Let’s kick off this relaunch with my all-time favorite dessert. Carrot Cake. I’m not sure if it’s the spicy cake or the tangy cream cheese frosting, but to me, it’s just the best. Even my wedding cake was Carrot Cake. This recipe is an adapted version of The Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Cake. I cut the recipe in half for a dozen cupcakes, but I also reduced the oil and tweaked the dry ingredients a little.
This recipe will come together much more easily if you work mise en place. This is a French culinary term, which means “put in place”. Basically, have all of your ingredients prepared before you start. Cut your pineapple and grate your carrots right after you turn on the oven to preheat. Better yet, if they sell bags of shredded carrots at your grocery store, grab one. Use any extra carrots in a salad or tomato sauce. But first, cupcakes…
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
Makes 1 Dozen
1 cup (217 g) sugar
⅔ cup (150 ml) vegetable oil
1 egg (room temp)
1 egg yolk (room temp)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups (170 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (80 g) golden raisins
½ cup (56 g) chopped walnuts
½ cup (80 g) diced pineapple
1½ cups (151 g) grated/shredded carrots (about 3 large)
Preheat convection oven to 350°. If using a conventional oven, preheat to 325°. Put paper liners in a standard sized muffin pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt. In a small bowl, toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 teaspoon of flour. This will keep the ingredients from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake.
Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients, a little at a time until well combined. Fold in the raisins, walnuts, pineapple and carrots with a spatula.
Spoon batter evenly into pan. Cups should be approximately 3/4 filled. Bake cupcakes for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes and then run a butter knife around the cupcake edge to loosen from the pan. Place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely.
While cupcakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. When cupcakes are completely cooled, you can decorate. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. If you have leftover frosting, you can store in an airtight container and freeze up t0 3 months.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. (225 g) cream cheese (room temp)
4 oz. (113 g) unsalted butter (room temp)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (375 g) powdered sugar
(*) Add a tablespoon or two of milk if too thick.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter until thoroughly combined and smooth. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. If consistency is too thick, add milk or half and half a Tablespoon at a time, until it’s smooth.
Spoon the frosting into a large piping bag or large plastic freezer bag. You don’t need a special tip for the frosting decoration pictured. I used the Wilton #1A (pictured below), but cutting a hole in the piping bag will give you the same look. Place tip of bag in the center above the cupcake. Squeeze until desired amount comes out. Top with a carrot decoration. Be gentle as carrots may be fragile.
(*) The little carrot decorations are obviously optional. Very cute, but require a drying time of 48 hours. If you’d like to learn how to make, continue reading. If you’re okay without the carrots, this is the end of the instructions 😉
(*) Carrot Decorations
These carrots were made this morning with Royal Icing. I’m tired of orange and green carrots, so I made blue carrots instead. These are easy to make, but do take a little time to dry completely. You can make a couple of weeks in advance. Any leftovers will keep for months in an airtight container at room temperature. You will need a few disposable piping bags, plastic wrap, plastic couplers and the following decorating tips: # 352 leaf tip and a #12 round tip.
3 cups (375 g) powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons (17 g) meringue powder
6-8 Tablespoons water
Place powered sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Add 3 Tablespoons of water and mix. Scrape down bowl and add 2 Tablespoons water. Mix well. Add 1 more tablespoon of water.
Mix on medium-high for 7 minutes.
Color is up to you. Place a couple of spoonfuls of white icing into a small bowl. Add orange food coloring for carrots. The gels are better, but you can use the liquid food coloring, just keep in mind it may thin out your frosting. Add a little bit of white icing to another bowl, color with green food gel. You won’t need as much of this color, but leftover icing is great for shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day or keep on making carrots since Easter isn’t that far off. Bunny head sugar cookies with these carrots would be adorable and a great activity to do with little ones. Prep everything a day or so ahead of time and you’ll have plenty of time to play.
If you have leftover frosting and want to reuse, place a damp paper towel directly onto the frosting surface. This will keep it from drying out. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator. Should keep for a couple of days, but change paper towel every day.
Here’s a quick picture tutorial on how to easily get icing into a piping bag. Or click this link to watch a cheery instructional video.
Lay a large piece of parchment paper or wax paper onto a baking sheet. Pipe carrots directly onto paper, using the round tip. Play around with different shapes. I made both of those blue carrot shapes with the same tip. Pipe the leafy part directly onto the carrot. I found a picture with orange swirly carrots, too 🙂 Let the decorations sit out and dry at room temperature for 48 hours. Cover very loosely with plastic wrap. Remove decorations from paper and place in an airtight container.
I really like to use Royal icing, but my decorations don’t look consistent. The icing in the picture on the left is brighter and thinner than I would normally use and the colors bled into each other. The carrot icing on the right is more pastel in color, much thicker and the leaves are separate. I like them both.
Here are a couple of links to other blogs that were helpful when I first made Royal Icing. Have fun!