Sunday, February 7, 2010
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
And now for the second installment on cakes. This time, cupcakes! But not just any kind of cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes! These are my all time favorite, and the weird thing is, I don't really care for carrots on their own. Although many think that carrot cake is an "adult cake," kids will like this version as well. No raisins and no nuts (yuck!) But, if you are a real adult, you can certainly add them to the recipe. I got the base recipe from smittenkitchen (great site for recipes), and altered it a little bit to fit my tastes. It's a really simple recipe but it yields great results. There are also just general cupcake tips if you have a different recipe you prefer. Read on!
So for carrot cake you've got to have two elements; first the cake, and then the cream cheese frosting. If you don't have the latter, well, no one will like your cupcakes :).
Here's the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots (and nuts/raisings, if using). Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.
Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.
And here's the great twist on the frosting: maple!
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.
So let's start with the cake. First of all, if you have a food processor, you'll want to use it for the carrots. Once peeled, cut then into 2-3 inch peices and plop them in there. Grind it on pulse (so you can control how fast and how long it chops for, so you don't end up with carrot juice, which has happened to me on more than one occasion.) You want your carrot pieces to be small because no one likes crunchy carrot cake (see photo). If you don't have a food processor, then you can grate them with one of those large cheese graters, or even mince them all by hand, but that will take a very long time and you will probably never want to make this ever again.
So you've got your carrots, and then you want to get your dry ingredients ready in a separate bowl. Then mix the sugars and the oil. They have to be incorporated completely, forming a sludge (see photo). Then you'll want to crack eggs in, one at a time, meaning to incorporate one egg into the sludge before adding the other.
Now, maybe you have a strategy for cracking eggs, and maybe you don't. But if shells are a constant problem for you, here's a tip: crack your eggs on a flat surface (counter) not an edged surface (bowl). Why? Have you ever noticed that thin almost skin-like layer underneath the shell? Well that is your friend. If you crack on an edge and break that skin and separate shells from that skin, well then its up to chance whether those shells get in your batter. But by breaking it on a flat surface, the shell fragments remain attached to the skin, and never come off (well, almost never). This technique has always worked for me.
Now, you mix all the separate ingredients together, according to the instructions, and your batter is ready. So now it's you versus the cupcake tray. One of my friends mentioned to me that she hates making cupcakes because not only is it a huge mess getting the batter into the individual cups, but that all of the cups come out different heights no matter how close she tries to get them. I agree--those things are very annoying. And here is how we fix that. An ice cream scoop.
If you have an ice cream scoop that has one of those metal pieces inside that rotates to clear the ice cream out (I have a smaller version as well for dropping cookies onto cookie sheets), you are in luck. You have the perfect tool to lessen your cupcake-making stress. Even if your scooper is just a level half-sphere it will help you out. By scooping the batter over its bowl, and then putting it into each cup with the scoop, you have a pretty perfect measuring cup and a less messy way of transporting the batter. Try this next time. I had a small scoop, so I put two scoops in each cup, and the results are below. They are pretty even and definitely the most even batch I've made.
Cupcakes complete. Now for the frosting--this is the easiest and best tasting frosting ever. The tips I have for this are the same as I had earlier for my other cake frostings: make sure the butter is at room temperature, as well as the cream cheese. These bases need to be soft or you'll have lumps in your frosting (it will still taste good though). Also, incorporate the fats (cream cheese, butter) a little before adding the powdered sugar so it doesn't spray out of the bowl and onto you during mixing. After trying this recipe a number of times, I found that there wasn't enough maple flavor for me, so I put about 2 TBSP more maple syrup, and I preferred it. But you can do as you like.
If you don't feel like getting out your cake decorating supplies (or don't have them) put the frosting in a ziplock bag, and force all the frosting into one of the bottom corners. After refrigerating, cut of a small part of the corner, and make a swirl with the frosting on top of the cupcake. Yours can and will be much prettier than mine (cut way too big of a hole at the corner).
To recap the tips for this recipe.:
1. Shred carrots small to avoid raw carrots in final cupcakes.
2. Crack eggs on flat surface if you have problems with egg shells dropping in your batter.
3. Use an ice cream scooper to help you limit the mess and get even sized cupcakes.
4. Make sure cream cheese and butter are soft before making frosting.
5. Add a little extra maple syrup to the frosting if you hope to get a kick of maple flavor.
Bring them to your next party, or make them for someone special. I promise that they will convert any carrot cake haters in your life.