Snowy coconut cupcakes
I find food especially satisfying when it in some way reflects the world around us. Pumpkin pie that reflects the changing colors of fall foliage. Arugula salad, whose bright green leaves echo the buds of early spring and the promise of new life. A beet salad whose intense magenta hue is matched by yet another spectacular Eastern Sierra sunset. Eating is, in part, a visual act. So maybe that’s why on our first snowshoeing venture of the season, I had visions of coconut cupcakes dancing in my head.
After the first major snowstorm of the season, my husband and I dusted off our snowshoes and headed up Rte. 168 to see if the roads had been closed off for the season – which would mean the beginning of the much-anticipated winter snow-play season. We were in luck and privileged with the opportunity to tramp around a bit, take in the clear views and crisp air, and marvel at the sagebrush peeking up through the snow. Our excursion was brief, as the afternoon sun was low and the temperatures dropping. Back home in my kitchen, I was struck by the urge to prolong the magic of the afternoon by reflecting it somehow through food. I had been meaning to make cupcakes in celebration of our recent 3rd wedding anniversary anyway, and the time was right.
I was after something soft, white, and fluffy, like the snow we played around in that day – and, incidentally, like the snowflakes at our wedding (welcome to summer in Patagonia) and my great-grandmother’s capelet that kept me warm on that wonderful, windy day. According to at least one online source, the color associated with the 3rd wedding anniversary is white. Nice. Sometimes the universe tells you what it needs – and when it needs coconut cupcakes, I am happy to oblige.
After perusing three different recipes, I settled on the one that was the simplest and relied on ingredients I had on-hand. The only adjustments I made were to use pastry flour (using up what I had – some high-altitude bakers have had cakes sag with it, but it seemed fine for cupcakes), decrease the baking soda by about a third (to adjust for altitude), and use coconut sugar instead of white sugar. For the frosting, I made a thick glaze with the leftover coconut milk and powdered sugar. (Heads up, frugal foodies: “low-fat” coconut milk is just regular coconut milk diluted with water; so if you’re out shopping for low-fat, just buy the regular kind and dilute at home).
By the way, the traditional 3rd wedding anniversary gift is leather, whose durability, strength, flexibility and resiliency are supposed to mimic qualities that help marriages thrive. I personally think that leather belongs on cows, so I’m opting for the contemporary version of the 3rd anniversary gift: crystal, whose ability to dazzle and reflect light off its multifaceted surface is “a gentle reminder of how a couple in a meaningful marriage can touch the lives of others”. I have no idea who makes up these things, but I do know that if it’s dazzling beauty and dancing light that you’re after, all you’ve got to do is take a short drive up Rte. 168.