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Signature Dish: Food truck's coconut bars

Kathy Gonya, left, and Mary Kay Oney-Hatt, sisters who own Sweet Ida Mae’s Bakery, hold a dish of Aunt Jane’s Coconut Bars.

Kathy Gonya, left, and Mary Kay Oney-Hatt, sisters who own Sweet Ida Mae’s Bakery, hold a dish of Aunt Jane’s Coconut Bars. JIM DAMASKE, Times

WHO: Sisters Mary Kay Oney-Hatt, 57, and Kathy Gonya, 54, of Safety Harbor, owners of Sweet Ida Mae's Bakery (have pink food truck, will travel).

WHAT: Coconut Bars

ABOUT THE BAKERS: In her dream, Kathy Gonya wiped the flour from her shirt and peered through the screen door. She had just baked a batch of cocoa drop cookies for her niece, who was sitting outside. She felt happier than she had been in years.

And then she woke up.

Most people would turn over and forget about that dream. But Kathy is not most people — and, besides, her dreams of being a baker persisted.

One day, she called her sister and said, "I had the same dream. I'm going to pastry school."

Meanwhile, Gonya's sister, Mary Kay Oney-Hatt, who had lost her job to budget cuts, was also having sweet dreams in which the same bakery always appeared with homemade cakes in the windows and her sister baking beside her.

"We didn't want to wait until we were old," she said. "We didn't want to have regrets."

About four years ago, they decided to take their show on the road. They bought a 1985 bomb squad truck and converted it into a pink food truck, named it after their great-great-grandmother, Ida Mae, and started taking it to sell their treats at farmers markets, catering events or to libraries where they gave cooking demos.

Find their locations at

ABOUT THE RECIPE: The sisters — two of seven children — grew up in Fremont, Ohio, a small town near Lake Erie in the northwest corner of the state. Every morning on their way to school, they bought coconut bars — vanilla cake, drizzled with chocolate and coated with coconut — from a local bakery.

Their Aunt Jane asked the bakery for the recipe and they gave it to her. The recipe remains one of their favorites.

"What's nice is they last for probably a week," Kathy said. "They even taste better two or three days later because the chocolate seeps into the coconut."

TIPS: Have fun decorating them. For the holiday season, use cookie cutters to cut them into stars. For Valentine's Day, turn them into heart shapes and dye the coconut pink. Just make sure the coating of warm chocolate has hardened before you cut. "Once you get the chocolate on there, you have to chill it, and when you're cutting the bars the cake should be almost frozen," they suggested. "Stick it in the freezer to get it hardened up."

Emily Young, Times correspondent

Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please email the information to with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.


Aunt Jane's Coconut Bars

For the cake:

1 ¼ cups cake flour

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk

1 egg

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the topping:

1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon water

1 (14-ounce) bag of sweetened coconut chopped fine

For the cake: In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together with a mixer the buttermilk, egg and butter. Add creamy mixture to dry mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees in a well-greased, 9- by 13-inch cake pan until golden on top, about 30 minutes.

Place cake in freezer until firm and cool. Cut into bars the size you want or use a cookie cutter to make shaped "bars." Place on a cooling rack, leaving space between each piece, and chill again.

For the topping: Combine chocolate chips, the sugars, the whipping cream and water in a large pan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Bring to a boil, cook and stir constantly for 1 minute, then reduce heat to medium, stirring until lumps are gone, about half an hour. Drizzle the chocolate over each bar or dip the bars in the chocolate mixture to coat.

Add coconut to the top and sides before chocolate sets. Work fast. Place in an airtight container and keep chilled.

Serves about 15.

Note: It is important to keep the cake chilled and the chocolate warm. If the chocolate hardens, return pan to low heat to warm. Be careful not to burn the chocolate. Start at a low heat and increase heat as needed.

Source: Sweet Ida Mae's Bakery

Signature Dish: Food truck's coconut bars 01/27/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 27, 2014 5:05pm]
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