Monday, May 14, 2012

Florida Cottontails

When I think of cottontails, I usually think of a more central or northern rabbit.  However, there is a rabbit which inhabits some areas of Florida.  They are called marsh rabbits.  They look like most cottontails that you see in other areas, except they are a little more reddish instead of brown.

Since Florida is a large producer of lemons and these cakes do look like a big fluffy cottontail, that is how I came up for a name for these cakes.

The flavor idea came to me when I saw those pink Hostess cakes called "snowballs".  For those that are unfamiliar with the "snowballs" they are chocolate cakes shaped like a dome that are filled and coated with marshmallow fluff and then sprinkled with pink coconut. 

Instead of that combination, I thought that lemon,coconut and meringue would go well together.   These lemony cakes are filled, as well as topped, with meringue then have a final coating of sweet coconut.  Outside of their great taste, they have a bright lemon yellow color which conjures up the lazy days of summer and outdoor picnics.  However, be aware that these yellow gems do entice little kids into grabbing and eating them with their hands-so be sure to have plenty of napkins around when serving!

This recipe makes 8 cakes and requires 2 domed cupcake pans with 1/2 cup cavities that are 3.5 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches deep.

Florida Cottontails
by flourtrader

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbs lemon zest
2/3 cup of lemonade (I used Simply Lemonade brand)
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/Filling and Frosting
3 egg whites, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 cups sweetened coconut
6 drops liquid or 1/4 tsp powdered yellow food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the top edges and interior of 8 cavities of your dome pans.  Then dust with flour.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Then sprinkle in the zest and stir, distributing evenly.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.  Once it becomes light and fluffy, add one egg and beat for 30 seconds.  Then add the additional egg and vegetable oil, beating again to blend.  Using a wooden spoon, fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients.  Then mix in 1/3 cup of lemonade and lemon juice.  Repeat this process and then add the final amount of the dry ingredients.

Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, fill each cavity 2/3 full with cake batter.  Place in oven and bake 15-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Rotate baking pans halfway into the baking time.  Mine took a total of 18 minutes to fully bake.  Remove pans and let rest for 3-5 minutes, then invert cakes onto rack to finish cooling.  Flip cakes so dome is facing up.

Once cool, take a serrated edge knife and cut off 1/3 of the top of the dome on each cake.  Then scoop out 1 1/2 tbs of cake from the center of the bottom piece.

To create filling and frosting, fill a sauce pan with the water and sugar and place over medium heat.  Let come to a boil and cover.  Set timer for 3 minutes. During this time, prewarm your thermometer in a glass of warm water.  Once the timer goes off, uncover and place thermometer in syrup and let mixture heat up until it registers between 235-240 degrees.  Once it reaches that stage, remove pan from heat and place thermometer back in the glass of warm water.

With a large stand mixer,  beat the egg whites until foamy.  Sprinkle in the pinch of salt and beat for 30 seconds.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form.  While still running the mixer at high speed, pour in the syrup in a thin stream, letting it glide down the inside edge of the bowl.  Continue to beat the mixture for 10 minutes longer to let cool down.  Then beat in the vanilla extract.  Take 1 cup of the meringue out and place in another bowl, setting aside.  Add 3 drops or 1/8 tsp of the food coloring to the larger amount of the meringue in the stand mixer bowl and beat until it becomes an even color of yellow.  You can add additional food coloring should you want a deeper color.

Then fill a small food processor bowl with the coconut and the remaining food coloring and blend until coconut has turned a lemony yellow.  Set aside.

Take the white meringue and fill the hole in the bottom of the cakes.  Then put the top back on the cakes.  Then thickly cover each cake with the colored meringue.  Generously sprinkle the cakes with the coconut, covering all areas.  Press gently to maintain dome like shape and to get the coconut to adhere. Then they are ready to serve!

Tips and notes:
1. you can change up the extract flavoring in the meringue according to your tastes.
2. I used powdered food coloring.  My liquid food coloring may have been too old, but it gave the meringue an orange tinge, instead of yellow.
3. The meringue gets foamy if it sits, but you can beat it back into its silky consistency.  The silkier, the better you can work with it.
                         **LAST YEAR: Armenian Dinner Rolls**