Saturday, August 13, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes

Copyright 2011 Christine's Pantry. All rights reserved.

 
Food historians don't quite know exactly when and where coconuts originated.

Botanists disagree about whether the species originated in the region of the East Indies and Melanesia, as most think, or in tropical America, as a minority have vigorously argued. The minority view is supported by the fact that almost all the coconut palm's relations are in America, the one important exception being the oil palm, which is African. Yet the coconut has, at most, an exigius history in Central America in pre-Columbian times, the evidence that the earliest Spanish invaders found it growing on the west coast of the Isthmus of Panama is uncertain; and if it was growing there it is odd that its cultivation was not widespread, since it is so useful. In contrast, the coconut has been known in East Asia and the islands for a very long time indeed, it exists in greater variety in that region, and there is another evidence (including the number of species of insects associated with it in the various regions) that it did originate there, probably in Melanesia. There is also an interesting diversity of views about the origin of the name 'coconut'. Child (1974) gives a good account of these and comes down in favour of the etymology which commands most acceptance, that 'coco' was first used towards the end of the 15th century by Portuguese seamen, who applied to the nut, with its three 'eyes', the Spanish word coco, referring to a monkey's or other grotesque face. When Linnaeus gave a scientific name to the tree in the 18th century, he toyed with Coccus (coccus, berry in Latin) but settled on Cocos. It was also in the 18th century that the notorious confusion between cocnut and cocoanut began. The blame for this seems to rest with Dr. Johnson, who confused the two in a single entry in his dictionary (1755), and one still occasionally comes across 'cocoanut' when 'cocunut' is meant. The term 'coker-nut', an old variant of coconut, was at one time in commerical use in the Port of London, to avoid the confusion, and remains in popular use.
Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 199)

Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide as much information as one might want on the coconut in prehistory. This is becuase heat and humidity work agains the preservation of fossils, and thus there are is a dearth of archaelogical materials, coprolites, and biological remains on tropical seashores where the coconut palm is native. Coconut residues do not accumulate because the palm grows and fruits the year round. This makes crop storage unnecessary and, in fact, because of their high water content, coconut seednuts cannot be stored; they either grow or rot. In 1501, King Manuel of Portugal itemized some of its uses at a time when the coconut was first becoming known in Europe. 
Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas (Cambridge University Press:Cambridge) 2000, Volume One (p. 388)
 
Note, This book contains much more information than can be paraphrased here. It also includes an extensive bibliography for additional study. If your information on the many uses of coconuts, ask your librarian to help you find a copy.

Coconut...The word is a combination of a Portuguese children's term, coco, for the "goblin" shell of the fruit and the English word "nut." The fruit was first mentioned in English print in 1555, and the first American reference was in 1834. The origins of the coconut have never been fully understood, but some believe it is native to tropical America and was dispersed to Pacific Islands by the drift of pods through the ocean. Coconuts were known in Egypt by the 6th century AD, and Marco Polo noted them in India and elsewhere in the Far East. Certainly coconuts were encountered on the Pacific shores of South America and Hawaii, but coconut is not a major crop in the latter.
Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani (Lebhar-Friedman:New York) 1999 (p. 88)

How did coconuts get to colonial America? Excellent question! A survey of early American cookbooks confirms coconuts were available in whole, fresh form. Not tinned or pre-packaged. Most likely, they were shipped from the West Indies region. Food historians generally agree coconuts were not indigenous to the West Indies/Caribbean region. They introduced to this area after Columbus by European settlers. By the 19th century coconuts, were growing in this area and were shipped north to the United States. In the late 18th early 19th centuries fresh fruits from tropical regions did not fare well on long journeys. This may account for the traditional popularity/proliferation of coconut in the Southern recipes. Pineapples follow a similar pattern.

Food historians say on the topic:

Columbus took vegetable seeds, wheat, chick-peas, and sugar cane to the Caribbean on his later voyages, Columbia's second governor introduced the first cows that had ever been seen there, settlers took bananas, rice and citrus fruits, yams and cowpeas crossed the Atlantic with the slaves. Coconuts were introduced to the Bahamas, breadfruit to the Caribbean, and coffee to Brazil.
Food in History, Reay Tannahill (Three River Press:New York) 1988 (p.220)

Just when the coconut palm appeared on American shores is open to debate, but some accounts tell that on southern plantations coconut meat was used for making the holiday dessert, ambrosia.
Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor (Oxford University Press:New York) 2004, Volume 1 (p. 265)

There are coconuts in Florida today, but there were none then (1519), and even those we have now are the result of an accident: the schooner Providence, carrying coconuts from the West Indies, was wrecked off the coast of Florida in 1879, the nuts floated ashore and took root. Though the Providence's coconuts came from the West Indies, it is almost certain that Columbus never saw any there. The Spaniards reported fully on new foods enountered in the Caribbean area and in Mexico, but none of them ever mentioned the coconut. There were coconuts in America before Columbus, for they are pictured in pre-Columbian pottery, but they were on the wrong side of America to be found by Columbus, on the coasts of Chile and Peru, suggesting that the coconut, a great floater, had drifted across from the Pacific Islands.
Eating in America: A History, Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont (William Morrow:New York) 1976 (p. 44)

By the 1850s ships from Florida were delivering fruits and vegetables there twice a month, and by the middle of the century pineapples and coconuts were arriving from Cuba, from other West Indian islands, and even from Central America.
ibid (p. 154)
By http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq.html#coconuts

 
Coconut Cupcakes
Copyright 2011 Christine's Pantry. All rights reserved.

Ingredients:
1 (18.25 oz) box white cake mix
2 (3.4 oz) coconut cream instant pudding and pie filling
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 (8 oz) container cool whip
sweetened coconut


Directions:
Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a large bowl, add cake mix, coconut cream instant pudding and pie filling, eggs, vegetable oil, water. Mix well. Line regular muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Fill the cups half full with batter. Bake for 18 minutes, or when toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. When cool enough, remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Making sure cupcakes are completely cool before frosting. Top with cool whip and coconut. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!







39 comments:

  1. This looks delicious. I am such a huge fan of coconut. I finally saw a sign for young coconut at our local store and I got all excited and when I reached down they were all gone. I was so bummed. But there's hope. They do exist and sooner or later I will get ahold of one.

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  2. These look great Christine. I love using cake mixes to save time. they are so much better than they were back when I was a kid in the stone age :-D

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  3. Coconut is one of my favorite flavors! These cupcakes are too cute!

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  4. I will bet these are awesome as they look I love mounds candy bars, so this ones for me!

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  5. I love coconut but was beyond shocked when I read of the saturated fat content. I have enough issues in that department LOL. I am sure these are delicious

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  6. I like cake with coconut looks delicious yummy snacks

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  7. I adore coconut - thanks for all the fabulous info! I live in Florida and have enjoyed them since I was little - glad they made it here eventually. The cupcakes look delicious - thanks for sharing:)

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  8. These coconut cupcakes look amazing! gloria

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  9. I love coconut. Such interesting information. Thanks for sharing. LOVE your cupcakes.

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  10. I love coconut cupcakes and your history is incredibly detailed...I love the idea of a shipwreck planting the palms in Florida (being a floridian that's pretty cool).

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  11. Glad to see that you made a baked good here-it looks delicious. Cakes mixes can be a great time saver-nice flavor choice Yum!

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  12. So glad coconut made it to America...YUM!

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  13. Wonderful! Awesome!
    Thanks for sharing, Christine! You make my day!

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  14. Looks like Bounty choolate. Very nice. :)))

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  15. Excellent information on coconuts, I enjoyed reading the post. And the coconut cupcakes sure sound scrumptious!

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  16. Hi Kim Bee, I have not seen young coconut in my local store, but I'll be on the look out. You're right, sooner or later you will get a young coconut.

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  17. Hi The Glamorous Gourmet, I'm glad coconut made it to America too.

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  18. Hi Sandi, I agree with you, glad coconut made it to America.

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  19. Hi Ann, I thought that was pretty cool to.

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  20. I really enjoy adding coconut to dishes. Unfortunately my husband does not feel the same way. Great cupcakes!

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  21. Mmmmmm...I love everything coconut...and these look yummy and quick to whip up :)

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  22. Delish! I love how easy these are to make and how tasty they are. Thank you for sharing!!!

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  23. Looks great! I love coconut!!! Just started a cooking blog....come on over and say 'hi'!

    www.mammamiachronicles.com

    Thanks for all the yummy ideas!

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  24. That topping of coconut on top is so attractive.

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  25. I bet these cupcakes were amazing! I love coconut, and this recipe looks son yummy!

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  26. You know I don't think I have ever had a coconut cupcake...and I think that is a real tragedy. Thank you so much for sharing this so that I can make them and then have one :-)

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  27. I bet these taste really good! Thanks for sharing!

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  28. Thanks for the coconut cupcakes, look wonderful. I never knew until recently that you can purchase frozen coconut. And cakes mixes have really improved over the years. great post Christine. andi
    thewednesdaybaker.blogspot.com

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  29. Thanks for following, I'm following back. Only just found your blog, how interesting to provide history with the recipes! These look great.

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  30. Hi All That I'm Eating,

    Welcome! Glad to have you here. :-)

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  31. I love anything with coconut! These cupcakes look great! :)

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  32. Hey everyone, I wanted to take a moment and say thank you so much for being a part of Christine's Pantry. I care about you.

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  33. How interesting of the history of coconut, as well as pineapple. I always thought they are origin from the islanders! Great Post, Christine!

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  34. So interesting about coconut history. And they sound incredible. I LOVE coconut!

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  35. Very interesting post and delicious looking cupcake!

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