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Coconut cream is a great treat for your Valentine's Day sweetheart

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. What are you going to do for your sweetheart? Dinner out or maybe a quiet evening at home for the two of you. Of course, sentimental cards will be exchanged.
   I don't know what today's official, or unofficial, school policy is regarding valentines. In the 1950s, it meant you gave a valentine to everyone in class, and it didn't matter if you didn't like some people. It wasn't nice, or fair, to single out your friends for cards and leave others cardless. We just weren't allowed to hurt anyone's feelings. I think that's a pretty good policy. I used to make my own valentines. I didn't want mine to be like everyone else's; I didn't want them to come from the 5-and-10 store down on Lake Street. I used red, pink and white construction paper, white paper doilies, bits of ribbon, glitter, and I made each one different.
   I was an overachiever even then. Maybe it was because I lived in a small town and went to a small school, or maybe I've embellished my memory of those years, but it seems like we were all pretty nice to each other most of the time, not just on Valentine's Day.
   That seems like a pretty good policy, too, if not a life philosophy. Valentine's Day requires dessert, and everyone will think you're very nice if you make something yummy.
   My sweetheart loves coconut cake and coconut cream pie. Well, so do I, but this is Valentine's Day so it's really for him, and it's just a happy coincidence that I'm a coconut fan, too. I came up with this recipe for Coconut Cream Cake by combining the best of several other cake recipes. You can lower the fat and calories by using fat-free or light ingredients, and you won't sacrifice any of the taste.
   Cream of coconut is not the same thing as coconut milk that's found in the Asian food section of the grocery store and used in Thai cooking. You'll find cream of coconut in the drink mixers section, where margarita mix is. Sometimes it will separate in the can, but it's still OK to use. This recipe makes a big cake, so you can stretch Valentine's Day out all week.
   How very nice!
   
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte. She thinks her husband, Ron, is her best valentine ever. Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . "Cooking from the heart of Oregon"
   
   Coconut Cream Cake
   
   Plan ahead - needs to chill. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x13-inch baking pan.
   
   1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
   3 eggs
   1/3 cup vegetable oil
   8 ounces sour cream (can use low-fat)
   1/3 cup water
   1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
   14-ounce cream of coconut
   14-ounce sweetened condensed milk (can use fat-free)
   18-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained (you can use less than the full can, if you like)
   
   Frosting
   1 cup cold milk
   1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
   1 package (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding
   1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
   8-ounce container Cool Whip (can use light or fat-free)
   1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
   
   In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, oil, sour cream, water and coconut extract. Beat for 2 minutes; then pour into 9x13-inch pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
   In a medium bowl, combine cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk, and stir until smooth (a wire whisk works well). After removing cake from oven, poke holes all over it with a large fork or a chopstick. Pour milk mixture evenly over the cake, letting it run into all the holes and down the sides. Allow to cool completely. Gently spread crushed pineapple over top of cake.
   To make frosting, combine milk and coconut extract in a small bowl; add pudding mix and confectioner's sugar. Beat with electric mixer or whisk until well blended, about 1 minute. Let sit a couple of minutes. Fold in Cool Whip and spread over cake. Sprinkle shredded coconut over the top. Chill several hours or overnight.