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Mrs. P.L. Travers

The Oscars are on tonight, and that means the last of the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s film is only nominated for one Oscar, and many agree that it should have been nominated for more.  Saving Mr. Banks is nominated for Best Original Score.  If you haven’t seen it- and you really should- Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins.  Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is reluctant to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn her book into a film and in the course of her negotiations with Disney, we learn about her childhood as well.

During what becomes a series of meetings, Walt Disney’s secretary routinely wheels carts of food into the meeting rooms.  Travers objects nearly every time that this is too much food, and at one point tells Dolly (Melanie Paxson) to turn the cart full of food right back around and to not leave it in the room.  More than once we see plates full of doughnuts and other sweets:

Yes, those are Hostess Sno-Balls on that tray.  Chocolate cupcakes with a cream filling covered in marshmallow and rolled in pink coconut- it doesn’t get much more “spoonful of sugar” than this.  Sitting in the theater watching this movie, I knew this was the perfect excuse to make my own Sno Balls at home.  They are more time consuming that I previously thought, definitely more of a kitchen marathon than a sprint, but they are well worth it.

sno balls

Sno Balls


for the cupcakes:

  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 oz. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 oz. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 oz. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for the marshmallow coating:

  • 1/2 oz. gelatin
  • 10 oz. water, divided
  • 7 oz. corn syrup
  • 18 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for cream filling:

  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream

for coconut topping:

  • 8 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • red food coloring


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a cupcake pan and set it aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder for 3 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add the egg and mix for 1 minute until fully incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour all at once, then add the cocoa powder.

Drizzle in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Continue mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cavities of the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool for at least 2 hours before filling and frosting.

Make the marshmallow coating and filling by combining the gelatin with 5 oz. of the water in a small bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir with a fork to ensure there are no lumps of gelatin, then set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the remaining water, corn syrup, and sugar over medium heat.

Stir gently with a spatula to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, then shut off the heat and let the mixture cool to 210 degrees.

Once the mixture has cooled to 210 degrees add the sugar syrup to the gelatin mixture and whip on low speed until the gelatin has fully dissolved.

Increase the speed to medium high and whip until light, fluffy, and tripled in bulk.

With the mixer running, add in the salt and vanilla.

Using a spatula, transfer all but 4 oz. of the mixture to a pastry bag and set aside.

Return the remaining 4 oz. of fluff to the mixer and set to low speed.

Add the cream all at once and continue mixing for another minute. The fluff and cream will have a broken appearance.

Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until they gradually become homogeneous, then increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until stiff.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and refrigerate until needed.

Release the cupcakes from the pan and place them upside-down on a parchment paper lined baking pan.

Use a paring knife to poke a small hole in the bottom of each cupcake.

Using the piping bag filled with the whipped cream mixture, insert the star tip about 1″ into the cupcake and pipe one good squeeze (about 3/4 oz.) of filling into each cupcake.

Take the bag of marshmallow fluff and hold it directly above a cupcake.

Pipe a generous amount of marshmallow onto the top of the cupcake so that it flows down the sides of the cupcake and encases it.

Repeat until all cupcakes are covered in marshmallow.

Tint the coconut by putting the coconut into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add a few drops of red food coloring and process the mixture for 30 seconds, check for color and add more food coloring if necessary, then process for another 30 seconds.

Coat each cupcake generously with coconut and let sit for 1 hour.

Use a paring knife or round cookie cutter to trim away any excess marshmallow from around the bottom of the sno ball.

Roll the newly exposed edge of the sno ball in the pink coconut.

Source: Serious Eats

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Fire in Your Heart

In Olympics news yesterday, Steven Holcomb and Steven Langston won the U.S. its first two-man bobsleigh medal since 1952, a bronze.  Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first-ever U.S. gold medal in Olympic ice dancing.  The U.S. women’s ice hockey team beat Sweden 6-1 and will face Canada for the gold medal.

Day twelve of the Sochi Olympics brings us to the thirteenth installment of our Winter Olympics feature.  Today we look at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.  These Winter Games were the first to not be held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first to be held just two years after the previous Winter Olympics.  U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won a silver medal in the ladies single skate, just seven weeks after an incident in which she was clubbed in the knee by an associate of her rival Tonya Harding (who finished eighth in the event).

Today, to celebrate Norway, we have skoleboller.  Skoleboller are a bun, filled with vanilla custard, then frosted and sprinkled with coconut.  Apparently, you can find skoleboller (or “school buns”) at school cafeterias, coffee hours, grocery stores, and birthday parties all over Norway.  You can also find them at Disney’s Epcot park and they’re a popular treat there.  After making them, it’s not hard to see why.  These are as fun to eat as it is to say “school-ah-bowl-air.”




for the buns:

  • 2 C. milk (preferably whole), lukewarm
  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast.
  • 1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 6-7 C. all-purpose flour

for the custard:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 3/4 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

to finish:

  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 C. shredded coconut for topping


In a large bowl, or the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk.

Add the melted cooled butter, sugar, cardamom, and 5 C. of the flour to the milk and mix well.

Slowly add more of the flour until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until a smooth soft dough is formed.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, make the custard.

To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly.

Whisk in the vanilla.

While the custard mixture is at a simmer, add the cornstarch a little at a time, whisking briskly as you add it.

Allow the cornstarch to dissolve and for the custard to thicken, stirring constantly.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken for 3-5 minutes.

Pour the custard mixture into a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice water bath to cool completely.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 12-14 evenly sized balls of dough.

Form each dough ball into an evenly round and flat bun.

Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet with at least 1 inch of space between them.

Cover the buns with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise again for 20 minutes.

While the buns are rising, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the final rise, use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center of each bun.  A soup spoon is a good size, and press down almost all the way to the bottom of the bun but do not press all the way through.

Place a generous spoonful of the custard into the center of each indentation.

Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes until they are slightly brown on the top and the egg custard is just starting to set.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack.  The custard will set as the buns cool.

Once the buns are cool, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and water together.  The glaze should be white and should drizzle on but not be runny.  Add more sugar or water as needed to reach the correct consistency.

Spoon glaze around the bun, avoiding the custard center.

Sprinkle on or dip the bun into the coconut, being careful not to ruin the custard center.

Source:  The Transplanted Baker

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Melbourne Song

The official start to my Summer Olympics series is a nod to Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne hosted the 1956 Summer Games. Because of an equine quarantine, all equine events were hosted in Stockholm months prior to the Opening Ceremonies of the 1956 games, giving Stockholm co-host status. The Melbourne Summer Olympics were the first to be held in the Southern Hemisphere which meant that they were held from November 22 to December 8, with officials fearing that holding them at this time would negatively impact athletes from the Northern Hemisphere.

Egypt, Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland all boycotted the 1956 Summer Olympics, leaving sixty-seven competing nations. The United States, with seventy-four total medals, ranked second behind the Soviet Union (ninety-eight total medals) in terms of total medal count. The 1956 Summer Olympics is where the tradition of athletes from different nations parading together at the Closing Ceremonies, instead of separated by country as they do in the Opening Ceremonies.

As a nod to the Melbourne Olympics, I made a dessert that originates in Australia, lamingtons. For those not familiar, lamingtons are a sponge cake that is filled with a thin chocolate icing (or sometimes cream or jam), dipped in chocolate, and rolled in coconut. I used a recipe by David Lebovitz, and I am extremely pleased with how these turned out. I’ll say it up front- there really isn’t any way to be neat about dipping them in chocolate and rolling them in coconut. Once you have the idea that neatness counts out of your head, you’re prepared. The sponge cake was surprisingly easy to make, and once these were dipped and set they were absolutely divine.



for the cake:

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 C. cake flour
  • 2 1/2 oz. melted unsalted butter, at room temperature

for the chocolate icing:

  • 6 0z. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C. milk, whole or lowfat
  • 2 C. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. boiling water
  • 3 C. unsweetened shredded coconut


To make the cake, butter a 9-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and granulated sugar and salt on high speed for five to ten minutes, until thick (batter should form a well-defined ribbon when you lift the whisk from the batter).

Stir in the vanilla.

Fold the flour into the egg mixture by putting the flour in a sifter or mesh strainer and sifting the flour over the top of the beaten eggs while simultaneously folding the flour in using a whisk.

Fold in the melted butter until no streaks of butter are visible, being careful to not overfold the batter.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from oven and let cool completely.

When the cake is cool, unmold the spongecake onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper.

Trim the ends and cut the cake in half, cut the square into two rectangles and then cut each rectangle horizontally in half.

Make the icing by melting together the chocolate, butter, and milk in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water when smooth, then whisk in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

Spread a generous 1/2 cup of the chocolate icing over one layer of the spongecake, then top with the other half of the spongecake, sandwiching the two together with chocolate icing in the middle.

Cut the cakes into sixteen squares and whisk two tablespoons of boiling water into the icing.

Put the coconut into a shallow baking dish or bowl.

Use your hands to dip the lamingtons into the chocolate, rolling them around to make sure each side is coated with the chocolate icing, then wipe off any excess on the side of the bowl.

Place the lamingtons in the dish of coconut, tossing them around gently to get them coated on all sides.

Once iced and tossed in coconut, place the lamingtons on a wire cooling rack and let stand until the icing firms up a bit.

Makes 16 servings.

Source: David Lebovitz

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Coconut Talk

Every so often (okay, every time I’m on Pinterest . . .), I come across a recipe that makes me stop the presses, gather the ingredients, and immediately get to baking.  This is one of those recipes.  Lane and I were discussing something fun and kid-friendly we could make for Easter, and after a brief pitch, we decided we’d make the chow mein noodle bird’s nests I’m quite fond of, with a few modifications.  Then I saw this recipe, and I couldn’t decide between the two.  It’d be like asking a parent which kid is their favorite, and I decided that I wouldn’t go that route, I’d just make these, too.

I’m so glad I did.  They are beyond fantastic.  Toasted coconut and Nutella? Yes, please.  The recipe is very easy to make, and you can use whatever Easter candy you like to fill the nests.  I filled four of them with strawberry jam instead of Nutella because some of these are destined for the Easter basket of a girl who doesn’t like chocolate.  The strawberry ones are just as good as the Nutella ones, but are made a little differently.  I’ve included steps for both, feel free to disregard the steps that don’t apply to you.  Or, follow both steps and fill them with jam and Nutella- I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that sooner.  Not that that poses an issue, I’m sure I’ll be making these again.



Coconut Macaroon Nutella (or Jam) Nests


  • 2/3 C. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 1/2 C. sweetened coconut
  • 1 C. Nutella
  • 1/4 C. strawberry (or other flavor) jam, optional, or more if you’re only using jam
  • Easter candy (jelly beans, m&m’s, Robin’s eggs are suggested)


Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

In a large bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.

Add in the coconut and mix well.

With a spoon, scoop up about 3 Tablespoons of the dough and place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.

Form the cookies into the shape of a bird nest using clean hands.

Press down the center with your thumb.

If you’re using jam instead of Nutella, put 1 tsp. jam in the center of each cookie (however many you want jam in, leave the Nutella ones plain for now).

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and press your thumb down in the center of the nests again (for the empty cookies, not the jam ones).

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes or until they are firm and set.

Press the candy you’re using into the jam filled cookies at this point.  Continue to leave the Nutella cookies plain.

Remove cookies from baking sheet and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Place about a tablespoon of Nutella in the center of each nest that you’re filling with Nutella.

Place candies in the center of each nest.

Makes 10 nests.

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

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