Coconut Pineapple Cake

A delicious, tropical cake to welcome the start of Spring.

This week has been a bit strange. The weather in San Diego is cold and rainy. Coupled with the post-vacation blues and COVID-19, a springtime cake sounded like the perfect escape. I whipped up some coconut cake, filled the layers with frosting, pineapple curd, and a toasted coconut-walnut crumble, and topped the whole thing with a toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. While the cake was good, the real star of the show is the pineapple curd.

To be honest, the recipe I used resulted in a cake that was a little too dense for my liking and it lacked the punch of coconut flavor I was going for. Maybe my coconut flakes were old, but even when I toasted them for the frosting the flavor still wasn’t quite there. Next time I would add some coconut milk (we were out and so was the grocery store) and maybe some coconut extract. That said, I’m not going to share the cake or icing recipe, but scroll down for the curd recipe. It will not disappoint.

Pineapple Curd

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 C pineapple puree – ~1/2 large pineapple blended and strained
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 T unsalted butter

Mix pineapple puree, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-high, mixing constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. This will happen right before it starts to boil and should take about 5 minutes. Immediate remove from heat and stir in butter. Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

February 2020 Hikes

The greater San Diego area has not given us a glory-of-nature feel with the sprawling suburban landscape. However, when it’s 70 and sunny in the middle of winter and we get out for some tank top-friendly hikes, it’s easy to enjoy wherever we go!

Daley Ranch

Beth’s parents joined us from their Florida retreat for a long weekend in the dry San Diego landscape. For a traditional weekend hike with them, we traveled north to Escondido into the Daley Ranch conservation area. In addition to the diverse biological habitat the area preserves, it also offers many paved and dirt trails for people to enjoy.

Daley Ranch entrance

It was a picture-perfect February day in Southern California! There were quite a few people starting and finishing in the late morning when we got there. The trail starts on a paved mile walk down to the old ranch. It never ceases to amaze me how a rancher would chose such a remote site for a ranch! There was fresh water feeding into here, which is an obvious necessity, but you can also see large open areas that were likely fields back in the day.

We were able to get some nice views to the South, overlooking the outskirts of Escondido.

Tijuana

We were lucky enough to host our good friends, Aaron and Dara on their trip to SD! We were looking for some new and high-end tequilas, and we thought a great place to explore would be Tijuana, a quick 15 mile, 30 min drive South. We heard a great way to visit was to park on the US side, where there is plenty of parking next to the premium outlet mall lots, and walk across using the West Pedestrian entrance. It was fast and easy!

We planned on calling an Uber but ended up walking to everywhere we wanted to go!

  1. Our first stop was Casa Cocoa for a delicious mole-based meal with a variety of refreshing cocoa-based drinks.
  2. We continued to the Mercado El Popo to explore a variety of stalls with local foods and ingredients. I wanted pretty badly to stock the pantry but help myself back so we could continue our adventure.
  3. Next stop was, of course, to get some beer! Just off the main drag, Revolucion, we were told about Azteca Craft Brewing which has an eclectic space that you could easily miss.
  4. Beer was great, but we were looking for tequila! So, we headed to a trendy cocktail bar, Estacion. The menu looked good, and the food smelled divine.
  5. Ok, so the Tequila came from an unlikely place… Victor’s Liquor Store. Don’t let the sign in front of the building fool you- “Want to get drunk?” it has some HIGH END tequilas on the shelf! Many we had never heard of, of course. There were some amazing looking bottles, so many kinds from blancos to 23+ super anejos. We walked out with a good find, very satisfied.
  6. We took the hike back to the car, and what do you do after a good day of walking and trying tequilas? TACOS! We went to one of the hottest places in the city – Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista! At 8:30pm there was a line down the street, maybe no surprise. It’s a strange setup with ad hoc lines that are based on the type of food and protein you are getting. The crazy long line is for the adobada which is an amazing-looking, seasoned and slow-roasted pork skewered on pineapples. Pro tip- For a quick bite, grab the shortest line- it’s all so good and will only take a couple minutes!

Big Laguna Mountain

So… Who is ready to get outside?? The expansive Cleveland National Forest offers quite a variety of landscape, including some moderate altitude, 5k ft trails. The air does feel a bit thin coming up from sea level. We headed straight into Big Laguna trail at the Penny Pines Trailhead for a 10 mile moderate hike/run. This is a very run-able course for anyone looking to leg it. We ran about half of it on-and-off to burn a little energy and enjoy the fresh air.

Penny Pines Trail to Big Laguna Mountain looking East into the desert 3k ft below

This area has a very different feel from the trails around the San Diego area. The higher altitude and pine forests really bring us back to a Colorado landscape. The reminder that we’re in Southern California comes early when you look East and see a massive drop-off into the desert landscape.

The lakes (2 of them!) midway through the hike are beautiful to look at, containing many water foul. You can definitely tell this was (is??) range land, with much of it pasture land that is clear of scrubs and plants from the grazing cattle and many fences along the perimeter of the trails.

Beautiful tree growing on dead growth- what is it? Mangrove, Arbutus?

January 2020 Hikes

Kitchen Creek Falls

Kitchen Creek Falls is a moderately trafficked, 5 mile out-and-back portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. We continued along the trail for a bit after the falls making our hike an even 6.5 miles. The great thing about the PCT is that you can make your hike as long or short as you like. It is located in the Cuyamaca Mountains about 50 miles east of San Diego. The trail is on the easy side of moderate; the trail climbs 600 ft. very gradually over the course of 2.25 miles. There is a steep portion right as you get to the falls, which is what puts this into the moderate section. We’d recommend some poles as this portion can be a little tricky to maneuver. The turn off to the falls is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled or have a map handy. The falls are a series of small waterfalls along a creek. In the winter, after a rain, there was quite a bit of water flowing, but we’ve heard that it can be pretty dry in the summer.

Paradise Mountain Loop

Paradise Mountain Loop is an 8 mile trail located in Hellhole Canyon near Escondido. Hellhole Canyon is a nature preserve that is only open Friday-Monday and is not open during the month of August due to high heat. Keep that in mind as you plan your visit. In our opinion, the trail is on the hard side of moderate. It climbs 1,900 ft. over the course of 8 miles with all but 300 ft occurring in the first half of the trail. It’s not too steep, but it is rocky and we definitely recommend hiking poles if you have them. On a Sunday in January, the trail was lightly trafficked, though this may change during high tourism seasons. The best part of the trail was how quiet it is. Many of the trails around San Diego are also near large interstates, but Hellhole Canyon is nestled in the mountains away from traffic. There were great vistas along the trail and the top had amazing views across the valley. We did read that in the spring and summer the trail can get quite overgrown, but we had no issue with brush while we were there.

Pacific Beach, San Diego

We traded Portland’s gray winter for 6 months in sunny San Diego. We’re nearing the 3 month mark now, and got to spend the first month living in Pacific Beach. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we had to move before Thanksgiving, but that’s just given us the opportunity to explore another area of the city. Silver lining!

We’ve found that, of all the beaches in San Diego, Pacific Beach is our favorite. In fact, we still venture there at least once a week to hit up a yoga class and let the pup splash in the water. It’s a bit more residential and laid-back, and you have everything you need (grocery store, food, beach) within a 1-1.5 mile radius.It’s much more pedestrian and biker friendly than any other area of the city. There are plenty of bike rental options if you’re visiting, and bike lanes aplenty. There are also walking paths along all of the waterways and you’ll regularly see runners, walkers, roller bladers, and bikers enjoying the sunny weather. On weekends, it’s common to hop into a free beach yoga class.

Snickers loves the water! When she smells the ocean she will march like a lady on a mission until she gets to the sand. It’s been a lot of fun taking her to splash around. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with how dog-friendly San Diego is. There are a few dedicated dog beaches, where dogs are allowed off-leash at all times, but all of the beaches in town allow dogs between 4pm-9am during the winter. We’ve gotten to catch numerous sunsets over the water because of this.

Some of our favorite PB spots so far:

  • Bird Rock Yoga
  • Mission Bay bayside walk – unbroken walking/biking/running trail around the bay
  • Pacific Beach Fish Shop
  • Dirty Birds – wings and beer after a day at the beach
  • Bird Rock Coffee Roasters – San Diego isn’t a hot spot for coffee, but these guys do it right!

Mocha Cake

For New Year’s Eve Matt requested a decadent chocolate cake. I debated a couple of different frosting options (chocolate, vanilla, and even peanut butter) before deciding that the best complement would be coffee buttercream and dark chocolate ganache. Thus, the mocha cake was born. I definitely need to invest in some proper cake decorating tools, but, looks notwithstanding, this cake was amazing.

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The chocolate cake base is an adaption of the classic Hershey’s cake. I’ve been using it for years and it never disappoints. It’s perfectly chocolatey and amazingly moist. For the buttercream, I went with an American buttercream since it is a bit less finicky than my favored Swiss meringue. I added brewed coffee to get a subtle flavor and a few drops of food coloring for color (though next time I would go without). The ganache is a classic dark chocolate ganache that was added between layers as well as the top to give it an extra boost of chocolate. And for the garnish, I tempered some chocolate and made some chocolate covered coffee beans. These are tasty on their own but do pack some serious caffeine – we learned the hard way that it’s not wise to eat them before bed!

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Check out the recipe below and let me know if you give it a shot!

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Mocha Cake

  • Difficulty: medium
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Chocolate Cake

This recipe is adapted from Hershey’s and produces three 9″ cakes.

  • 3 oz dark chocolate – I use Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips, but feel free to use the chocolate of your choosing. Semi-sweet or milk chocolate will yield a sweeter cake.
  • 1 cup freshly brewed coffee, hot 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • ½ cup canola oil 
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature 
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • ¾ cup Dutch process cocoa powder – I use Ghirardelli 100% cocoa, but any cocoa powder will work
  • 2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 heaping tsp coarse kosher salt 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour cake pans.  
  2. Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Pour the hot coffee over it and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir together until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, canola oil, eggs and vanilla. 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt on low until combined. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, 20-30 seconds. 
  5. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the coffee/chocolate mixture into the batter and mix until just combined. Give the batter a few turns by hand with a spatula to make sure everything is well incorporated. 
  6. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Chocolate Ganache

  • 8 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream
  1. Place chocolate in small bowl
  2. Heat cream in microwave or on stovetop until simmering – do not let boil.
  3. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Stir until smooth.

Note: ganache will thicken as it cools. Allow to cool to your desired consistency. For this cake, will want it to be spreadable and not overly thick.

Coffee Buttercream

  • 1.5 C butter 
  • 4-4.5 C powdered sugar, sifted 
  • 3oz brewed coffee, cooled 
  • 2 T heavy cream
  1. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add butter and beat on high until light and fluffy (~5 minutes).
  2. Sift in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating for 2-3 minutes after each addition (this will help keep the icing from becoming grainy).
  3. Once all powdered sugar has been incorporated, add coffee and cream and beat on high for 5-10 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

Note: the buttercream may break and appear curdled after the addition of the liquid. This can happen because buttercream is an emulsion and we’re incorporating a lot of liquid into the fat – sometimes more than it can handle. Don’t worry! Continue to mix on high and it will come back together. This happens to me all the time and, without fail, a few additional minutes is all it takes to bring the buttercream back together.

Assembly

  1. If cakes are very domed, level-off the tops with a serrated knife.
  2. Place one cake on plate or cake stand.
  3. Spread ~1/3 cup of buttercream on the cake and drizzle 1/3 of the ganache over the top. If ganache is runny, pop in the fridge or freezer for 5 minutes to allow it to set.
  4. Place second cake on top of ganache and repeat step 3.
  5. Place third cake, top down on top and spread a thin crumb coat of buttercream on top and sides of cake.
  6. Place cake in freezer for 10-15 minutes to allow crumb coat to set.
  7. Frost cake with remaining buttercream.
  8. Drizzle remaining ganache on top and garnish with chocolate covered coffee beans, if desired.

 

November and December 2019 Hikes

November and December saw fewer hikes than previous months. Having left the lush Pacific Northwest, we’re a bit less enthused getting out on the trails. San Diego isn’t known for hiking and the trails near the city are lackluster. Suffice to say, it’s been a bit harder finding places to hike. Nonetheless, we’ve found a few places to get our hearts pumping and have staked out a few more routes further into the mountains.

Tecolote Canyon

Tecolote Canyon is a nature park near Mission Bay with roughly 7 miles of trails. The trails are fairly rocky and wide but aren’t too difficult. There are a few spots under the power lines that are very steep, but otherwise the trails are relatively flat and easy to walk or run. It’s along a golf course and near a road, so don’t expect to feel like you’re in nature, but for something close to the city it’s a decent spot to walk around.

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is another in-city option for getting off road. There are 65 miles of trails – this includes both paved and dirt – throughout the park. We live less than 1 mile from the park so getting on the trails is an easy activity during the week. The trails aren’t very well marked and run along heavily trafficked roads so keep that in mind. On the plus side, they are pretty lightly trafficked so you’ll likely have the trail mostly to yourself.

Mission Trails Regional Park

So far, this has been the best spot for hiking we’ve found in San Diego. It’s a bit of a drive from our apartment, but worth it to get some trail time on the weekend. We’ve actually done three separate hikes here in December alone. There are 60+ miles of hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Our first trip took us from the south entrance to South Fortuna Peak. It was a 5 mile, moderate loop with a mile of glute-burning stairs to the peak. The second two times, I did a 15k and 21k loop that are marked through the park. Both start at the east entrance and go through the Grasslands Loop before climbing to the peaks. The 15k winds through the valley before ascending to South Fortuna Peak with 1,900 ft of ascent, while the 21k begins with North Fortuna Peak before cruising along the park perimeter and joining back with the 15k loop at the South Fortuna ascent for a total of 2,880 ft of ascent. It’s not for the faint of heart, but aside from the two major climbs it’s very doable. The views of San Diego and the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains are spectacular.

2019: A Year in Cake

It’s no secret that I love to bake. With all of the ultramarathon training in 2019, it wasn’t unusual for me to bake something weekly. My standby is always and forever chocolate walnut cookies (need to share that recipe), but I found myself more drawn to cakes this past year. Without further adieu, here’s a taste of the cakes and a few other delectables that came out of our kitchen in 2019:

Girl Scout Cookie Samoa Cake – this was oh so good! A decadent cake composed of chocolate cake layers, toasted coconut caramel, chocolate ganache, and shortbread buttercream. It’s on my list to make again soon.

Chocolate strawberry cake – a classic for a reason. This cake was made of chocolate cake layers, filled with homemade strawberry preserves, strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, and topped with a dark chocolate ganache and chocolate covered strawberries.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes – a little boozy delight for St. Patrick’s Day. These yummies were made of stout chocolate cake, filled with whiskey dark chocolate ganache, and topped with an Irish Cream buttercream. These were so good I made them twice! The buttercream really stole the show.

Carrot Cake – Momofuku Milk Bar’s take on the classic. While this wasn’t our preferred carrot cake, it was a fun take on our favorite dessert. Spiced carrot cake layers were topped with liquid cheesecake, milk crumbs, and graham cracker buttercream.

Lemon poppy seed pound cake – after a couple of iterations I finally nailed down this recipe and made it more times than I can count. The cake is incredibly moist and the zing of the lemon icing takes it to a new level. Make sure to oil AND flour the pan before baking so it gets a nice rise.

Apple Pie – the classic Thanksgiving dessert. Still working on perfecting my pie crust, but this was a delicious end to a decadent meal.

Christmas cookies – nothing says Christmas like rolled out sugar cookies. These babies are the best with just a hint of almond. I love to put on a movie and zone out as I decorate them.

mocha cake – Matt requested something decadent for the new year and this did not disappoint. Chocolate cake layers sandwiched with coffee buttercream and dark chocolate ganache; topped with a ganache drizzle and chocolate covered coffee beans. Definitely a good call if you want to stay up until midnight! Recipe coming soon!

not pictured but also enjoyed: our very favorite carrot cake and blueberry streusel cake that was like a delicious blueberry icing-topped muffin in cake form.