Wednesday, September 25, 2013

carrot cake cupcakes.

The part I like most about being able to cook (fairly) well is that whenever a random craving strikes it's fairly easy for me to satisfy it within a short period of time.  

Take these carrot cake cupcakes which all started after I saw a slice of carrot cake in a diner in D.C. a few weeks ago.  The slice was over-sized in a way that only exists in diners.  The layer of frosting was thick and glossy, the cake was moist and studded with plump raisins and crunchy nuts.  I was dreaming about eating that slice while sitting at the diner counter a large glass of milk in one hand and a fork in the other.  Needless to say my carrot cake dreams were crushed when I realized we didn't have time for carrot cake.  (I am still bitter about that.)

These cupcakes are just as satisfying as a cake but they come in adorably individual sized portions which makes it super easy to share with your friends.  I love them because they are not cloyingly sweet (which I find some carrot cakes to be).  The frosting is rich and creamy and the cupcakes are chock-full of carrot and raisins and nuts (which is how all carrot cakes should be).  They also got a two-thumbs up from Mama bear which means they are really, really, good.  

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Recipe via Flour by Joanne Chang 

I halved this recipe with ease to make only 6 cupcakes since I've run out of freezer space and having 12 cupcakes around didn't seem like the most intelligent decisions.  (Sometimes I exhibit restraint.)  

For the carrot cake

2 eggs
1 cup (220 grams) packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (150 grams) canola oil
3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups (260 grams) tightly packed shredded carrots
1/2 cup (80 grams) raisins
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the cream cheese frosting

12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, left at room temperature for 4 hours
1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups (230 grams) confectioners' sugar

Make the carrot cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners). Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick. (This step will take 8–10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogenous. Pour the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake the cupcakes for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and springs back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Make the cream cheese frosting: While the cake is baking, put the cream cheese in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth. If you have forgotten to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator 4 hours in advance, you can soften it in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. Add the butter and continue to beat for another 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the confectioners' sugar. Beat for 1 more minute, or until well mixed. You should have about 3 1/2 cups.

Cover the frosting and refrigerate for 2–3 hours before using to allow it firm up enough to pipe and spread. (The frosting can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Remove cupcakes from the muffin tin. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch star tip and fill the bag with the frosting, then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Or, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an icing spatula.

The cupcakes can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It is best served a little cooler than room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours before serving. (it’s delicious straight from the fridge, too, so don't worry if you forget to pull it out in time.)

Note: Softening the cream cheese in the microwave might sound like a strange step, but I've learned if the cream cheese is at all cool, it will get lumpy when you try to combine it with the butter. Just 30 seconds in the microwave (or about 4 hours on a countertop) ensures that the cream cheese, butter, and sugar will blend together seamlessly to create the silkiest, creamiest frosting ever.

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