Saturday, March 22, 2014

Addy's Coconut Tea Cake & The Liebster Award!

A yummy cake that totally deserves the fame and popularity of any other tea cake!

As you can see by the title, this post is going to be something of a joint one! I've already discussed my fondness for coconut at length, so when I discovered this recipe for Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake from The History Kitchen, my interest was piqued! The History Kitchen is a great blog that produces a ton of exceptional material from the pictures to the incredibly well researched recipes. Someday, I hope my blog can be that successful and polished!

I thought this recipe in particular was interesting because I've never heard of coconut being a tea cake option before, and because I had no idea that Emily Dickinson was such a prolific cook! While it's true that she spent most of her adult life in seclusion, she apparently still baked, cooked and sent out goodies to her neighbors with some frequency, making her a beloved figure even if people didn't know her personally. Because she spent so much of her life isolating herself from others, her poetry didn't become popular until after her death. The first collected edition of her work was published in 1889, and the first largely unedited edition was published in 1955.

Because of this, I spent a long time debating which character should host this post and had the best connection to Dickinson's life, and decided to go with Addy because while she might not have read any of Emily's works until she was an adult, they were still contemporaries (Emily would have been in her thirties when Addy was ten) and this recipe is not far off from a cake Addy might have enjoyed or made herself. It's certainly not a complicated one, and apart from the coconut, the other ingredients are extremely basic and are probably already in your pantry!

Part two of the post (which is actually what I'm going to be starting off with) is a slightly unusual topic for this blog, but there was no way I was going to sit out on the fun! I was awarded by Robinhoo from Audra's Elements of Style with...

The Liebster Award! Friends award you, you need to answer their eleven questions and then tag other people and ask them a different set of questions! I am super flattered and appreciative anyone likes my blog enough to give me an award for writing it, and I really just want to say thanks again for it. Anyone looking for interesting modern doll clothing choices should definitely check out Audra's blog!

Here are the questions I was asked and my responses to them:
1. If you could visit any country that you've never visited before, which one would it be?
As lame as this answer might seem, I think I'm going to have to go with Canada. The place I've always really wanted to go is Alaska, and Canada has a lot of similar natural features. It's also got a ton of great history, and since that's usually what attracts me to a destination, that's a huge pull for me. Ireland and Australia are close second choices, though!

2. What is one thing that you're afraid of?
Sharks. I know it's not fair on them and I'm by no means saying I wish all sharks were dead or that they're horrible thoughtless monsters, but they scare the living daylights out of me, and all attempts at curing me of this have failed, usually pretty disastrously.

3. Who are your top 3 favorite musicians right now?
Florence and the Machine, Imagine Dragons and Linkin Park. Linkin Park has been my favorite band since fifth grade, and their earlier albums have a lot of nostalgia value to me. I've also really enjoyed their newer stuff, so I think in general, they've earned that title. Florence and Imagine Dragons are much newer favorites, but I love their stuff!

4. How would you feel about wearing an outfit that was made up of really bright colors and patterns, that would make people turn and look at you?
Usually, I don't like calling much attention to myself, particularly in the way I dress. That being said, I mentioned a long time ago that I had bought a Saige sweater for myself, which kind of fits that description perfectly, and when I wore it to work the other day so many people complimented me on it! It was really nice, and the sweater itself is so bright and colorful that it's almost impossible to feel sad while you're wearing it.

5. What is your favorite kind of clothing to wear?
Aside from pajamas, I like t-shirts, jeans and sneakers. That's pretty much all I want to wear on any given day, and it bums me out that it's not considered appropriate attire for my job!

6. What is (or was) your favorite school subject?
History, naturally! I also enjoyed English and Biology in high school, and Archaeology in college.

7. What are your feelings about broccoli? Pick 3 words you'd use to describe your feelings.
Broccoli is actually my favorite vegetable! My three words would be yummy, moist and dinosaur, because I used to love pretending I was a dinosaur munching on a tree while eating it when I was little.

... Okay, I'll be honest, I still sometimes feel like a dinosaur when I do it.

8. Would you rather spend an afternoon at a museum, at an ice-skating rink, at the seaside, or in your room with a book?
This was a tough call! I can be kind of a homebody sometimes, especially now that I'm working and don't have as much free time as I used to, so sometimes I can be a bit of a stick in the mud about going out and doing things and I do love to read about as much as I love macaroni and cheese (which is a lot), but going to a museum is one of my absolute favorite things to do on a day out. Some of my favorites are The Imperial War Museum in London, England, Jamestown Rediscovery's Archaearium in Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg, Virginia, The High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, ConnecticutThe American Natural History Museum in New York City, New YorkThe Natural History Museum in London, EnglandThe Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, and a recent favorite is the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts!

9. What is your favorite place that you've ever visited?
I could pretend like this is a difficult decision because I've been to a lot of really fantastic places I've absolutely loved visiting, but the painfully obvious answer is Disney World and Disneyland are tied for absolute favorite place. I've been very fortunate to visit both parks pretty frequently for someone who doesn't live anywhere neither either one, and I have a fantastic time each time we go!

10. If you had a time machine, when and where would you go?
I actually have been sticking with the same answer since seventh grade when this was our daily journal assignment prompt. As much as I love studying Jamestown and World War II, I don't actually want to hang out in a time period where I'm pretty likely to either starve to death, die of a terrible disease or have a bomb dropped on me, so I'm going to have to stick with watching the "Miracle on Ice" game between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, which I already have talked about at length here. It seems like a pretty safe bet!

11. Who is your best friend and how would you describe her/him?
I've mentioned my best friend several times on this blog already. Ari was the one who gave me the recipes for beef brisket, chicken soup, and the yummy steak and brie sandwiches, and was actually the first person I told about wanting to make this blog. Her not thinking I was completely insane for wanting to do it and encouragement to actually dive in helped get A Peek Into the Pantry going, and the rest is history! Ari is an exceptionally patient, tolerant person no matter what I'm complaining about this time and is always so much fun to bounce ideas off of and generally do goofy things with. I've enjoyed talking to pretty much every day for almost four years, and I'm really lucky to have a friend like her.

I'm nominating A Wild Review Appears!, American Girl Outsider, The Doll Grotto, The Toychest Snarker, and Up to My Eyeballs in Dolls! And if you don't have a blog, but still would like to participate, feel free to leave a comment below!

1. What is your favorite historical time period to learn about?
2. If AG told you you could design everything about their next historical character from appearance to time period to book series, what would you do?
3. Do you have a favorite Disney movie, and if so, which is it?
4. DC or Marvel?
5. What else do you collect besides dolls?
6. What's your favorite TV show?
7. What's one book that really influenced your life?
8. What was your favorite toy growing up, and do you still have it? If not, are you looking for one to add to your adult collection?
9. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
10. Is there anywhere on Earth you don't want to visit?
11. Who is your overall favorite fictional character and why?
12. Do you know what lies in the shadow of the statue? Sorry I'll stop, I've had a certain TV show on the brain, lately.

I really want to say thanks again for the nomination Robinhoo, and to all of my readers for being so supportive. I'm glad you're enjoying reading this as much as I'm enjoying writing and making everything!

And now on to the recipe!

And I promise it's a good one. Would Addy and I lie to you?

I was actually planning on making this recipe a lot sooner than I actually did. It's really not that difficult to make, so I have no excuse for not getting to it earlier in the week besides just being tired after work, and also being completely sucked into the vortex that is reading a book you just can't put down. (Relatedly, if you're even passingly interested in World War II, go out and read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand like, right now. Seriously, why are you still reading this? Go do it! This post isn't going anywhere!)

The coolest thing about this recipe is that there's a surviving copy of it in Emily Dickinson's own handwriting, so this isn't just a cake she might have made, or something similar to one she would have given out. This is actually her recipe!

It starts off with sugar and butter which you cream together until it's light and fluffy. I used a hand mixer, because honestly I don't think the stand mixer does a great job of creaming sugar and butter sometimes. You have to scrape down the sides a lot and overall seems a little more labor intensive than I necessarily want when making a cake.

Two eggs are added to the mixture, and then half a cup of milk. We only have skim milk in our house generally, and it worked out fine, but I'd assume a fattier version would be just as tasty.

Flour, baking soda and cream of tartar are sifted (or stirred, if you're lazy and don't own a sifter like me) together and then added to the wet ingredients. You can substitute cream of tartar and baking soda for just a teaspoon and a half of baking powder, but since we had the cream of tartar and I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, I decided to go with it.

I'm particularly glad I used a spatula and not a stand mixer to mix everything together because the recipe emphasizes that you really shouldn't over mix this batter if you want a fluffy cake, and I think using a spatula let me help control that a little better.

The recipe says that if you're using dried coconut flakes, you need to rehydrate them with some warm water and drain them thoroughly before adding them to the batter. I was a little nervous about this because the coconut flakes I had were sweetened, and I didn't want all the flavor being ripped out of them by overzealous draining.

I decided to test out the process on some extra coconut first. I wrapped it in a paper towel, ran it under the faucet, wrung it out pretty vigorously and tasted the flakes. Fortunately, they were still sweet and tasted like coconut, so I repeated the process with the full one cup serving and added them to the batter.

And then I might have tossed in some extra, just in case.

As I said, I like coconut.

These get folded in gently. Again, you really don't want to over mix this.

This bakes in the oven for about an hour. Mine definitely needed the full hour, but if you want to check on it at about fifty minutes just to make sure it doesn't burn, it doesn't hurt.

You're left with a nice loaf sized cake with a deceptively thick crust, not unlike the Providence cake I made for my friend Paige. At first I was worried it was going to taste like the brick it felt like when I pulled it out of the pan, but when I sliced into it, I was relieved to discover that the inside was dense but fluffy. The crust makes it easy to eat with your hands, which is always a nice thing, and Ari, I'm pretty sure it will survive the trip to you if you're still interested in trying some!

Speaking of which, so how did it taste?

I was pleasantly surprised! The batter tasted a little plain, and I was worried the coconut flakes wouldn't really stand out and make the cake really coconut-y, and I will say that the flavors are on the subtle side. That said, it's sweet without being too sweet and you can really taste the coconut, but not in an over the top artificial flavoring sort of way. The texture is definitely pound cake like which again, I like if it's going to be something I'm eating with tea or just using my fingers, and the top crust has a nice crunch to it which adds some good contrast.

Emily Dickinson might not be my favorite poet (although I'm not actually sure if I have a favorite poet at all), but I was really interested to find out about some of her other talents, and would definitely recommend trying this cake out for yourself! It only takes about twenty minutes at most to get the ingredients assembled and is a very stress free treat to make that's sure to impress your friends and family at your next get together.

Seriously, give it a shot. You won't regret it!


  1. That cake looks delicious! I also really love coconut and might have to try that recipe some time. Addy's dress is also cute looking under her apron.

    Also thank you for tagging me! I'll have to put my answers on my next blog post too, which should be sometime next week. I also agree with your answer to number 10, I always think about how crappy it would really be to live in a different era after living in this one!

    1. I really can't stress how easy it was to make! I look forward to seeing your answers. c: And man, right? Indoor plumbing and modern medicine were pretty solid things to invent, humanity.

  2. YAY! I loved reading your answers. You've visited so many awesome museums! I'd love to go to all of them. I totally sympathize with the desire to go to Canada, because I'd absolutely love to visit Nova Scotia. But if you ever make it to Ireland, let me recommend the Chester-Beatty Museum right next to Dublin Castle. They have all kinds of beautiful ancient manuscripts and art from around the world. Also, the museum restaurant is one of my favorite places in all of Dublin to eat!

    I'm definitely craving coconut now. I adore coconut. Hmmm... I could make some coconut bread in the morning...!

    (Robin :) )

    1. That sounds awesome! I will definitely keep that in mind, having a good restaurant just makes it all the more appealing. :D

      Let me know how it turns out if you give it a shot, and thanks again for tagging me! I had a lot of fun answering the questions.

  3. That bread looks delicious! I'll have to try that one sometime. And Addy's so cute!

    Thanks for the tag! I'll get those answers up this week! :)

    1. No, thank you for making an awesome blog! I'm looking forward to seeing your answers! :D

  4. The coconut bread recipe looks like a good one...
    I just love reading your blog for it's energy and creativity! You forgot the Victoria & Albert Museum! A favorite of mine, they still let you hold and study textiles centuries old - with gloves of course! Thanks for the book recommendation - will look for it tomorrow.

    1. I've actually never been to the Victoria and Albert Museum! My grandparents did while we were at the Natural History Museum because my grandma is a huge fan of the British royal family and we all wanted to see dinosaurs instead, ahaha. If I ever get back to London, I'll definitely add it to my itinerary though!

  5. My doll blog is currently in the process of being developed, but once I get everything ready, I'd love to answer these questions if it's ok with you!

    I also want to tell you that I love your blog and it makes me very hungry! If I was just a less clumsy cook...

    - Tilde :)

    1. That is totally okay with me! I love reading people's answers to these kinds of things. c: And I was/am a really clumsy cook too, so really what this has taught me is that anyone can make something look and taste awesome, even if you're a total klutz!