Monday, 21 January 2013

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

When I was younger I thought carrot cake was gross. I also thought cream cheese was disgusting. WHO DID I THINK I WAS?!

Actually, a more correct statement would be when I was younger I thought any kind of cake other than chocolate cake was gross. I was born a chocoholic... and still am. Proudly.

My mother's birthday and mine are very close together and often times growing up, we would celebrate our birthdays with our extended family at the same time. To make us still feel unique and special, my dear Gran would bake two cakes, one for each of us! My mom's cake would be her favourite cake: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Mine was always Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (and Gran did indeed make the best). 

So obviously when it came time to have cake, I went for chocolate! Because what can be better than chocolate?? (I have found in life that the answer to this question is not rhetorical, and the answer is most often: nothing can be better than chocolate.)

Perhaps I never gave carrot cake a fair chance from the get go. I am pleased to say that over the years, I have given carrot cake many more tries, and I have discovered am actually a big fan! My tastebuds have matured like my parents promised they would and now I make carrot cake and cream cheese frosting and I LOVE IT. It has found its way in to my recipe repertoire.

Don't get me wrong, if I have a choice between carrot cake and chocolate cake, I gotta go for the chocolate. But now I totally appreciate a good carrot version: soft and tender with thin threads of bright orange ribboning through, warmly spiced and topped with a pure white, silky cream cheese frosting... I get it now.

Like many things in life, there are about a bajillion different variations for carrot cake... This recipe is what I would think of as a simple, classic version: no fancy frills or add ins. However it is easy to make it your own by adding in some fanciness. I would try folding chopped pecans into the batter before baking, or spiking to the frosting with maple syrup. But here is the basic, and mini is cuter so they are in cupcake form!

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha
For the cupcakes:

  • 1 pound of carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod (If you don't have a a vanilla bean pod, use 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
Whisk together the first 6 ingredients until combined. Sift over the remaining ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among paper lined cupcake tins, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake at 325 for about 23-28 minutes. (*If you are using mini muffins tins, I find that the baking time is about 15 minutes)
Transfer tins to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
Alternatively, I find these cupcakes unfrosted make a delicious mid afternoon snack with a tea or coffee :)

For the frosting:
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 oz butter
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Beat the cream cheese and the butter until soft. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.
Swirl the cream cheese frosting onto each cupcake and share with all your friends.

This totally counts as a serving of vegetables. And the frosting is a serving of dairy. Like a solid meal, right? Does this count??

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Pumpkin Pecan Cake

This cake was invented for a friend of mine who was having a birthday! I asked her what her dream birthday cake would be, and she said she loves pumpkin spice, and cream cheese frosting, and nuts. Good choice, my friend, good choice indeed. My friends have such great taste.
This is what I invented for her: A moist pumpkin spice cake, frosted with a maple cream cheese frosting and garnished with toasted pecans. For a little extra somethin' special, I adorned the top of her cake with a heart made from maple candied pecans (one of my favourite treats!).

With some help from her roommate, I snuck over to her house to surprise her with a (very belated) birthday cake! She promptly stopped her vacuuming and invited me to partake in a slice. And if I do say so myself... This cake was darn delicious.

It would be totally charming in cupcake form too, I think. A perfect cake for Autumn or winter weather! 

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's cupcake recipe

You will need:
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter milk
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree, or homemade if you have some kickin
Grease and flour two 8" round cake pans and set aside. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until each is incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Lastly, fold in the pumpkin puree. 

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake in a 350 oven for anywhere between 25-35 minutes. Oven times may vary! Depending on how crazy your oven is. Regardless, your cake is done when:
a) you poke it gently and it kind of spongily springs back in response or...
b)when you insert a skewer or a toothpick, and it comes out clean , not all battery.

Try not to over bake it, because over baking is the number one crime in the kitchen. However if you find that your cake is a little dry, don't beat yourself up... that's what frosting is for! On that note...

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

You will need:

  • 1 cup (8 ounce package) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter
  • 4 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1/4 tsp maple extract
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
Cream the cream cheese and the butter together. On low speed, gradually add in the icing sugar a bit at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the extracts and the maple syrup, then beat the frosting on a medium high speed until fluffy and delicious. :)

Candied Pecans

Pecan halves
Maple syrup
pinch of salt

I don't really give measurements, because I find that they are not required. Just use as many pecans as you want, and make sure they are evenly covered with a thin layer of syrup. The only real way to mess this up is to forget them in the oven.

Combine all of the ingredients and toss about on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about ten minutes until your house smells yummy, and the syrup has candied itself onto the pecans as if by magic!
Try not to eat them all before they make it onto the cake... this is easier said than done.

Long live the Pumpkin Spice.
<3 Lari