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Holiday Sweetness: “The Sweet Tooth from the Tropics” edit

Brow_1 Now, ...every time I close my eyes, the spirit of the "holiday baking fairy" arrives with all those magical, almost baked perfumes. Oh, how vivid and fragrant those cookies, cakes, breads, puddings, brownies and cocadas are. Once the holiday baking fairy arrives, the best way to handle the situation is to surrender, to love and enjoy the experience. Do not tell me later I didn´t warn you! smile

It is such a magical time to spend with the family and friends, just the perfect time to explore and honor your roots. Give, give, and give; bake, bake and BAKE as much as you can (AND as far as your pantry credit allows you!). If you are feeling a little nostalgic or sad, because of the "Forgotten", ...I have the right answer for you. It has worked wonders for me and many others. For sure, every little soul that you share your love with, will love you back and will remember you for a long time. PLEASE have a bake-down. Bake, bake and bake until you drop. Do not forget to share, share and share with others your holiday baking bounty, OR you will be putting on some graciously tasty holiday extra pounds! I have been there.

By now you may KNOW (I think), that I was born with a privileged sweet tooth (well, ...lets forget about that time when I was 6 yo and ate the complete tube of "peppermint toothpaste", please??? It was only once, I promise!). Other than that little incident my sweet tooth´s record is impeccable.  So, to honor the worldwide sweetness and specially the sweet tooth from the tropics and my dear Latin American countries, we will share with you three delicious recipes:

Come with me now to get the delicious recipes!...

cookies cookie galletas galleta dulce cocada coco coconut melissa de leon elena hernandez panama cooking cookingdiva panamagourmet gourmet cocina recetas receta navidad navidades holiday christmas

Christ_cook_1 Recipe #1: Chef Melissa's Cashew & Chocolate Brownie Cookies


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 12 oz (2 cups) bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dark rum, or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 oz (approx. 1 cup) semisweet chocolate, OR white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped cashew nuts, roasted, not salted.
  • Powdered sugar to dust cookies at the end.


  1. Melt the bittersweet chocolate and butter according to the chocolate's manufacturer instructions, OR, in the top of a double boiler set over steaming hot water. Allow it to cool.
  2. Beat eggs until frothy, add the rum or vanilla extract. Slowly add the sugar, 1/4 cup at the time and beat until doubled in volume and soft ribbons form.
  3. Add the melted chocolate mixture, and combine well. Mix in the dry sifted ingredients, and stir well. Fold in the chocolate chips and the cashew nuts. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 3 hours or overnight (until the dough is firm, like regular cookie dough).
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Scoop out the chilled dough and form it with your hands into a small 4 inches diameter ball. Place each ball 1-1/2 inches apart in a parchment lined cookie pan.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, OR until the top of the cookies look cracked. Remove from oven and let sit in the pans for 3-5 minutes. Then, place them in cooling racks and cool completely. Dust with powder sugar and pack in small tins or decorative cellophane bags (for food please), and give to your loved ones this holiday season! Makes 24 cookies.

Co_4_4 Recipe #2: COCADA BLANCA (White Cocadas)
Yields: 8 large 3-inch cocadas or 16, 2-inch cocadas.

This is the best way to use coconuts. Keep these in airtight tins or containers and serve as dessert. These cocadas keep fresh if stored tightly in tin cans for up to a month.

Ingredients:Co_1_1 Directions:

  • 2 coconuts
  • 1-3/4 cup sugar
  • Oil, for preparing the pan (optional)

  1. Pick two large coconuts with plenty of water inside; drain, open and peel off the brown skin from the coconut meat. Shred the coconut to yield 3-3/4 cups shredded coconut meat and 2-1/2 cups coconut water.
  2. Co_2 Mix the coconut water and sugar in a medium, heavy pot over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes to thicken and create a light syrup.
  3. Add the coconut, decrease the heat to low and cook stirring constantly for 15 to 18 minutes. The heat has to be very low to prevent the cocadas from turning brown, which is actually okay otherwise, but for this recipe they should stay white!
  4. Drop spoonfuls of the size you desire in oil coated pans or over parchment covered pans.
  5. Cool completely.

Recipe #3: Cake Tres Leches (Three Milks Cake), by Chef Elena del Amor por la Cocina Blog

I have seen many recipes for this popular Central American dessert, but my friend Maria Elena from Guatemala swears this is the original.

3lech For the spongecake:

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cream:

  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream

For the topping:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup of light corn syrup, such as Karo


  1. Make the spongecake: In a the bowl of your mixer place the egg whites. Beat at low speed first and then increase the speed to high until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, letting it dissolve well before adding more, and beat until firm. Add the egg yolks one by one, beating well after each addition. Now mix the flour with the baking powder and add to the mixture alternating with the milk. This operation has to be done quickly or the batter will loose the lightness in it. Finally, add the vanilla. Pour this batter in a large rectangular Pyrex,greased and floured, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes in a 350°oven.
  2. While this is baking, prepare the cream. Very simple: just mix everything together in a blender and pour over the still warm spongecake.
  3. The frosting: Place the water, sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and let boil. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the hot syrup in a string and continue beating at high speed until all the syrup has been added. Beat until no longer warm. To serve the Tres Leches: Once the soaked spongecake is at room temperature you have to let it cool in the refrigerator. Then you can spread the frosting and put back in the cold. This is supposed to be served very cold. You can decorate this Cake with Silver dragées or you can also make some caramel and let some strings of it just casually over the frosting.

We invite you to visit the following related previous articles written by Chef Melissa, and other interesting blogs and websites:

  • The Red Velvet Rose of Love, includes facts and useful information on cooking with "edible flowers". Lear how to prepare and use roses as garnish and delicious recipes for the holiday season meals.
  • TastyRecipes - The CookingDiva´s Recipe Index, with recipes in English and Español.
  • Remember you still have time to participate in our worldwide campaign "A Menu For Hope II", to help support victims of the earthquake in Northern India and Pakistan. Just donate $5 for a chance to participate in the raffle of more than 65 fantastic prizes donated by food bloggers from all over the world. For more information visit my previous post: "A Menu for Hope - Un Menu por la Esperanza II". ***Just found out about Becks & Posh new beautiful post, please take a moment to visit her blog! smile

  • Patricia

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • by Chef Melissa
  • December 20, 2005
  • 8:10 am


Picture of Elena Elena said on...
12.20.05 at 11:33 AM |

Excellent post! I hope everyone enjoys these recipes, thank you Melissa for sharing this again. Happy Baking!

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.20.05 at 12:59 PM |

Thank you Elena! Thank you for your contribution smile Hugs,

Picture of Michelle Michelle said on...
12.20.05 at 01:54 PM |

These cookies look wonderful!  I’m really swayed by the coconut ones - I love anything with coconut!  Thank you for posting them!  I really like the “Forgotten” poem as well.  I wish I could continue baking, but it’s time to take a bow to my mother, and head home to enjoy her cooking instead of my own!

Picture of sam sam said on...
12.20.05 at 02:00 PM |

thank you melissa fro helping promote the menu for hope!

Picture of sha sha said on...
12.20.05 at 02:01 PM |

cocoda blanca… the name is not familiar but the process, the recipe is similar to what we have in Phils.
we called it bukayo.. am going to direct some Filipino foodies here and want to hear what they say.
Hey after all we have been a spanish colony is there a connection? well.. hope so

I was at a Brazilian grill last nite…..

(I left Phils when I was 14, been living in Greece since then but 1997 been bumming around europe)...

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.20.05 at 02:02 PM |

Thank you Michelle! I thought you were already gone to visit your family. I am sure you will have a blast, beautiful time enjoying your mother’s cooking. Do not forget to take photos, please! smile Hugs…

Picture of kelly kelly said on...
12.20.05 at 02:33 PM |

Wow - I just gained 10 pounds by reading these posts.

I will try the cocada.  I have a tio in Monagrillo who makes Cocada.  Whenever someone goes over there he always send us a bag.  It is not the white kind though.  I can’t wait to taste this one.

Thanks for sharing.

Picture of Kalyn Kalyn said on...
12.20.05 at 04:40 PM |

Hey, thanks for stopping by and saying nice things about my blog.  My graphics are done by my brother, who is a pro.  I think the design of your site is amazing.  Either you’re very talented or you have someone very talented who does it for you!

Picture of cannella cannella said on...
12.20.05 at 05:58 PM |

Hola Melissa, esto es realmente maravilloso y tu post me ha llegado al corazón. Te deseo felices y dulces (¡obviamente!) fiestas con todo el cariño! Eres verdaderamente genial.

Picture of Hillary Davis Hillary Davis said on...
12.20.05 at 07:43 PM |

I love the little cake with a bow…..it’s adorable!
Now that you have inspired me, I am going to
throw caution to the wind and make some free
form petit fours…...wild things…...yummmmmmm.

Picture of obachan obachan said on...
12.20.05 at 09:04 PM |

Boy, I shouldn’t have come here! I’ve been telling myself, “I live all by myself. I have no one to share my baked stuff with. So I shouldn’t bake more than necessary. Don’t bake too much this year.” But Melissa! You just blew it and triggered something really, really dangerous in me! Ahhhh….! If you see more than 3 kinds of cookies on my Christmas dinner entry this year, you are responsible for that. wink

BTW, I have a question to Melissa, the avocado expert. I’m thinking about making avocado dip for my Christmas dinner, but the avocados on the shelf at nearby supermarkets are all hard and green now… well, that’s the way they are imported into Japan. Is there a way to ripen those rock-hard green ones at home in 4 days? Would it help if I place them next to apples?

P.S. I really love the little cake with a bow, too.

Picture of dogj dogj said on...
12.20.05 at 11:15 PM |

Hola ChefMely, te cuento que se de alguien con pensamiento socialista revolucionario que le va a gustar este post, sobre todo la receta de los brownies. En realidad les brinde a muchos de mis compañeros y quedaron pidiendo mas. Dicen que estan muy ricos junto con las empanaditas.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.20.05 at 11:48 PM |

SAM: Thanks for your visit, I enjoyed last year’s adventure with the “Menu for Hope I”. But, this year has been amazing how much fun and the $$$donations! smile

SHA: it would be very interesting to get feedback from your friend bloggers from Filipina. I love traveling,...and I am glad you love it too! There is so much to see out there smile

KELLY: Monagrillo? wow! one of the best cocadas I have ever tasted was purchased in Monagrillo. Maybe it was made by your uncle!!! smile

KALYN: The latest cookingdiva design was made by Joelle from the http://www.moxiedesignstudios.com . She is fantastic! I designed my other blogs smile

CANELLA: gracias por visitarnos y por tus palabras tan lindas! Me siento feliz de tan solo inspirarles un poquito con mis posts. Eso es lo que busco! smile

HILLARY: the little cake with a bow is just a tasty little brownie with dried fruits dressed up for the holiday season. I would LOVE to see your free form yummy creations! smile

OBACHAN: OMG!!! I am impressed that the “holiday baking fairy” arrived so soon to your place! She is getting better and better every day! smile
Regarding the avocados, I think you are probably getting avocado Hass from Mexico. If that is the case, they should be soft to the touch, since the skin is thin. That could take a couple of days to a week. But, would you verify in the sticker where are they from? That way I will know what kind of alligator pear they are:) Will e-mail you about it. Hugs,

SR. DOGJ: es un honor recibirle en mi humilde cocinita. Me alegro que le hayan gustado las galletas de brownie y las empanaditas a sus colegas y a Ud. Le pido un favor. Digale al Ing. Raul que me gustaria que dijera hola cuando pase por este blog! Sin pena please!!!

Many hugs to all of you…, and Happy holidays from Panama!

Picture of sailu sailu said on...
12.21.05 at 06:44 AM |

Adorable delicious looking cake with bow,Melissa!

Picture of Sabina Sabina said on...
12.21.05 at 10:11 AM |

I didn’t know you were a chef?  I want to be a chef when grow up.  My hero is Rachel Ray.  I like her shows and I have her kids cookbook.  I like to cook with my mommy.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.21.05 at 10:50 AM |

Sabina!!! It makes me very very happy that you have visited Us! Muchas gracias preciosa! I am glad you enjoy cooking. I saw the pictures af all those yummy cookies that you prepared with your mommy. Beautiful job! You know, there is ONE thing that I consider is the most important when you are a chef: that is LOVE! You’ve got to love to share with others your love, because that is what you do when you cook. Using all that beautiful energy to prepare something for others, not only feeds their body, but their soul. Please keep me posted on your cooking projects. Abrazos, y Felices Fiestas!
P.S. Yesterday I received the news that a very good friend I have in Buenos Aires, Argentina, had finished Culinary School. Please take a moment to check the following link so you can learn more what really means to be a chef: http://panamagourmet.blogs.com/tastydesign/2005/12/hasta_buenos_ai.html
The post is in Spanish, but that is good for you smile

Picture of Vegan Momma Vegan Momma said on...
12.21.05 at 12:00 PM |

Everything looks fabulous. I am going to Veganize the Cashew & Chocolate brownie cookies. I love cashews.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.21.05 at 12:28 PM |

VeganMomma: yes, yes, please do and write about it. I will post a link from this recipe page to your vegan version. Hugs and Happy Holidays!

Picture of yovanna .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
12.21.05 at 05:01 PM |

I’m getting hungry just looking at the photos! The first time I had tres leches cake was a few years ago at Christmas at my cousin’s house. His wife (also from Panama) loves cooking traditional foods, so she introduced me to that along with sopa borracha (yum!!!) I returned the favor by making a fried yucca dish (enyucada? can’t recall the name) No hablo español bien, pero entiendo bien. smile
What is your favorite Christmas treat to make/bake Melissa?
Mine is definitely gingerbread!

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.22.05 at 10:59 AM |

Yovanna, yes, sopa borracha is a delicious dessert. Next time I see my grandmother I’ll ask her for her recipe. She was used to prepare them for weddings and parties many years ago.
Enyucado is a dessert that also uses coconut. Very delicious. It is prepared mostly for “Semana Santa”.

For Christmas and the holidays season I love to prepare for my family: dried fruit cakes, rum cakes, Jewish pastries, cakes, breads and strudels. Turrones, ...We like everything!

Picture of Ing. Raul Fernando .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
12.22.05 at 11:07 AM |

Hola Chef Melissa, bueno como siempre me alegra muchisimo degustar tus manjares, como esos brownies y las empanaditas que realemnte estubieron deliciosas( la jalea de guayaba es la meor de todas siempren recuerdenlo), tambien era para hacerte una consulta de un Ingeniero con corazon de chef a una gran chef como tu, es sobre cuando estoy cocinando un pescado, como es el caso de la corvina, cual es la mejor manera de sazonarlo para que no concentre tan rapido la sal, ya que este agarra muy rapido la sal y a veses por la misma cantidad de sal sabe simple o se pone salado, dame ese consejo que necesito para poder preparar mejor mis pescados al horno.
Siempre recordare esos dulces que manstes con DOG.J ya que me han alegrado muchos dias
Felicidades en tu vida sigue asi, inspirandonos siempre a degustar mejores cosas cada dia.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.22.05 at 11:35 AM |

Hola Raul, gracias por la visita! Aqui estoy listando dos de mis posts anteriores para preparar recetas con pescado (al horno y frito).
Pescado frito entero:
Pescado al horno relleno con arroz con coco, tocino y hierba de limon.
Buena suerte!!!

Picture of sha sha said on...
12.22.05 at 02:38 PM |

cute bows. I believe good chefs are creative with out the art and creativity I wonder what a chef can make.

FELIZ NAVIDAD MELISSA…. greetings from Greece

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.22.05 at 02:56 PM |

SHA!!! thank you for your visit!  I totally agree, after traveling all over the world I know that creativity sometimes is more important than the ingredients or how much the $$$ was. For example, I have a friend from Cuba that I have not seen in ages, BUT that girl had magical hands: with just 2 or 3 ingredients she could prepare the most delicious and beautiful meal. Since she lived most of her life there, and they didn’t have many choices and variety of ingredients,...her natural talent and audacity in the kitchen made her very very special.
Feliz navidad para ti tambien! smile

Picture of kelly kelly said on...
12.22.05 at 07:43 PM |

  Here is a picture of my Tio Juancho making his cocada. He does it the OLD FASHIONED way.  I hope it comes through…

Picture of J J said on...
12.22.05 at 10:52 PM |

hi melissa, gorgeous post, as always! it is the season of baking till we drop, isn’t it? happy holidays!

Picture of Paz Paz said on...
12.23.05 at 10:40 AM |

Wow!  Thanks for such a wonderful blog!

Merry Christmas and have a fanstastic 2006!


Picture of owukori owukori said on...
12.24.05 at 09:28 AM |

Melissa I dont which is more enjoyable - your photos or imagining eating your food - the taste the smell! ahhhhhhhhhh yes actually eating them of course smile

Picture of Susan .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
12.26.05 at 12:16 PM |

I am looking for the recipe for a guatemalan cookie recipe. The cookies were covered in powdered sugar and crumbled in your mouth. They had butter in them and were flavored with almond extract. Thanks so much!

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
12.27.05 at 07:42 PM |

OWUKORI: My dear friend, I can assure you that the taste is better. But until you come to Panama next time you will have to virtually enjoy it though your computer!!! smile Happy New Year…

SUSAN: Thank you for your visit, I think I know what you are looking for. Will post the recipe soon. Happy Holidays from Panama smile

Picture of marie .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
09.18.06 at 03:05 AM |

can u please tell me how to cook bukayo? thanks!

Picture of marie .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
09.18.06 at 03:19 AM |

can u please tell me how to cook bukayo? thanks!

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