Saturday, March 01, 2008

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts . . . and a bottle of vodka.

All you emergency preparedness experts should be very proud of me: if I ever get stranded on a deserted tropical island, I will survive, thanks to my coconut-cake-baking skills. After two attempts, I can now produce a delicious (and not remotely nutritious) cake, armed only with some basic baking supplies (which I assume can be found on most deserted islands in underground apartments as featured on the TV show "Lost"), two coconuts, and a bottle of vodka.

Yes, a bottle of vodka. I imagine that coconut extract is not easily found on most deserted islands, so I had to learn to make my own, which involves letting coconut soak in vodka for several days. And I assure you that finding vodka on a deserted island is a lot easier than finding vodka here in Provo, Utah.

By law, packaged liquor, wine, and certain beers can only be sold by the state itself. I don't have the contacts necessary to tap into Utah's liquor black market, so I knew I would be paying Utah a pretty penny for my bottle of vodka. A Google search revealed that there is only one state liquor store in Provo. The store is creatively named "State Liquor Store #05" and is strategically located among some empty parking lots, near the social security office, in a less frequented part of town. If Utah's goal is to make the purchase of alcohol as unappealing as possible, and I think it is, then it has succeeded. Whoever was in charge of marketing and customer experience deserves a promotion.

After convincing my mother (who nonetheless refused to accompany me) that I would not lose my job by visiting the liquor store, Kendall, Alex, and I made a family outing of the event. We considered donning dark glasses and trench coats to protect our identities, but instead we opted for leaving Kendall and Alex in the car while I shamelessly walked into the store. I was surprised to find that I was the only woman in the store--buying liquor is apparently a man's job, at least in Utah. After a few minutes discussing with the clerk which vodka would be best for the task at hand (and after mentally reviewing my knowledge on wines and spirits gleaned from discussions with Andy, Susan, and Mike, as well as Luke, Tracy, Shobs, Robin, and Mihir) I settled on a popular brand of vodka for a middle-of-the-road price.

Once safely at home, I opened the bottle. While it was mostly odorless on first whiff, Kendall detected some hints of rubbing alcohol, and I some jet fuel notes. I suspected that perhaps I should have spent some extra money on a more clean-smelling vodka, but I was not going to let my adventure into Provo's underground liquor world be for naught.

My experiment seems to have worked. After a few days, I had a bottle of coconut extract that, in combination with some homemade coconut milk and coconut cream, was capable of producing a delicious piece of cake. Many of my most vocal opponents, who were appalled by my state liquor store adventure, were the first to request a second piece of cake. (Lest you think that they asked for seconds as a result of drunken confusion, please note that the entire cake calls for only two teaspoons of extract. You are more likely to feel the effects of alcohol from the vanilla extract in your ice cream.)

Now I need to figure out what else I can make with vodka--I still have several ounces. Maybe I should put it in my medicine cabinet, next to the cotton balls? Or maybe I could continue my desserted island (lame pun, I know) survival quest by making other extracts.


  1. Wow! You went to that much trouble to bake a cake? What was the occasion? Why wasn't I invited? (just kidding)

    You sure know how to make a cake sound good, you purist!

  2. Anonymous4:52 PM

    Andy and I are sitting in London with Mike, who happens to be in town, and we happened to read your blog. We appreciate the shout out, but have ask, what the heck are you doing making your own coconut extract, coconut milk and coconut cream when you have a newborn son and new job. You are superwoman, superbaker, supermom and superprofessor!!

  3. Thanks a lot, Carolina. Not only do I not hear about this cake, I didn't get a piece of it either. You better have some left, or else... mwah ha ha ha!

  4. Wouldn't it have been easier just to buy the coconut extract? That is pretty cool that you learned how to make it. You should try cheese next. Oh, and the cake really does sound so good. Next time I see you you should make me some.

  5. Hi Carolina! You have such a cute little family and that coconut cake looks delicious. My hubby is a chef so I'll ask him what else you can do with your leftover Vodka. :)
    Hope everything is going well for you!

    Beth (Fox) Amstadt

  6. Adrianne, yes, it would have been easier to just buy the extract, but it wouldn't have been half as fun (although it would have been half as expensive).

    And I'm insane. Just ask Kendall.

  7. We don't need to ask Kendall. We lived with you, remember?

    Ha ha, I crack myself up!

  8. Susan, Andy, and Mike--You make fun of me now, but it wasn't too long ago that we were all making our own donuts (making donuts, of all things!) at my apartment, and nobody complained then (except when I splattered oil on Mike--or was it Andy?). And Susan, how are we supposed to open a bakery if I haven't practiced baking? I hope you've been working on your baking skills in between your Cravathian 13-hour work days.

  9. SO I asked my husband and he recommended making Vanilla extract just by opening some vanilla beans and dumping them whole into the bottle.

  10. Reminds me of the time when Carmen made that pound cake with liquor and gave Andrea and I the bowl to lick--when the bowl still had an inch of batter still in it! We felt a little tipsy after that. I'm pretty darn sure she put more than a couple of tsp. in that!

  11. I've got to agree that I can't believe you went to all that trouble! I didn't know you liked to bake. I do, too, but when I attempt something that requires a big investment, I always mess it up. I am glad that t at least turned out delicious. I like the image of you going into the liquor store, too.