And now, for more of the same — fabulous food! Which makes up the final installment of the husband’s birthday celebration. First up, a homemade coconut cake with lemon zest topped with mascarpone frosting, shredded coconut flakes, and sweet strawberries. I went a little overboard with the birthday sign made from teeny, tiny bunting. I probably should’ve secured the string better before placing each triangle on. Oh yeah, and I free-hand cut every triangle myself. “Say whaaat?!” Yeah, that’s right. Watch out, Martha Stewart. Since I didn’t have matching cake rounds, I used two different sizes. I also didn’t have much mascarpone on hand. So many limitations. But the cake turned out deliciously moist, and, as my friend said, “Old-World style”. Recipes below.

Coconut cake with lemon zest, mascarpone frosting, topped with stawberries.
Coconut cake with lemon zest, mascarpone frosting, topped with strawberries.

Two days later, we went on a hike through Santa Ynez Mountains. The trail had a forest of wicked-looking trees — some thorny, some not. Even though it reminded me of the forest under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (or what I’d like to call Maleficent’s Forest), I’m glad we made it through for the magnificent view.

View of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean from Santa Ynez Mountains
View of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean from Santa Ynez Mountains

Finally, after much rock climbing and squeezing through (at times) thorny trails and getting a little lost, we rewarded ourselves with the goal of the day — mouth-watering tri-tip sandwiches at Cold Spring Tavern! It’s only 15-20 minutes from Santa Barbara, so GO if you’re in the area. A little advice — tri-tip sandwiches are only available on Sundays. It gets a bit crowded, so we chose to arrive later in the day. We got there at 5:30, ordered our beers and sandwiches right away because tri-tip service stops at 6:00. It was perfect.

Cold Spring Tavern, a.k.a. the place for best tri-tip sandwiches
Cold Spring Tavern, a.k.a. the place for best tri-tip sandwiches
"Coming 'atcha."
“Coming ‘atcha.”

After watching the movie Chef (highly recommended!) by Jon Favreau with an appearance by everyone’s favorite Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr., I was hungry for some good slow-cooked beef. While watching the grill master do his thing and slice the tri-tip, said grill master gave me a piece to taste. One morsel and I was in food heaven.

"Just look at that meat." Tri-tip sandwich with all the fixins from the roasting pit of Cold Spring Tavern
“Just look at that meat.” Tri-tip sandwich with all the fixins from the roasting pit of Cold Spring Tavern

Apparently, Central California has the best tri-tip in the country.

Birthday Cake 

I followed Martha Stewart’s recipe for Coconut Cupcakes, including the step-by-step directions in the Basic Cupcake How-To. Sift the flour, an important step that no one tells you to do because they expect you to do it automatically for cakes and cupcakes. I added zest from one lemon into the liquid vanilla mixture and would recommend using two lemons because one wasn’t nearly enough.

I would use two (or three) 6 to 8-inch cake round pans. I had used two. Line them with parchment paper, if you have it, and then butter the pan/parchment paper, and dust with flour.

Once you have the cake batter ready, pour the batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake at 350 deg F for 30-40 minutes. Test at the 30-min mark with a cake tester (toothpick or sharp knife) to see how much more time is needed. The cake tester should come out clean when done.

Transfer cake pans to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and let cool completely on racks, tops up.

Mascarpone Frosting

With an electric mixer, whisk together 1/2 of a small tub of mascarpone cheese with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until it looks like the consistency of frosting. It should look smooth. That’s it. Or follow this recipe.

Putting it all together

1. First, have the cake stand or cake plate ready.

2. Remove the parchment paper from the cake rounds and place one on the cake stand. This is your bottom layer. Save your best-looking cake layer for the top.

3. Place a good amount of frosting on the bottom layer, and spread it around. I chose a rustic style and didn’t frost the sides of the cake. Or, more accurately, since I didn’t have enough mascarpone for tons of frosting, the rustic Old-World style chose me.

4. Add coconut flakes to this frosted bottom layer. Then place another cake layer on top of the first one. Repeat the frosting and coconut sprinkling process. If you have another layer, repeat.

5. Finally, make sure to sprinkle enough coconut flakes all over the top layer of the cake, and then add fresh strawberries around and on top of the cake for decoration.







One thought on “Summer! Part 3 – Birthday cake, Hiking, Tri-tip

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