Pumpkin Pie Without the Pie Dough

I told Morgan on Saturday night that it was pumpkin time, and there was nothing he could do about it.

We went to dinner and a play, and afterward we went by Harris Teeter. I’ve had a beef with Harris Teeter for a long time; we used to live next to one when we were in the DC area. For three years I would walk in to the store around this time of year with pumpkin on my mind… just a regular 15 oz can of Libby’s pumpkin. You would think that at the end of September and throughout October and November that pumpkin would be a grocery store staple… but you would be wrong.

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Last year when this had happened for the third time in a row, I finally did something I never do and wrote a fussy letter to customer service. They apologized and said they had it now, but when I went back in that day there was none to be found and no one knew why. I can’t believe I was so stupid as to go back to a Harris Teeter this year, even if it was in a completely different city. Sure enough they had no Libby’s canned pumpkin. A helpful employee did take me to some organic canned pumpkin which, while $2-3 more expensive, at least they had something.

pumpkin pie bar

So I pulled out a recipe I made last year from Joy the Baker – Butterscotch Pumpkin Pie Bars.  I thought I would love these bars when I made them last year, but I realized that I don’t much care for butterscotch, and I just wasn’t feeling the pumpkin and butterscotch combination especially.

I found the original recipe that Joy modeled hers off of – Pumpkin Pie Bars from Kraft Foods. I used non-fat cream cheese (I really don’t think you can taste the difference because there are so many other delicious things going on) and took out the pecan topping because I’m a pumpkin purist. I also took out a little bit of the granulated sugar – I love the granola bottom but I don’t think it needs to be quite so sweet. The result was a crunchy granola bottom, with pumpkin pie-like filling and topped with more granola.  Pumpkin pie without dealing with pie dough.  Please make this, and please send me some. 🙂

pumpkinpiebars

Granola Pumpkin Pie Bars
adapted from Kraft Foods

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1 package (8 oz.) non-fat cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and allspice.
dash of cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with foil (leaving some extra hanging out that can act as handles) and grease the lining.

Combine flour, brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture and set aside; press the remaining into the bottom of the lined pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes (my oven runs a little hot I think, so I did it for 12).

Beat softened cream cheese, remaining granulated sugar, eggs, pumpkin and spices in a small bowl with an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer) on medium speed until well blended. Pour over crust and sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully lift from the pan using foil handles and cool completely. Cut into approximately 24 bars to serve.

easy, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free…

Time to check in on yesterday’s experiment – easy, gluten free, vegan, dairy free, sugar free banana ice cream!

frozen bananas

I took two bananas, broke them in half, and froze the four pieces in a ziploc bag overnight.

Today I took the bananas out of the freezer and popped them in the food processor. The first few seconds of this experience was a little terrifying – the food processor was not excited about mashing up only four pieces of banana, and I had to hold it tightly so that it didn’t fly off the counter.

pureed bananas

After pulsing for a few minutes, the consistency sort of resembled Dippin’ Dots.

At this point I tasted it, and it was just as creamy and rich tasting as the article I found claimed it to be. Success!

banana ice cream

I didn’t love the Dippin’ Dots look, so I spooned it into a bowl, covered it with Saran Wrap and popped it back in the freezer. I’ll check back in a few hours to see if it’s a little more “formed.” Stay tuned!

Mini Lemon Pound Cakes

The first thing I tried baking in my new place was, one of my favorites, pound cake.

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I’ve tried a number of different pound cake recipes in search of a favorite – CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch, Martha Stewart, William Sonoma and Food Network. But I think the best recipe I’ve tried so far is from Sur La Table’s The Art and Soul of Baking (the last time I made it was for my Red, White and Blueberry Trifle on July fourth).

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So when testing the oven I wanted to make something that I’ve made before and that I know is great, but I wanted to experiment with the flavor a little. I’m not a lemon person (I can’t stand strong lemon tasting desserts), but I’ve had some excellent lemon pound cakes before – just a little hint of it can be extraordinary. After some tinkering, this method gave me just the right amount of lemon.

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I poured my batter into a mini bundt pan (it was actually a mini pumpkin pan from Williams-Sonoma, but it’s basically the same as a mini bundt pan), and I baked it for about 18 minutes at 350 F. Be careful and watch the timing – the cakes will dry out more quickly when cooked in minis instead of in a loaf pan. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean and the top should be firm to the touch, but the cakes will still be very blonde instead of golden.

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If you don’t have the Art and Soul of Baking (please buy it!), you can find the complete recipe on TheCityCook.com. Instead of 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, use 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla and 1/2 tablespoon of pure lemon extract (still use the vanilla bean pod, though). Leave the other ingredients unchanged. When the pound cakes are baked, poke multiple holes in the cakes and, using a cooking brush, brush cakes lightly with additional drops of lemon extract. Check it out!

Our 200th Post! Plus Red, White and Blueberry Trifle

Today is an exciting day at DinnerCakes because we get to celebrate! Not only is it our last work day before the start of a long holiday weekend, it’s also our 200th post! (Insert blaring trumpets here!)

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A lot has changed around here since Edwin and I first started documenting our culinary adventures, making messes in the kitchen and packing away more food than we probably should.

If you’re new to DinnerCakes, we invite you to take a look around and enjoy a sample of our favorite recipes and most memorable recent posts:

Chef Edwin’s Favorites

Heather – Ghost Baker’s Favorites

poundcake

But we also can’t forget, fourth of July weekend is upon us! Every year my husband wants to throw a party… not a fourth of July party, but specifically “America’s Birthday Party,” with party hats and all. Unfortunately he hasn’t yet moved from the idea stage into the logistics stage.

I’m all for celebrating America’s birth, but I’m not so much into cakes decorated like flags and such – that’s why a red, white and blue trifle works perfectly for me!

pound cake slices

This time of year is all about berries that burst with color, and I think they look amazing in a trifle bowl. I made a Double-Vanilla Pound Cake from Sur La Table’s “The Art and Soul of Baking.” You can even see the little vanilla bean flecks if you look closely. It’s an amazing book that offers a deep dive to those looking to get serious about baking. You can find the pound cake recipe reprinted here – the only thing I changed was that I used non-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream and I used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour (removing two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and replacing it with two tablespoons of corn starch, to imitate cake flour).

berries in trifle bowl

The pound cake turned out perfectly and full of delicious vanilla flavor. I also added vanilla pudding, fat free Cool Whip, and loads of blueberries and strawberries to my trifle. I tried hard to restrain myself from adding any extra sugar or sweeteners like coconut, jam or a spritz of juice. While these things can definitely make your trifle either more sweet or tart, the fresh berries, vanilla pound cake, Cool Whip and pudding give it enough flavor that it doesn’t need any extra.

What are you making for fourth of July festivities?

trifle

Red, White and Blueberry Trifle

Double-Vanilla Pound Cake (or pound cake of your choice, cubed)
1 pound strawberries, washed and sliced
1 pint blueberries, washed
1 3 oz. package of vanilla pudding
2 cups milk (for the pudding)
1 regular size container fat free Cool Whip

Combine 2 cups of milk with vanilla pudding mix on medium heat and bring to a boil, stir constantly. When done, set aside to cool.

Cube pound cake and add a layer to the bottom of the trifle bowl. Surround with a layer of strawberries and blueberries. Drizzle some pudding over the pound cake, followed by three dollops of Cool Whip. Repeat the layering process until complete. Scoop a large dollop of Cool Whip on top to complete. Serve chilled.

Lightened Up Strawberry Cake

It seems fitting to share this cake today, just after father’s day, because this is a cake I worked on with my father in mind.

batter that looks and tastes like strawberry ice cream

I’ve mentioned before that my dad adheres to an extremely strict and healthy diet (no eggs, butter, oil, cheese, etc.). This is hard for me, because I think trying to make desserts healthier is a slippery slope. I’ve been scorned by too many dry bran muffins and eggless applesauce cakes.

batter

However, I saw a recipe for a Pink Lady Cake on Smitten Kitchen, and I thought it might translate well to a healthier version. Instead of a large triple layer cake I decided to cut down on the portions and make it into a bundt cake. I also used egg white substitute and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter’s new Cooking & Baking sticks.

lightened batter

I also left out the cream cheese frosting. The cake was so moist that a rich frosting wasn’t necessary (nor did it fit with my plans of being healthy!). This is great with just some fat free Cool Whip and fresh sliced strawberries. Enjoy!

lightened strawberry cake

Lightened Up Strawberry Cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 5/8 teaspoons baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter’s new Cooking & Baking sticks, room temperature
3/4 cups pureed frozen strawberries
equivalent of 4 egg whites using Egg White Substitute
1/3 cup non-fat milk
2 drops red food dye (makes it nice and pink)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour bundt pan.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. Add room temperature butter and strawberry puree; mix to blend the ingredients. Raise speed to medium and beat a few minutes until fluffy (at this point, Smitten says, the batter looks like strawberry ice cream and warns not to try it – and she is not lying! It’s delicious!).

In another large bowl, whisk substitute egg whites, milk and red food dye to blend. Add the whites batter gradually, scraping down the sides of the bowl well periodically and mixing only until combined. Pour batter into bundt pan.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes (keep an eye on it though to prevent overbaking), or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a dollop of cool with and fresh strawberry slices.

Day #6 of Rainbow Week – Pastel and Tie Dye Cupcakes

You’re looking at day six of our Rainbow Week series. Click here to start on day one.

Well, we’re nearing the end of Rainbow Week! We hope you’ve learned some new things and that you have plans this weekend to make lots of colorful rainbow treats like today’s post – Pastel Tie Dye Cupcakes.

adding pastel

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Back in the day I loved tie dye – and let’s be honest, I still do.

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Last weekend I was at a wedding for great couple; my husband and I met the groom back in high school. One of the groomsmen made a nice slide show of memories for the couple which was shown at the wedding. He joked with me that he had a bad old photo of me he considered including. Once he described the photo I remembered it exactly – I was wearing an old pair of jeans that I turned into bell bottoms using some tie dye fabric. Hey, who cares what he thought, right? I thought they were cool…

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Making rainbow cupcakes like these can even be more fun than rainbow cake because each individual cupcake can have a unique pattern – colored layers, marbled/swirled batter, just color in the middle, etc. I used pastel purple, teal and pink, along with a few other colors, in yellow butter cake batter.

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I was also able to do a little test, baking regular cupcakes alongside rainbow cupcakes to see how the color affects the batter. The answer is, as I believe Edwin mentioned and as I found out, that the color does affect the batter, particularly this time.

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Pastel colors, because they’re lighter, require more gel. Whereas Edwin and I use only a small amount of primary color gel for the rainbow cake and rainbow cake cones, I had to use the whole tube of pastel color gel to color the batter – oy! All the stirring needed for pastels unfortunately makes the cupcakes more dense. So I might recommend sticking with primary color gels for the best tasting cake, although the teal color did turn out pretty cool!

inside cupcakes

Yellow Cake & Frosting

I used the same Williams-Sonoma yellow cake recipe here as I did for the cake cones. If you don’t have the Williams-Sonoma “Desserts” book, I would recommend this recipe available online by Martha Stewart for a basic yellow butter cake, adapted from “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.” It is very similar to the one I used. A box yellow cake mix will also work.

To frost the cupcakes, I used a light and fluffy fat free Cool Whip. A Seven Minute Frosting would also work well. Anna at Cookie Madness has a good recipe for Seven Minute Frosting, and Joy the Baker has a Seven Minute Frosting that you can make pink or green (just in case you want even more color for your cupcakes!).

In case you missed Edwin’s detailed instructions on “How To Make Your Own Rainbow Cake” earlier in the week, please check it out for very useful tips and advice before you begin.

Day #4 of Rainbow Week – Tropical Fruit Salad

You’re looking at day four of our Rainbow Week series. Click here to start on day one.

Need a little break from baked goods? Rainbow cakes are a lot of fun and make for great eye candy, but there are other options for impressive and vibrant food as well.

pineappletoss

strawberriesoverflowing

I hijacked this fruit salad recipe from my mom. In fact, I took the photos for this post the last time she made it (which I hope made for some cool action shots). I love the fruit salads that she makes because they always have very sweet and excellent glazes. This one packs a little more punch than some of my other favorites because it comes with tequila!

pouring

The tequila is noticeable, but not overbearing. You could leave it out if you really wanted to, but why? This recipe makes a very large bowl of fruit – perfect for entertaining at cookouts or dinner parties. If you’d like to adapt it to every day use, simply cut the recipe in half.

fruitsalad

You can probably tell this from the photos, but if you do decide to make a large batch, make sure you use the appropriate size bowl. We ran into some overflowing problems and had to transfer the fruit to a larger, wider bowl so that we could toss it with the glaze.

tropicalsalad

Tropical Fruit Salad
Adapted from Sandra Jackson-Work’s “Cooking with Friends” submission to Betty Crocker’s “CELEBRATE!” (April 2000, #161)

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Key lime juice
2 to 3 tablespoons tequila
1 teaspoon fresh grated lime peel
14 cups cut-up fresh fruit – strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwi, honey dew melon, red grapes

Heat sugar and water to boiling in small saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for approximately 2 minutes, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and tequila.

Let stand to cool. Cover and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours.

Stir in lime peel. Carefully toss fruit and lime mixture. Serve immediately.

Or, click here for a version without tequila (boo!).

Day #2 of Rainbow Week – Cake Cones

You’re looking at day two of our Rainbow Week series. Click here to start on day one.

Welcome back to work (for many of you); we hope you had a great holiday! Rainbow Week continues here on DinnerCakes, and today I’ll be sharing rainbow cake cones.

colors

Cake cones are ice cream cones filled with cake. My mom used to make them for me when I was little. It’s a fun twist on a traditional cake, and if you scoop ice cream on top instead of frosting, it’s perfect for dessert lovers who enjoy cake and ice cream. Cake cones also lend themselves particularly well to rainbow cake.

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Yesterday Edwin recommended using standard food drops or fondant coloring gels. I divided yellow cake batter into small bowls and used about 1/4 teaspoon of Betty Crocker classic food coloring gels, stirring as little as possible.

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I used a small spoon to pour one spoonful of each color batter into the cones. Because the cones are small, it’s easier to get an even layer of color, by moving the spoon from front to back, than it is with a large cake pan. Fill your cones about 2/3 full.

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To cook the cake cones, set the cones inside a muffin pan to keep them from falling over. For half of my cones, I made cream cheese frosting and added a few drops of food gel for color. I left the other half frosting-free so that I could scoop ice cream on top. I would recommend serving your cake cones with ice cream scoops. As you might imagine, I enjoy my cake with ice cream, but I also think it tastes better. The cake cones with frosting instead of ice cream is just a little too dry for me.

icecreamcone

The yellow cake recipe that I used is from my Williams-Sonoma Desserts book. I will admit that I enjoyed the taste of Edwin’s rainbow cake using a gold cake recipe more than my yellow cake (yum!), but either gold or yellow will work well. Enjoy!

icecreamconebitten

Finding the Perfect Yellow Cake & Frosting

If you don’t have the Williams-Sonoma “Desserts” book, I would recommend this recipe available online by Martha Stewart for a basic yellow butter cake, adapted from “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.” It is very similar to the one I used.

You may also use a box yellow cake mix if you’re so inclined. Though I will add that Edwin has said, “Every time a DinnerCakes reader makes cake from a box a piece of me dies inside.” So, do with that what you will, readers!

I recommend using an ice cream of your choice instead of frosting the cake cones, but for half of my cones I used cream cheese frosting. It doesn’t take much food gel to color the frosting; I separated the frosting into small bowls and used about 3 to 5 drops of food coloring gel. I put the frosting in a small ziploc bag and cut off the tip to create a makeshift pastry bag. For a good recipe that won’t make an obscene amount of frosting, check out this one from Anna at Cookie Madness. For a frosting that’s a little flashier, Edwin recommends this Coconut Cream Cheese recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

In case you missed Edwin’s detailed instructions on “How To Make Your Own Rainbow Cake” earlier in the week, please check it out for very useful tips and advice.

Let’s bake! What do you say? When too much time passes without any baking I get antsy!

I was bouncing some ideas off Edwin recently for what to bake, but he didn’t seem to interested in what I was coming up with. I understand his hesitation; typically baking experiments either end in sweet and wondrous success or abject failure!

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I had some leftover ricotta in the fridge from a batch of ziti. Too many times these things go to unused and I find myself throwing away expired whipping cream, ricotta, sour cream and buttermilk. Not this time!

I’d also been thinking about coconut cake lately. I visited Alton Brown’s recipe, but he suggests coconut milk, coconut extract, coconut cream and coconut water. I don’t even know what coconut water is, but it sounds like an unwanted road block to me!

I turned to a Cooking Light coconut cake recipe and adapted it to make one dozen cupcakes. I didn’t have cake flour on hand, so I looked up an interesting adaptation to make all-purpose flour more like cake flour. I also put some shredded coconut in the food processor to make it as fine as possible and then added it to the batter. And of course, I experimented with adding 1/4 cup of ricotta.

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You can’t pick out the ricotta, but it does give it some more flavor complexity and adds to the texture. I have a bad connotation with the word “dense” so I definitely wouldn’t call them that, but they’re more on the substantial side than flimsy and airy. I decided to pair them with the kind of frosting you’d find on a German chocolate cake – golden, full of coconut and sweetened with evaporated milk almost like Dulce de leche. I also made a batch of coconut buttercream frosting for half of them, but I much preferred the German chocolate cake frosting. The buttercream was just too sweet for the cake, I thought.

I think these cupcakes are very different from what I’m used to, and I am loving them!

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Secret Ingredient Coconut Cupcakes with German Chocolate Cake-Style Coconut Frosting
Cake recipe adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

1.1 cups all-purpose flour (one cup plus a little less than half a quarter cup) + 2.5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3/8 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut, pulsed in a food processor
1/4 cup part skim ricotta

Drop paper wrappers into cupcake pan. Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour + cornstarch, baking powder, salt, shredded coconut in a medium bowl with a whisk.

Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric beater or stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time.

Alternate adding flour mixture and coconut milk to the bowl while beating; begin and end with the flour mixture. Add ricotta. Beat until combined.

Using a tablespoon, drop two tablespoons of batter into each cupcake wrapper. Divide any extra evenly so that wrappers are 3/4 full. Bake for approximately 18 minutes.

German Chocolate Cake Frosting
Adapted from Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor and also found on Cooks.com

6 fluid ounces evaporated milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut

In a large saucepan on medium heat, combine evaporated milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and vanilla. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for approximately 10 minutes. The frosting should be thickened and golden. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting cupcakes.

Two thumbs up to Anna at Cookie Madness for including on her site an archive of “Go-To” recipes. I found myself there last week as I was looking for ideas for my brother’s birthday cake. His birthday isn’t until this Saturday, but because he happened to be home for Easter I had to improvise.

My brother seems to really enjoy Cool Whip based desserts (pumpkin pie that has a layer of Cool Whip – which we refer to in the family as “Silly” Pumpkin Pie, Million Dollar Pie, Banana Cream Pie, etc.) as well as desserts that have a lot going on – like fruit, nuts and coconut. He’s not interested in things like rich chocolate cake or red velvet. Apparently there are a lot of people like that out there, but I’ve never really understood them myself. Luckily Anna had tried and tagged pretty much the perfect cake.

hummingbird cake


Hummingbird Cake
is Southern Living’s most requested recipe ever! First published in 1999, it combines chopped bananas, crushed pineapple and pecans for a unique and delightful cake. In 2001 they even posted a Lightened Hummingbird Cake, which cuts down on the sugar, eggs and oil, and removes the pecans entirely. Hummingbird Cake is also made without the assistance of either an electric beater or stand mixer (but sorry, I did use one for the frosting!).

I went for the original, non-lightened version, but I did change the frosting. The Southern Living recipe recommends a cream cheese frosting and, while I love cream cheese frosting, it just felt all wrong for this cake. I like cream cheese frosting on fairly plain, rich cakes. The Hummingbird Cake has so many neat flavors that I thought cream cheese frosting would just make it thick, unnecessarily dense and take away from the other things going on.

As you might have guessed from my comments above, I decided to use a Cool Whip based frosting. I added just a tiny bit of fat free cream cheese to the Cool Whip to give it a little thickness. Even though the cake recipe doesn’t call for it, I also added coconut (I was already so close to the Million Dollar Pie recipe that my brother loves that I figured, “why not?”).

I had to spread my frosting a little thin so that I’d have enough to cover this entire three layer cake. I’d probably recommend adding a little extra Cool Whip so that you don’t have to worry about skimping, but I’m so glad that I changed the frosting from the original cream cheese. It really left the emphasis on the cake, while giving it a little “oomph” and adding oh-so-delicious coconut. If you’re shopping for cake ideas for someone who doesn’t love decadent cakes, you have GOT to make this!

hummingbird cake slice


Hummingbird Cake Recipe
from Southern Living

Coconut Cool Whip Frosting

2 oz. fat free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered/confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk (I used skim)
8oz. fat free Cool Whip, thawed (plus a little extra)
1-2 cups shredded coconut (start out with 1 cup and add more as desired)

In an electric or stand mixer add cream cheese and beat until softened. Slowly beat in sugar and milk. Now, fold in Cool Whip (do not beat!) using a spoon until fully incorporated. Stir in desired amount of coconut.