Baking for Boston: Peanut butter pound cake and lemon coconut bars

There's nothing better than sharing baked good with friends. A care package containing peanut butter pound cake with peanut butter frosting and lemon coconut bars went to Boston.

The Pastry Chef's Baking
Peanut butter pound cake and lemon coconut squares were two items that went into the Boston care pack. Both recipes got good reviews.

Boston has been on my mind since the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I've consciously avoided the news coverage on the perpetrators – I think justice should be done but I refuse to rubberneck over the darker side of humanity. It would keep me too focused on the horror people can do to one another and there's just too much of that in the news.

I would much rather pay attention to and be inspired by the heroes the tragedy brought out: the first responders who rushed into the danger that others fled from; the bystanders who helped injured men, women and children; the police who worked to keep people safe; the journalists who sought to do responsible, accurate reporting despite the danger of their surroundings; and so many more examples of courage, compassion, and goodness.

Not surprisingly, one of my coping mechanisms to deal with tragedy is to bake. Most importantly, it's also to share what I've baked, which is what I did with the following recipes. My friends in Boston and in one case, the newsroom where one of them works, were the recipients of these. I like to share and I couldn't think of a more deserving group. Editor's note: We were very grateful!

It's always hard to mail anything with frosting in a care package but I really wanted to make this cake. I'd seen it on Pinterest a little while ago and I knew pound cakes kept better over several days and are better able to survive being mailed. It's hard to send a frosted bundt cake through the mail and expect it to make it intact after a 3,000-mile journey though, so I baked them in these paper loaf pans and left them in there to cool before I frosted them with the chocolate peanut butter frosting. 

I kept the frosting fairly contained within the loaf pans and it was easy to completely encase them in plastic wrap, put each in a ziploc bag and line them up side by side in the mailing box, wedged in so they wouldn't move. I covered them with those plastic air packs from my (many) Amazon shipments so that there would be no space to move between the loaves and the top of the box. Editor's note: They arrived in perfect form.

That was the practical aspect of mailing them. Now for the taste. This made a lot of batter so I was able to get five paper loaf pans and a ramekin out of them. The ramekin was important since that was my taste test serving. First, let me set up that I'm indifferent to peanut butter. I like it well enough but if I had to prioritize a list of flavors, peanut butter wouldn't prevail over chocolate, caramel, coconut or lemon, for instance.

Second, I've previously mentioned I'm not a big fan of frosting. I either like my cakes plain or with just the barest smidge of frosting. I've been known to scrape frosting off of cakes and just eat the cake, no matter how many times my frosting-loving friends roll their eyes at me. Now that I've done that set up, let me tell you: I loved this cake. 

The texture was amazing and the peanut butter flavor wasn't overwhelming. I also really loved the frosting. There, I said it. I loved the frosting. Not too chocolaty, not too peanut butter-y but a perfect blend of the two flavors. Plus it was a nice creamy texture that went well with the cake. Love. 

I did discover later that I had likely underbaked the loaf pans a tad (I kept one back to bring to work and mailed out the other four) but, based on the feedback from my recipients, I don't think it was too underbaked as they seemed to like it. I got a flurry of very nice thank you emails from the newsroom – it's always nice to hear people enjoyed what you sent them. That was my tiny, tiny little part in trying to do good for others after that tragedy. Editor's note: They were delicious!

(Recipes on next page)

Peanut butter pound cake

From Glimmer Twin Fan

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy

5 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup milk, whole or low fat (I used whole milk)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a large tube or bundt pan by greasing and flouring it. Set pan aside. (A couple people have commented that their cake overflowed while baking. This recipe makes a large cake and I used a large tube pan. Only fill your bundt/tube pan up about 3/4 full. Don't let the extra batter go to waste though, make some muffins or a small loaf.)

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

3. On medium speed, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the brown sugar and peanut butter and continue mixing. Add the eggs, one at a time. Wait until one egg is fully mixed in before adding the next one. Add vanilla.

4. Add the dry ingredients and the milk to the creamed mixture. Alternate between the flour mixture and the milk, using about a fourth of the ingredient at a time. Always begin and end with the dry ingredients. Mix completely.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes (Adjust baking time based on your pan size/s.) Start checking to see if it is done at 60 minutes using a wooden toothpick. Continue checking every 5 minutes to make sure it does not overcook. When the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.

6. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then remove it from the cake pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

7. Dust with powdered sugar or frost as desired.

Peanut butter frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup peanut butter, creamy

2 cups powdered sugar

Milk (amount varies based on consistency desired) 

1. Cream butter and peanut butter.

2. Add powdered sugar and milk while mixer is set on low. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency.

3. Pour over the top of the cake.

For chocolate peanut butter frosting, melt 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate squares, cool slightly, and add to the butter and peanut butter mixture. Proceed with the rest of the instructions. Don't worry if the frosting is too thick or thin, just add small amounts of milk to thin, or powdered sugar to thicken.

Lemon coconut bars

From My Baking Addiction

 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

3/4 cup cold butter  

4 eggs

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup flaked coconut 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13x2-inch pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, combine flour and confectioners' sugar; cut in the butter until crumbly.

3. Press into the bottom of baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and baking powder until well mixed. Pour over crust; sprinkle coconut evenly over the top.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

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