Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When carrots are cheap...

D. and I found ourselves with a bag of carrots and weren't sure what to do with them. The first thing we came up with was easy. Cut the carrots into smaller pieces, drizzle with really good olive oil (I busted out the Pasolivo for this) and honey, and strip a few fresh branches of thyme. Toss together in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake until tender.

As for the rest, I had a sudden craving for carrot cake. We didn't have enough carrots for a cake, so I made cupcakes. The original recipe, from Maida Heatter and reprinted in Kathryn Kleinman's Birthday Cakes, makes one 9-inch 3-layer cake. I halve the recipe and it produced exactly one dozen cupcakes. They come out dark, but absolutely delicious. D. and I are purists and don't like our carrot cake sullied by walnuts or raisins, so we omitted them.

Carrot Cupcakes
(Recipe from Maida Heatter via Birthday Cakes by Kathryn Kleinman)

Recipe halved from original

For cupcakes:

2 cups shredded carrots (approximately 1/2 pound whole carrots)
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 plus 1/8 cup corn oil
3/4 cup walnuts, optional
1/2 cup raisins, optional

For cream cheese icing:

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake wrappers. If using, steam the raisins for 10 minutes. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa together. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until blended. Beat in vanilla, both sugars, and oil. Turn the speed to low and add dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. Stir in carrots, raisins (if using), and nuts (if using). Spring-loaded scoops work very well for distributing the batter into the muffin tin, but a ladle will work just fine. Fill the cups evenly and bake 25-30 minutes or until the tops spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip. Remove cupcakes from the oven, cool enough to handle, and very gently move the cupcakes to a rack.

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Incorporate vanilla and confectioners' sugar slowly on low speed. Beat until smooth.

I find that these cupcakes are best after being refrigerated for a little while. Once cool, move the cupcakes into the refrigerator for 1 hour or so. Ice and serve.

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