Monday, February 21, 2011

How Many People Does it Take to Make a Coconut Pound Cake Like Mom Did?

Well, here we are. February. Time sure does go by fast when you’re trying to keep busy. Mom passed away at 3:53 on the morning of November 23, 2010. Even though she had been battling colon cancer for 3 years, the shock was still unsettling. Surrounded by all four of her children, husband, grandchildren & loving family members she took her last breath. Even in those last moments when she couldn’t even speak she still taught us something: the love of your family is the strongest love of all. Us four kids, & Dad didn’t say a word. We just held each other in a circle knowing our bond & love for one another was what was going to get us through this. And it certainly has.

In these first few months we’ve all been dealing & coping in our own ways. The best therapy though, has been when we get together & just talk about her. We always cry but it feels like she’s not that far away if we tell stories of things she did or said, memories, & of course her food. You see, mom’s greatest passion (other than her family) was cooking. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Miami when she was in her 50’s, not letting age or lack of professional experience get in her way. And man was she gifted. The ideas she could come up with were just amazing, And I never saw her make a mistake in the kitchen…ever. Her love of all things food passed on to all of her kids. None of us are picky eaters (except for Amee’s weird dislike of salt) and are more than willing to try anything at least once. We’re also extremely hands on. We like to make our own meals, try new recipes, & never let the kitchen intimidate us…ever. Me, Erin, I followed her footsteps & also attended Le Cordon Bleu in the hopes of someday getting to be on her level of culinary mastery. Her biggest dream in life was to open a restaurant with her family. We would sit for hours just talking about it, making plans, picking recipes & themes. The closest we got was when she ran the Le Petite Café inside of the culinary school, and it was working alongside her there that I saw what a savvy business woman she was. Every idea she had was a hit. She was a hard worker, and most importantly loved what she did. When the President of the school decided to get rid of me because they didn’t feel like family should work together, my mom quit her dream job because she refused to stay at a place that wouldn’t let her work with her child. She chose me over her perfect job. It was beautiful. She caused a huge scene packing all of her things while half the school watched the amazing Barbara McGee leave with her daughter, her joy, her pride, & all of her Christmas decorations. We went home and sang Christmas karaoke while she got me drunk for the first time (I was 19) and then held my hair as I puked in her bathroom. My mom left the café she had worked so hard on making into something special & her perfect career all for the loyalty she held to her family. What a woman.

We as her kids try everyday and aspire to be just like her in every way possible. It’s so hard because she was so perfect. Always smiling, laughing, & extremely supportive even if you were being an idiot. Who’s like that??? Who can be that perfect all of the time? Well, our mom was, and even though all four of us combined still don’t make up half the woman she was, that doesn’t stop us from trying.

So again, here we are, February, and trying to adjust to life without the perfect mom. We came up with the fantastic idea to cook & blog our way through the cookbook she left to us. Also, we get to share her legacy with whomever decides to read this. Best therapy ever? We’ll see.

First up her world famous coconut pound cake. This is her most famous recipe among us, her family, and the greater part of Miami, FL where she use to sell it. It looks and sounds so simple, and it is super easy to make. But once you’ve had a taste it becomes like some sort of drug. You can’t stop eating it. We would beg her to make it all of the time. It took a few years before Mindy & Amee realized they could just ask for the recipe & make it themselves. (Mikey & I still lived at home with her and there was no need for us to learn. Ha.) The first time Mindy made it herself she called mom on the phone from another state asking for the recipe. She was forced to do her first cake alone. Successful though. Amee was fortunate enough to be with mom & get to make it with her her first time around. And me, Erin, I wanted to enter a baking competition at age 18 right before I started culinary school. My mom knew in order to have a chance I needed to make THE coconut pound cake. So of course she helped me and was with me my first (and up until last Thursday only) time making the cake. She had the idea to garnish it with chocolate covered strawberries & put a doily underneath it for a simple presentation. There’s a picture somewhere of that particular cake and day but I’ll need to find it. I had to go to work before they announced the winners of the contest. So after a couple of hours of folding clothes in the dressing room of the Gap my mom ran in the store with a certificate that had my name on it. I had placed 5th out of 36 desserts. (5th was also the last prize you could place in, so it was even more awesome because I had placed) Oh my God! I’m pretty sure I scared some people but I was so excited! And she was too because her daughter had done something really impressive. Plus it was her recipe. And it was her legacy. I will never forget the look on her face when she came into the Gap to tell me. She couldn’t wait until I got home, she went straight from the school all the way to the mall just to be able to tell me in person and right away.

She had to buy 50 pound boxes of coconut flakes at a time to keep up with the demand of this cake. Not only in the sandwich shop that use to sell it before the health department said cakes made in homes couldn’t be sold in restaurants, and the friends & friends of friends that would pay her to make it for there parties, but also the husband & four children who craved it regularly. Yes, it is that good.

So here it is folks, the award winning coconut pound cake our mom taught us to make. Also, us translating the recipe without her being a phone call away for guidance. Photos included!

Coconut Pound Cake:
1 Cup Oil
1 Cup Sugar
5 Eggs
1 Cup Plain Flour
1 ½ tsps Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt

1Cup Buttermilk
2 tsps. Coconut Flavoring
1 Can Angel Flake Coconut*

½ Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
2 tsps. Coconut Flavoring**
Boil water and sugar for one minute, remove from heat & stir in coconut flavoring.

*We’re typing the recipe as it was given to us, however you cannot find a can of coconut flakes. I checked 3 different stores & no luck. Amee swears she’s bought it before but I think she’s crazy. This recipe is very old hence why it calls for a can. No, no can. As I said before mom use to by huge boxes of coconut flakes & just measure out 2 cups, because Mindy says it’s a 16 ounce can & there’s 8 ounces in a cup. So, you can ignore the can, buy a bag & measure out 2 cups. Same thing.
**Yes, you will need a total of 4tsps. It goes in the cake & the sauce. Again, after much debate, we realized this is the way it is suppose to be.

With a blender mix together oil, sugar, combine eggs one at a time, blend until yellow coloring. Sift flour, baking powder & salt. Slowly blend flour mixture, and buttermilk into wet mixture. After well blended, stir coconut flavor and can of coconut into mixture. Grease & flour tube pan. Pour mixture into pan and bake at 350 for one hour. Remove from oven and pour Sauce over.

McGee children tips:
Sift dry ingredients before you do anything else, so it’s ready to go. Make sauce once the cake is out of the oven. It needs to be very hot sauce over very hot cake, and the cake stays in the pan during this step. Also, it’s not in the recipe, but mom always poked holes in the cake with a toothpick before pouring the sauce so it seeps into the cake for maximum flavor. Let cake sit for 30minutes & then flip onto plate the do a double flip onto cake stand (The picture shown shows just one flip. Mindy said it needed a double flip, but Amee & I argued her. After looking at the picture again, Mindy was right. Double flip was how mom always did it. And trust us, it looks so much better.)

Whether with a fork or your hand, enjoy!