Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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The revision is slow . . .

But the cookies are coming along very nicely, thank you!

Here’s one if you like a not-too-sweet but very rich cookie . . . if you like fig newtons, you’ll probably like these, though they really aren’t at all similar. Except for the figs, obviously.

Fig Shortbread Cookies

1 C butter (no substitutes)
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 C ground pecans
1 C ground dried figs
2 C flour

With a cookie this simple, each ingredient shines forth pretty brightly, which is why you should use butter and not margarine. Makes a big difference in this cookie! So cream the butter and sugar (yes, it’s only 1/4 C), then beat in the vanilla, then stir in the pecans and figs and flour.

Shape into little torpedos and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, until set but not browned.

I’d say the above are an adult-type of cookie, probably not going to be a huge hit with the kids. This following recipe will be the ones the kids will love!

Chocolate Thumbprints

1 C butter or margarine
1 1/3 C sugar
2 eggs, separated
4 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
2/3 C cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 C toasted ground walnuts or other nuts

Filling:

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

Chocolate chips

Like always, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, milk, and vanilla. Combine four, cocoa and salt and beat that in. Chill at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 80 balls. Dip each into beaten egg whites and roll in ground walnuts. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Indent each cookie with the tip of your finger. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Make the filling — combine all the ingredients until smooth. Spoon or pipe a little filling into the indentations of each warm cookie. (Piping is much faster.) Place a chocolate chip in the middle of the filling and press down lightly so each chocolate chip is surrounded by a ring of white filling.

There you go! Very tasty, but definitely on the fiddly side; if you’ve got kids handy that are recruitable, that’d be a real plus for this recipe.

Now, one more, not a cookie but so good I’m throwing it in anyway!

Coconut marshmallows

3 env. unflavored gelatin
1 C cold water, divided
2 C sugar
1 C corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
1/2 tsp vanilla

Ground toasted coconut

Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 C water in a LARGE bowl and whisk quickly to break up the gelatin. Set that aside.

Combine the other 1/2 C water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a pan. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, stirring only until the mixture comes to a boil. Bring to 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer, for heaven’s sake! They’re wonderful to have even if you don’t use them all that often.)

Once the syrup has reached 240 degrees, gradually pour the hot syrup mixture into the bowl with the gelatin, while the mixer is running. Then continue beating on high for 10 minutes or so, until the mixture is white, thick, and trying hard to climb up the beaters to the mixer. Beat in the coconut and vanilla flavorings.

Pour and spread into prepared pan. The mixture will be VERY STICKY, so don’t bother trying to get ever bit of it out of the bowl. The kids can clean some of it out for you and then you can run hot water in the bowl to dissolve the rest.

Anyway, let the marshmallows sit, uncovered, in the pan, for six hours or so. Although I’ve rushed it with no ill effects, so I think four hours is enough, probably.

Lift the marshmallow mixture out of the pan with the foil, lay it upside down on a cutting board, peel off the foil, and cut it into squares with a pizza cutter sprayed with cooking spray. Roll each square as you cut it in the coconut.

Store at room temp in an airtight containger. Stores just fine for weeks, but they’re not likely to last that long.

I’ve also done this to make chocolate marshmallows: add 2/3 C cocoa powder to the gelatin before you beat in the syrup, then roll the finished marshmallows in a mixture of 1/3 cornstarch and 2/3 cocoa powder. Also very good!

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

The must-try new cookie of the season

Can’t believe I never made this before! Already making plans to make ’em again, though of course not until I start running low on cookies, which I estimate will happen about March.

Anyway!

Walnut Horns

1 C butter, no substitutes
8 oz cream cheese
3 C flour

1 Tbsp butter, melted
4 C walnuts, toasted and ground
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Additional sugar

Now, soften the butter — about ten seconds in the microwave. Add the cream cheese and zap another ten seconds or so. You don’t want the butter melted, just softened, it makes a difference. Beat the butter and cream cheese together, beat in the flour. Chill if necessary to make the dough easier to handle (I chilled it overnight just because that was convenient).

Divide the dough into fourths (I divided it into fifths to make smaller cookies, but suit yourself).

Roll out one portion of the dough into a 12 inch circle. Spread with 1/4 of the filling. Cut into 12 even wedges (I used a pizza cutter). Roll up each wedge from the wide end toward the tip. Curve gently into a crescent shape.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25-40 minutes (depending on how big you made your cookies, right?) until slightly golden.

Roll warm cookies in additional sugar.

Now, this is a pastry type of cookie and not a cookie type of cookie, right? These are sinfully rich and delicious, but in my opinion, although you can freeze them, they will lose a little in quality if you do, unlike a more cakey or shortbread type of cookie. Too bad! Worth making anyway!

I found the pastry easy to handle, so these were really no trouble at all to make. And they look very distinctive and pretty on the platter amid all the other cookies!

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

Cookies are very distracting . . .

. . . not just when they’re sitting there tempting you to skip supper and just pig out on sugar, but you know what? Making cookies is more fun than revising a manuscript, too! At least right now! At least this scene!

Aargh, what a day, just had to FORCE myself to sit down and work on this one scene. Not like it was exactly hard, just so not in the mood to work on it. Good thing I don’t depend on, you know, being in the MOOD.

Meanwhile! Here is a totally fantastic cookie that is somehow more than the sum of its parts.

Chocolaty Double Crunchers

1/2 C butter or margarine
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C quick oats
1/2 C flaked coconut
1 C crushed cornflakes — whirl ’em in a food processor, you don’t want powdered cornflakes, but you want ’em more crushed than you can easily do by rolling a rolling pin over them or whatever.

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C powdered sugar
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in. Shape into balls smaller than seems reasonable . . . like about a tsp or so . . . and set on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten with a glass dipped in flour. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on racks.

Now, soften the cream cheese and chocolate chips in the microwave, stir until smooth, then add the powdered sugar.

Make sandwich cookies. Like many sandwich cookies, these are best after they have had time for the cookie to absorb a little moisture from the filling. They freeze perfectly and, in fact, are very tasty right out of the freezer — no need to thaw, imho.

These don’t look especially fancy, but they’re very very good. The cornflakes are key, don’t substitute plain oatmeal cookies. Well, unless you really want to, I guess.

Now, here’s a much fancier cookie that will definitely make everybody’s top ten list! They’re fiddly and you might want to recruit some helpful child if you have one handy.

Caramel Pecan Treasures

1 C butter (no substitutes)
3/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

30 caramels, cut in half and each half flattened as flat as possible. I suggest leaning on each half hard with the flat of a chef’s knife. I also suggest delegating this part if possible.

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 Tbsp shortening
60 pecan halfs. Halves? Whatever.

Now: as always, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the flour and baking powder and stir that in. Roll into 60 balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a glass dipped in flour. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden.

Quickly place caramel halves on each cookie while cookie is still as warm as possible.

Melt the chocolate with the shortening. I suggest you do this in the microwave, but if you love your double boiler, suit yourself. Drizzle or pipe or spread a little chocolate over each cookie. Top each cookie with a pecan half before the chocolate sets.

If you have willing help, you might want to double this recipe, because you will love it but it IS a pain in the neck, all those dratted caramels, I mean, honestly.

Also! Puppy update! Yep, still cute! In fact, very much in the cute sluglike stage because their eyes aren’t open yet. You know, a puppy this age? The brainwaves are the same whether it’s asleep or awake, isn’t that an entertaining little bit of trivia?

But the little boy rolled on his back today and yawned and stretched and waved his feet in the air and, okay, I have to say, major cute moment there.

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

Once more into the breach! Plus, cookies.

Okay, NOW I’m working on revising BLACK DOG. Actually I think it’s going pretty well and won’t take too long, though possibly I’m asking for trouble to sound optimistic.

I’m adding flashbacks and personal memories of the past, but so far very short ones. Though doing this is forcing me to figure out a more detailed past scene, which then has ramifications every single time somebody thinks about the past.

So I see a complete read through would once more be a good idea when I think I’m done. If I can stand it.

Then to be nice to Caitlin, I really should mark the important changes in red so she can see what I’ve done a little more easily.

Still, it’s going okay. So far.

Meanwhile! Watching puppies grow. They’re just about 12 oz today, which means they did just about double their weight in ten days like good little puppies are supposed to. They are quite fat, actually. I need to add another picture to my other website. Tomorrow, if I get to it.

Also! Onward with the promised cookies!

These are something of a pain, but well worth it once a year, if you want to splurge on macadamias:

Chocolate Macadamia Meltaways:

1 C butter (no substitutes)
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
7 oz macadamia, finely chopped.

1 C semisweet cocolate chips
1/2 C. additional coarsely-chopped macadamias

Cream the butter and sugar in the standard fashion; beat in vanilla; gradually add flour; stir in nuts. Dough will be stiff.

Melt chocolate chips and stir in coarsely-chopped nuts. Drop by 1/2 tsp on waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill 20 minutes.

Now, count the dabs of filling. Divide the dough into that many little balls (each will be about a tsp of dough). Shape a piece of dough around each little dab of filling and roll into a ball between your palms. This is a fiddly little job and you will find it’s hard to roll the cookies quite into balls because the chocolate dabs will be flat on one side. Do the best you can; they’ll be fine.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar to coat. Serve to gasps of admiration from all your friends and relatives.

There! After that, you deserve a casual easy cookie that isn’t the least bit fiddly. Try this popular little item:

Snow Bites

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C butter
3/4 C margarine

(the original recipe called for those proportions, but I’ve used all butter and all margarine and the thing that matters is the cream cheese, you can vary the other two)

2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
5 C flour
2 C dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips or whatever floats your boat

Cream the cream cheese, butter, and margarine. Beat in sugar. Beat in egg, salt, and vanilla. Gradually stir in flour. Stir in cranberries or chocolate chips or whatever.

Drop onto parchment-lined baking sheets or else roll into balls and place on cookie sheets, if you want a slightly fancier presentation.

Bake at 350 degres of 12-14 minutes, until slightly golden on bottom but still quite white on top.

There you go, everybody will love these, I promise!

Place cookies

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

The most amazing cookie recipe in the world

I make tons of fancy cookies for Christmas, and lots of them are in the running for BEST IN THE WORLD. I thought I’d post my personal picks for top ten and let other people try ’em. The one I think is the VERY BEST, I’ll post tenth. If I know where the original recipe came from, I’ll say so, if not, then I have no idea.

So! Onward, to make your name as a cookie goddess!

Caramel Swirls

1 C butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 C brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp maple flavoring
2 3/4 C flour

30 caramels
6 oz cream cheese

Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and maple flavoring. (This is the ONLY recipe I like maple in, so if you’re not a big maple fan, try it anyway.) Stir in the floor. Wrap dough in plastic and chill three hours or longer.

Meanwhile, peel all those caramels. This would be a good job for a compliant child, if you have one handy. Melt the caramels with the remaining cream cheese (I do this in the microwave).

Now, divide the dough in half. Place half on a large sheet of waxed paper and cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll out into a sizable rectangle. Um, about 18″ by maybe 10″? Not paper thin, you know, but thin-ish.

Spread half the caramel filling over the rolled-out dough, going all the way to the edges.

Roll up like a jelly-roll, using the waxed paper to help manipulate the roll. Finish by letting the roll sort of spill off the waxed paper onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap up roll of cookie dough and place on cookie sheet in the freezer.

Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and filling.

Freeze until good and firm, at least a couple of hours or for as long as is convenient. A month is fine.

Unwrap and slice into 1/4 inch cookies. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets at 350 degrees for about 12 to 14 minutes. Serve to universal acclaim.

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Wow, my life is so difficult . . .

You have no idea. First I spend an hour reading ON THE EDGE by Ilona Andrews, while sitting in the puppy room so that Adora won’t get lonely. Then when she is clearly settled, I go in the kitchen and bake cookies. After that, it’s time for all the dogs to go for a walk in our unseasonably warm weather. Then time to sit on the couch and read for a while, so that the other girls don’t think I’ve rejected them.

It’s pretty tough, you bet.

I finished the revision of MOUNTAIN! At least for now. Sent it off to my agent. That’s why I’m taking a couple of days to read for fun. Then it’ll be time to re-read the most recent comments over BLACK DOG and then I can revise that, possibly before Christmas if there’s not too much to do. I mean, I’ve got hours and hours of supervising puppies still to go, so that means hours and hours to work more or less uninterrupted on my laptop, too.

And yes, the puppies are doing fine! They just ticked over nine oz each this morning. Still smaller at six days than some newborns I’ve had, but they look great: plump and quiet and contented. I now am waking up only two or three times a night to rescue a cheeping puppy who accidentally crawled behind mom and got lost, or whatever. They should be less and less trouble and worry for the next few weeks . . . then of course more and more trouble as they hit housetraining age!

I hear the picture on the other site didn’t load? What’s up with that? Anyway, I’ll go try it again . . .

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Puppies!

Yes, we do have puppies. Whew!

The section (Friday) went well; unfortunately there was a long-dead puppy in one horn of the uterus (did you know dogs have a uterus shaped like a “Y”?) (Is this two much information for the average person?), and that compromised the uterine environment so that the other puppy in that horn died, probably only a day or so before the section.

Yes, this is sad, but not nearly as sad as losing a puppy after weeks spent trying to save him, which happened with Adora’s last litter. That was the only living puppy in the litter and I lost him and it was dreadful.

So this is okay, because there were two perfectly fine puppies in the other horn: a beautifully marked blenheim boy and a much-hoped-for ruby girl. So at least all this effort wasn’t for nothing!

The babies got off to a fairly slow start, what with the mom’s milk not really coming in for a couple of days. They weighed just a hair over six oz at birth (small but acceptable for a Cavalier puppy) and gradually lost half an oz each. But I supplemented by tube-feeding small amounts of milk replacer, and although still small, they are both doing well now. Again, whew!

It’s hard and often impossible to load a picture to this website from this slow connection, but for some reason it’s much easier to load pictures to my OTHER website, so if you’re curious, you can go over to

www.anaracavaliers.com

and click on the “Puppy” page, and if the update yesterday worked, then there should be a very nice picture of the new infants.

Adora’s maternal instincts came in fairly fast, given it was a section, which is why I can leave her long enough to type this — though I’ve dashed upstairs to check on her twice so far.

And! Now that she is taking care of the puppies, and the puppies are quiet and contented, I am finally able to get back to the . . . sigh . . . revision of MOUNTAIN. Surely I will have it finished by Friday? (I keep SAYING that!)

After that, the revision of BLACK DOG.

After THAT, since I am still paralyzed with indecision about what to work on . . . I kind of think I will write fifty to a hundred pages of EACH of the FOUR books I have in mind and then see what I want to do from there. Because why make a decision today when I can put it off till next summer, right?

I’m going to start with the one I feel least inclined to work on and go from there. That’ll make sure I actually do start all of ’em.

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Tomorrow is Dec 9th . . .

. . . and you know what that means? Not that Christmas is a mere 15 days away. (Well, that, too, I guess.)

No, the important thing is, it means my beautiful Adora will be having a c-section (because for several good reasons I feel that letting her have her puppies naturally presents a significant risk).

Dora's first Best of Breed win

And that means that posts will be light to nonexistent for about a week, as the only computer connected to the internet is the desktop downstairs in the study, and the puppy room is upstairs, and for that whole week I will not be leaving the puppies unsupervised for more than a few minutes at a time.

Plus, all I have at home is dial-up. I know, right? But that’s the cost — honestly, almost the only real cost — of living out in the middle of nowhere.

On the plus side, since I’ll be stuck in the puppy room 24/7, will I ever have a lot of time to focus on finishing the revision of MOUNTAIN! And then it turns out that my agent had several useful suggestions for yet more revisions to BLACK DOG. Which I am trying to appreciate, but you know, I was hoping she would declare it was perfect as-is.

It really feels sometimes like this has been The Year of Constant Nonstop Revision. I have to remind myself that actually I did write MOUNTAIN this year. Seems like so long ago. I am SO READY to stop revising stuff and write something new!

But as for tomorrow . . . wish me and my Dora luck, please! Live healthy fat thriving RUBY female puppies would be the best Christmas present ever.

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Bloggers who review free books

So, just read this article.

Quick summary: some publishers want to quit sending heaps of free books to bloggers who may or may not review them close to their release dates; some bloggers are offended at being required to keep their reviews timely in order to continue receiving free books.

I’ve seen this sort of article before, and you know what? WHAT A NONISSUE.

a) If publishers don’t want to send out hundreds of free books to bloggers who might or might not review them, well, who can blame them?

b) If bloggers don’t want to be constrained as to when they must review books, then that’s fine, nobody says they have to agree to receive tons of free books with that restriction attached. It’s not like a blogger is likely to run out of books to read if they don’t receive heaps o’ loot from publishers, right?

This stands out from the comments:

“They [bloggers who review books] are a dime a dozen and this will sort out the reviewers who blog for the love of it, from the masses who are in it for the free books.”

There are “masses” of bloggers who are “in it for the free books”? Really?

Because I don’t believe it. I don’t need publishers to send me heaps of free books in order to have my TBR pile increase to the point where the books on the bottom are in danger of fossilizing or turning into oil or whatever happens to paper subjected to great pressure for eons. And I bet most book bloggers have piles like that, too.

And here’s an even weirder comment regarding bloggers’ decision to accept only a few books from publishers and only if they expect to enjoy reading them:

“So there’s another distinction between professional reviewers and many online reviewers. An objective professional reviewer can’t just review books of his or her personal choice . . . If reviews are to be regarded as a service to readers, then the selection should not be confined to one reviewer’s subjective pre-conception about enjoyment.”

What is that? Reviewers aren’t trustworthy if they pick up only books they expect to enjoy? No kidding? For heaven’s sake, does anybody honestly think bloggers review books because they think of reviewing as a JOB requiring them to selflessly slog through books they hate as a public service? Maybe many of them think of it as, I don’t know, a FUN HOBBY which also happens to be a service to people who like the same kinds of books they do?

Or am I missing something?

I buy many, many books because of reviews at The Book Smugglers and other book review blogs. I think book review blogs are very important and will become even more important as self-publishing leads to increasingly huge heaping hordes of ungatekeepered books becoming available.

But I don’t think anybody thinks that bloggers will run out of books to review if the stop getting tons of random free books from publishers.

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And Cake! / Blog

So we are progressing . . . and Cake!

The part that is progressing is, of course, the ongoing revision. That’s sort of the royal “we”, I guess, except my mother is contributing by never calling me. Thanks, Mom! (We kind of use the phone like other people might shout to somebody upstairs. “When you come down, could you bring an extra stack of towels?” Only for us it’s like, “Could you put a bag of flour out to come over here?” (My Mom’s enormous overflow pantry serves as extra supply for me during holiday baking, since she lives right across the street.))

Anyway, the revision! I put together a more-or-less-bulleted list of everybody’s general comments and I think now is the time to start reading through the ms. from the top, nudging it here and there as I go. And frequently re-reading the list, of course. The basic outline has hardly changed at all, but some scenes have moved or been deleted or (rarely) added. I think some motivations have become clearer, and a little more has been revealed about the world, and at this point I sure hope no one would read it and think, But WHY did Gulien / the king / the Kieba do this or that stupid thing?

Plus it now makes perfect sense why the Kieba chose . . . oh, actually, that would be a spoiler. Never mind. But it was a question raised by all three initial readers and now it’s solved.

Also! New title. Still a working title, but I’m much happier with it. The ms. is now named THE MOUNTAIN OF KEPT MEMORY. Thanks to all who made suggestions!

Also! Speaking of my mother, it was her birthday this Saturday, and QUITE happy to take a break from revising, I made a cake! Only I could not find the recipe I wanted, which was for a Bundt cake with a cheesecake filling.

It’s not like I have a shortage of recipes for fancy cakes, but I was DETERMINED to make a Bundt cake with a cheesecake filling. So when I found a recipe for a Bundt cake with a coconut filling, I seized upon it.

Only it started with a cake mix, which I never use. I mean, as far as I can tell, a chocolate cake made from a mix merely LOOKS chocolate. Such a disappointment when it turns out to have no discernable chocolate flavor! Plus I think mix cakes often have a faint but unpleasant almond-ish kind of flavor — I suspect almond flavoring is cheaper than chocolate flavoring.

But! For some reason I actually had a cake mix, acquired for some purpose long forgotten, which was sitting in the back of my pantry waiting for me to do something with it. So I combined several recipes, my memory of the cake I actually wanted to make, and a strong preference for real chocolate flavor and did this:

Cake:
1 German chocolate cake mix (18.25 oz)
1 pkg instant choc pudding mix (1.7 oz) (I like instant chocolate pudding, okay? Even though I know it is not objectively good as such.)
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
4 eggs
3/4 C veg oil
3/4 C water
1/2 tsp coconut extract

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
2 Tbsp sugar
1 C. toasted coconut
1/2 tsp coconut extract
3/4 C mini choc chips

Glaze:
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1/4 C. powdered sugar

First I combined all the filling ingredients. Then I beat together all the cake ingredients, then beat the batter for five minutes. Then I spooned half the cake batter into a (greased) Bundt pan, spooned the filling on top, added the remaining cake batter on top of that, and baked the cake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

The cake turned out of the pan just fine! Always a relief! Then I melted the chocolate with the cream cheese, stirred in the powdered sugar, and glazed the cake with a thin layer of this mixture. (This kind of icing looks greasy and suspiciously like it won’t work, but I’ve used variants of it often and it is actually easy to work with and sets up very nicely, with a shiny finish. It’s excellent for those like me who hate a super-sweet icing. Plus it makes a great filling for sandwich cookies, too, btw.) I used a glaze because I wanted a shiny cake, because I then finished it off by dusting confectioner’s gold dust across the top.

The cake turned out very pretty, nicely chocolate, distinctly coconut flavored, and really very good — it was a little dense, but moist and with a good texture. So I hereby share it with the world! If you happen to have a cake mix sitting around, this is SO MUCH BETTER than just making it according to the directions.

Tonight I get to finish both my share of the cake and (sigh) the revision.

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