If I understand food media correctly, cupcakes have fallen from their formerly-superior position in culinary popularity, now that the cooking programs devoted to sugar have peaked and the food industry has decided to market pretzels. It is endlessly interesting to me, if discouraging, how marketing dominates our food choices instead of our health.
But there is one treat that is almost universally popular, and it is not as bad for the diet as the creations of whoever won the sugar contest. And by the way, if you follow the chef competitions, you'll notice that excellence is no longer sexy, and instead the programs are trending to unethical behavior and cheating (isn't that just fine for someone who is making food for you to eat?).
But one thing I still like is carrot cake; it is a humble comfort food, and the earthy appeal of carrots and spices cannot be taken away without leaving you with something that isn't really carrot cake. So when I found this recipe for cupcakes using a carrot-cake recipe, I thought how nice it would be for those who like the autumn flavors that are right around the corner as we approach the Holiday season, which it seems is everyone's favorite time of year.
This recipe also features a glorious frosting that you can translate to other things. One dessert that goes very well with cream-cheese frosting is the type of chocolate cake that is made with mayonnaise. The edge of the cake's flavor is set off by the creamy tang of this frosting. Thanks to Taste of Home for a recipe that will be a sensation.
By the way, I was shopping at Walmart in Tucson--the new one near Costco off Interstate 10--and I saw a display in the kitchen area that features a little apparatus that cores cupcakes. If you want to put a filling (or extra frosting) in a cupcake, you no longer have to mail-order to get one. Cupcake corers are here to stay, which means that we can be sure that you'll also find them in stores like Target and Kmart, as well as the higher-end department stores in Tucson's malls.
From Taste of Home
1-1/2 cups all-purpose or Spelt flour
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil such as canola or safflower
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely-shredded carrots
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup fine-chopped walnuts
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter at room temperature
1 ounce white baking chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 Tablespoon cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, begin beating the sugars with the oil. While it is going, combine all the dry ingredients other than the sugar in another bowl and whisk them together.
After the sugar and oil are combined, beat in the eggs until they are thoroughly combined. Finally beat in the vanilla.
Lower the mixing speed to Low or Fold and mix the dry ingredients quickly. When you can no longer see any streaks in the batter, fold in the carrots, pineapple and walnuts.
Fill the muffin cups of your baking pan 3/4 full and bake them for about 25 minutes, or until they test done. Cool them in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool while you make the frosting.
Beat the cream cheese and butter until they are smooth and then add the chocolate, cream and extracts. Beat in the confectioners' sugar slowly until the frosting is smooth. Frost the cupcakes and garnish them with more chopped or ground walnuts and store refrigerated until you serve.
If you don't plan to serve these cupcakes the same day, freeze them unfrosted and prepare the frosting shortly before serving. Bring the cupcakes to room temperature or slightly cool before frosting.
Do not microwave the cupcakes either before or after frosting in an effort to warm them. Microwaving has a tendency to make delicate baked goods tough and hard. It is much better to allow the cupcakes to warm in the normal kitchen temperature.