four summers ago, i had a friend in dire need of a birthday party. my hpff and i asked him what his favorite flavor cake was and he didn't hesitate on his carrot cake response. being that my specialty at the time was all things out of a box and her specialty was any and everything in the kitchen besides baking, we had to beg for assistance. we wanted this cake to be really special for our friend and knew that meant we had to bake it with our own blood, sweat and tears (minus the blood, the sweat and the tears of course).
it was a hot saturday morning in a small kitchen in florida where we found kathy, a woman who knows how to work a spatula and a recipe. kathy had already found the perfect recipe in her worn-in ina garten cookbook for carrot cake cupcakes. we swooned at the cuteness this would create. mostly expecting to be a spectator in adorable aprons, we soon realized that we were being taught how to bake with step-by-step instructions. grate this, chop that, sift here, measure there. it really was a white powdered blur at the time.
we left that afternoon with twenty-four cupcakes for our friend's twenty-sixth birthday and a whole heap of pride on our shoulders. tucked away in my finally-broken-in apron that day was a special recipe i held onto for years- when in need of something delicious and homemade, go to a friend for help. sure, it was a little cynical, but after seeing how long it took to make the from scratch version i knew boxed cakes were more for me.
now four years later, this same friend was coming to visit my husband, his best friend, and i in memphis. being that i'm a baking queen of three weeks, i texted him to see what his favorite cake flavor was. i had forgotten that birthday four years ago until he texted "carrot cake" and it all came rushing back. when searching for carrot cake recipes to try, i ran across ina garten's carrot cake cupcakes and knew it was destiny. with my own spatula now, i was passing myself the baking torch and challenge of doing this on my own. still wearing the same anthropologie apron i did four years prior, i set out to make them just as good by myself.
here is the recipe i followed to an s (not quite to a t):
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
For the frosting:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electricmixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
Line muffin pans with paper liners. Scoop the batter into 22 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for a further 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and serve.
after some internet research, most people said the recipe called for a longer baking time than necessary and to check with a toothpick far before the additional thirty-five minutes are up. i did just that and pulled them out twenty minutes before miss ina thought they should be and they turned out fabulous.
for the fluffy, cream cheese frosting, i had my husband vote on spatula application versus piping it on. he went with using the frosting bag. instead of worrying with a tip, i snipped off the end at a wide angle and just piped the frosting out in heaping amounts.
these little beauties were a hit with not only my husband, but also his best friend. i like to tell myself that they're healthy being that they are composed of veggies, fruit, nuts and dairy products. it's like a little food pyramid in cupcake form. ok ok...i know they're not exactly the epitome of healthy eating, but man are they good!