and hopes I'll return soon :)

14 April 2011

Coconut-Peach Layer Cake

Another birthday another cake. With the advent of spring I chose something fruity and decided that peaches, while still out of season, would be my muse. And also coconut because I love coconut. Like many of my recipes I got this one off Epicurious. I heart the Epicurious.


2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1/2 cup peach preserves
3 pounds peaches, peeled, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 cups chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned sweetened cream of coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl then whisk buttermilk and sour cream in another bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. If, like me, you forget to take out the butter soon enough to soften it, about 10 seconds in the microwave and you're good to go. Gradually beat in the sugar scraping down the sides, then add cream of coconut, egg yolks, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions. Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff peaks start to form but be careful to not over beat. Fold into batter.

Divide batter between either 2 9" round pans or if you're me, 4 because you hate slicing cakes in half. I usually Pam the bejeesus out of the pan, line it with parchment paper, the Pam it some more. Or you can be fancy and butter/flour/parchment it. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Maintain oven temperature once cakes are done and put in the 3 cups if coconut spead on a large baking sheet.

Bake until lightly toasted. I'm a nervous coconut toaster so I took it out and stirred like half a dozen times. Epicurious claims you should only have to do it once in 14 minutes.

For filling:
Stir preserves in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Cool slightly.

Toss peaches, sugar, and lemon juice in large bowl.

Add preserves and toss to combine. Honestly if I do this recipe again, I'd either at least double the amount of preserves or lose it all together. I can't say that I really saw the point.

For frosting:
Beat heavy cream, vanilla, and craem of coconut in large bowl until peaks form. Make extra because you're going to need to lick the beaters several times. Yum-ME.

Drain peach filling of excess juices. Cut cakes horizontally in half (or just use 4!). Place 1 cake layer, cut side up, on platter. Top with 1/3 of peach filling then frosting and repeat.

I couldn't properly drain my peaches so I used the big slotted spoon I use for crab rangoon frying which helped drain them. The first layer i just dumped the peached on the cake.

Layers two and up I made nice, organized circles of peaches. You should go with my first scoop and dump method. I got way more peaches on that layer and it was noticable.

Spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.

Cover cake completely with toasted coconut. I once again utilized the 'throw the coconut at the cake' method. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. 

This was really good. Peach plus coconut? Genius! I would have liked to have used fresh peaches but the availability of decent fresh peaches right now is pretty slim so I went with the frozen variety. If fresh are available though, definitely go that route even though it'll be pricier and take more time.