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Mini Tiered Red Velvet Macaroon Cake

  Hello hello hello.  Guess what? 

  I'm in my 20s!  Yay!  Not 21, just 20, but yay!  That's kinda cool, kinda weird.

  I had a rough week last week, I've been having some up and downs in general.  But right now, right now is good.  I've had a quote stuck in my head lately that goes along the lines of "Wherever you are, be all there."  I guess it's a live in the moment kind of thing, but just a wee bit more introspective than YOLO.  I get into bad habits of worrying, fretting, and all that.  Then I find myself looking back and realizing I never let myself enjoy the really good times I have had as much as I could've, either because I didn't realize how good they really were at the time or because I was busy thinking of something else my daydreaming worrying brain conjured.  

  So EFF THAT let's eat cake and sit in cafes and watch grumpy little Wisconsin-ers dash about in the first flurries of snow.  Sometimes Starbucks is my saving grace, there is almost nothing a good dose of people watching can't fix.

  It's so weird to think that just last year I was celebrating my 19th in a dorm, halfway trying to have a good time with everyone.  I remember sitting in my 9:30 AM English class the morning of and thinking of the story about how a girl got broken up with on facebook in the middle of class, and ran out crying.  Thus, the professor explained her ban of computers for note-taking.  At the time I had laughed with everyone else, but just then I felt a strong sympathy for that girl.  I spent the rest of the day with sweet people that trekked to Culver's to buy me an ice cream cake (and we're talking broke college students), and I was feeling a little stronger just then.

  A year later I'm not sure what to make of all of it still, it's a season of life I can't wrap my head around and somehow can't believe is over.

  I was told recently that I have a tendency towards the daydream-y romantic state of being, and for once it wasn't in a mocking fashion.  Maybe that makes me hard to date, but maybe that's just quite alright for now.  Because I'm so detail-oriented and super fricken ultra sensitive, I notice a lot of things most don't.  Granted, I still trip over crap and hit the curb once in awhile, but I think that's a different set of senses...
Anyway, between that and a filtered reading of this article I found, I think I'm starting to be ok with myself and my fluctuating tendencies.

  So I'm embracing things a bit more.  Like how my idea of a perfect birthday is spending the day in a kitchen making my own cake, half-ignoring my phone and the obligations that go along with it, and then celebrating the night hours with some really good Irish food and awesome awesome friends.  And I was even okay with the few that bailed on plans, because I've learned the hard way that you can't invest your happiness in people and things and feelings that just aren't there.  

  So for my birthday I went red again, embracing a darker version of the color I sported for most of my solo college year.  I'm letting my hair grow out and do it's thing, even when it gets pretty wild.  People seem to like it like that, and to be honest, I kinda do too.  With the return of the red I thought of this deep red cake that the genius Molly Yeh came up with, and I decided to put my own spin on it, because somehow traditional birthday cake and I just don't really fly.

  I honestly couldn't be happier with how it came out.  It's a slightly toppling, imperfect, unique little cake.  It's the right amount for just a handful of special people.  The tangy red velvet flavor is captured perfectly and the whole thing is basically a big, super coconut-y macaroon with fluffy vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.

  I used a 6-inch pan for the bottom layer, and then greased a 2 and 3-inch biscuit cutter for the next two layers, wrapping the bottom and sides of the cutters with a decently-sized piece of foil so nothing would ooze out the bottom.  And it worked! :D

  This took comparatively little time to come together, and the tiny layers are very ideal to work with.  But if you aren't feeling all the fussiness, this can also make a single 8-inch cake.  Also, I went for a rustic look and didn't frost the sides, because this thing is reallly really rich!  But not so rich that I didn't have a few forkfuls for breakfast the next day, ya know...

  So happity birthday to my up and down self that feels both the good and bad ever so much, I wonder where I'll be celebrating this time next year?  Ain't life an adventure.

Find the sun, force the moon
Loose the earth
For dreams come to those who let them in their guarded room
Open wide your winged-eye
Spirit drives – to catch your truth
For spirit thrives where darkness comes to challenge you
Be more than words
Be more than strength and kind
Be love and blind
To those who come to you
Sing something new
Belief is wet and ghost
Yet, loves the most of what we do
Don’t cast away, don’t cast away
Don’t let them cast a role for you

-Future Islands sings what I can't say

Mini Tiered Red Velvet Macaroon Cake
Yield: one mini tiered cake, or one 8 or 9-inch layer

Ingredients for the cake:
  • One 14-ounce bag sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients for the frosting*:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Big pinch of salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • One vanilla bean, split lengthwise 
  • Sprinkles for decorating
*You're going to have a little leftover frosting, sorry/not sorry, I like to play it safe

To make the cake, preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease one 6-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment (grease parchment as well), then grease a 2 and 3-inch circular biscuit cutter and wrap the outside and bottom with a piece of foil, grease the foil as well.  Set the biscuit cutters onto a baking sheet.  Alternatively, grease an 8-inch cake pan and line bottom with parchment, grease the parchment as well.  

In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, condensed milk, vanilla, cocoa powder, and food coloring.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and salt.  Beat the eggs using an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture, about 1/3 of them at a time, and then distribute the batter evenly among the pan(s), spreading it out with a spatula for a smooth top.  Be sure to place the pan with the biscuit cutters near the top 1/3 of the oven, because the foil-lined bottoms will burn a little.  Luckily, you can cut them off later!  Bake for 30-45 minutes, keeping in mind that the smaller layers will get done first, or until the tops begin to brown.

Let cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then run a butterknife around the edges to loosen.  Turn the 6-inch cake out onto a wire rack, then unwrap the foil from the biscuits cutters and gently pop out the little cakes to cool as well.  When the cakes cool, you may find that the foil-lined ones burned a bit at the bottom (especially with a gas oven), simply slice them off with a large, sharp knife.  

You can frost the cake and eat it as soon as it’s cooled to room temperature, or you can wrap the layers individually in plastic wrap and stick them in the freezer overnight before decorating (they can also be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer for up to a week). 

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese on medium speed.  The cream cheese should be as soft and smooth as possible.  Stop the mixer and add the softened butter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the two together over medium speed until smooth and incorporated.  Add one cup of powdered sugar.  Blend on low until incorporated.  Scrape the vanilla beans from the pod into the mixing bowl, discard the pod.  Add remaining cup of powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated.  Increase to medium high speed and beat until frosting is smooth and silky.

Frost and decorate as desired!  Enjoy.