Whatever your dream may be, we all know it takes a lot of dedication, hard work, drive and ambition to follow it. Some may think it impossible to achieve while others just go for it. Chris went for it and very successfully. She not only blogs about her passion for cooking and baking at Mele Cotte but she feeds that passion regularly through her dream catering business Adelina’s Bakery LLC, and she does all this while catering to the educational needs of High School students as an Assistant Principal in Atlanta.
Being raised in an Italian family, cooking and baking came almost second nature to Chris but only in her late twenties did she bring it all to fruition. She completed a baking and pastry certification course at the Art Institute of Atlanta and has dedicated herself to continually learning all she can about her craft. Her delicious creations caught the eye of the creator of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Princess Banton-Lofters who commissioned her to bake a cake for the official launch party for Banton-Lofters new television production company Loft 22. However, you don’t have to live in Atlanta, GA to partake in the delectable offerings that Chris serves up on a regular basis. A visit to Mele Cotte will quickly reveal to you more than you can imagine. From breakfast fare to a light lunch or dinner to mouth-watering desserts, readers will be enticed and excited by what Chris has prepared. Her culinary work has been recognized by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and she has done freelance writing for Northeast Cobb Patch and Acworth Patch. Chris says that her blog is her therapist and cooking and baking are great ways for her to de-stress. I’m grateful that this busy lady took time to join our project and that she is here today to share her story and her recipe. Chris can be found on Twitter @MeleCotte
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First, I would like to express my deepest thanks Paula for spearheading Frosting with a Cause! A full 365 days of Cupcake-Cookie baking Cancer support provides a reason to smile each and every day. I can’t think of anything better than that, can you?
Cancer. It’s an experience that is different for everyone, for those diagnosed, the families, friends, and support network. It is an onion, unveiling its layers of uncertainty, pain, and sorry in the mind, body and spirit of those with whom it comes in contact. Then, on top of the layers, the emotions that surround the disease change as often as the treatments.
Growing up, I knew there was a history of cancer in my family. But, I became intimately acquainted the disease when my grandmother, Adelina Ciaramelli DiPalo was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 1993. She had beaten ovarian cancer as a young wife and mother, so I automatically knew she would conquer this battle as well.
Prior to her diagnosis, Gram had lived with us since I was in high school. Her beautiful spirit was the glue that kept our family together, as she had an uncanny ability to bring out the best in everyone. Her humbleness, respect for herself, and the hope and strength she showed without even knowing she was, made her an inspiration to all with whom she came in contact. I remember, she loved the color blue, Stella D’oro cookies, could not take the smell of melted butter, but enjoyed cooking liver, and made the best fried fish fillets. She had a little Poppin’ Fresh Dough Boy doll that hung out in the guest bathroom, that now has a home in my house.
A senior at Boston University, I learned of my gram’s diagnosis in the afternoon. I skipped my last class to see her. Luckily, I only lived seven miles from my family’s home and could visit often. It wouldn’t be long before I realized naivety. I never imagined that her cancer, with all her resilience, would take her from us just four months later on November 30, 1993. She was 80 years young.
While life, as it does, went on, our family never fully recovered. Gram was the foundation and her passing left a pretty deep crack. But, she is always with us. Most prevalently, Gram’s spirit was by my side when I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer in 2001. I went in for a biopsy on a Thursday, was told about my diagnosis on a Friday, pre-op Saturday, and surgery Monday. Can you say whirlwind? Cancer-free now, it made sure to leave its mark. Weight, mood, and energy fluctuations are just the tip of the iceburg. But, there isn’t a need to go into that here. Having spoken about my bout with cancer openly on my blog, I host Cooking to Combat Cancer every year, and try to participate in as many activities that promote awareness as I can. I was one of the lucky ones, residual issues or not. I am still here. So, any little thing I can do, whether donations to the ACA, wearing my LiveStrong, or participating in events live Barbara’s yearly LiveStrong blog event, or Frosting for a Cause. So, I am honored to share cupcakes with you today.
My contribution? Hummingbird cupcakes. Oddly enough, I never heard of hummingbird cake before I lived in the south. While not as hot as red velvet cake, hummingbird is quite the popular alternative. This day, instead of baking the cake, I made cupcakes. Why these particular cupcakes for this post?
The tiny hummingbird gets hold of its flight from the strength and movement if their wings. The wings are the Hummingbird’s lifeline, even with two inches wings. Regardless of their size, they must fly to get to their destination, thus Hummingbird’s move around solely because of their own power, which is achieved through take off.
My grandmother lived her last few months solely through their own mental power, even when her body gave out. Regardless after what was thrown at her, an open-shut surgery after they found the cancer spread too fast, drugs, etc., Gram didn’t bow down lightly. She remained positive and, in her worst days, spread sunshine and smiles onto her loved ones. These hummingbird cupcakes represent that sunshine. And, sunshine reminds me of yellow. Yellow reminds me of cancer and the need to continue awareness and support for the cause. So, I am frosting with a cause.
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple,
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
(about 5 bananas)
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
36 pieces of dried pineapple*
For the cake:
Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line of 36 muffin pans with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, then mix in pecans; set aside. Using a handheld/electric mixer, on high, beat the sugar, brown sugar, and eggs until smooth, 1 minute. Add crushed pineapples and juice, bananas, oil, and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add the flour/pecan mixture and mix on low speed until evenly combined.
With a small ice cream scoop, divide the batter evenly between the muffin pans. If needed, smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake cakes, rotating occasionally, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.
For the frosting:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and vanilla. Beat until creamy, 1–2 minutes more, scraping down the sides of the bowls as needed. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and continue mixing until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add the pecans and mix until incorporated.
When ready to frost, make sure that cupcakes have completely cooled before frosting to prevent the frosting from softening or melting. Carefully brush the top of the cupcake with a pastry brush or your finger to remove any crumbs that might be on the top of the cake.
When frosting with a spatula or rounded knife, make short strokes to spread the icing outward from the center. Then, work the icing in a circular motion, without letting the spatula touch the cupcake.
When frosting with a pastry bag, measure (if using a tip, like 1M) and cut the end of your pastry bag. Insert a tip before adding the frosting, and then fill the bag half way with frosting. Do not overfill. Twist the bag at the top of the frosting before piping to prevent any frosting from coming out the end. Hold tip approximately ¼” above cupcake top at a 90° angle to surface. Beginning at the outer edge, work inward and pipe a spiral of icing, ending in the center. Stop pressure before pulling the tip up and away.
Cake/cupcakes can remain covered, at room temperature for up to two days. Yields: 36
*I originally wanted to add slices of fresh, grilled pineapple as the garnish, but was afraid of the excess moisture. I will follow through with the caramelized garnish one day, when I am able to add the pineapple just before the cupcakes will be consumed.