Mariana's Birthday Celebration!
Who won’t remember their first time baking a batch of cupcakes?! Flour dust in every corner, lots of spoons outside the drawers and a sticky kitchen floor because all of the sugar and water that is continually falling around while we go in depth into the procedures list that chances are has little to do with the real work we are doing. The recipe says that in 1 hour you’ll be devouring them and 3 hours later you still have a kitchen in distress and a belly impatiently waiting for its sweets. But at the end, all the mess and the waiting fade into the background when you finally sit down and taste your work.
Some cupcakes down the road and we are seasoned bakers. Or at least we feel like we are! Our confidence has spurt up so we started to include them more in our cooking repertoire, because every special ocassion deserves one of your delicious cupcakes, right?!
A couple of weeks ago was one of these special ocassions for us. It was Mariana’s birthday, yeiii!! She was turning 12 and I was turning a nostalgic mamma thinking that I have no baby anymore. She is oficially a tween now. From there my mind started heading to memory lane. I tought about those sleepless nights the first couple of months, when you look at the mirror and there is no way you could recognize yourself on the reflection or the first time that she smiled, a moment we were waiting anxiously and happened when she was almost 3 years. To this day, her smile and laugh is something we celebrate everytime. I tought also about the time she ate for the first time something I didn’t cook myself. It was a delicious mini carrot cupcake. And that is why I’m baking carrot cupcakes for her birthday yet again.
Mariana had never tasted a cupcake, nor any type of cake for that matter, until 2 years ago when I experimented with some mini carrot cupcakes from our neighboorhood cupcake shop. That was the time when cupcake shops started rising around and everybody was having fun visiting them. This one in particular is a tiny space filled with pinks and a sweet smell, and through the side of the counter you could see the cupcakes workshop where, as mentioned in the firtst paragraph, flour dust were in every corner and white sugar lumps were crowning every available surface. I loved that shop instantly and, even though Mariana has some everyday challanges with eating and going out, I want her to be part of the fun too. I decided then that a mini carrot cupcake was healthy and big enough for her. I kind of mashed the cupcake with a little bit of frosting and some homemade almond milk and she loved it. The only thing was that I couldn’t actually “mash” the walnuts and carrot pieces to give it to her, which is a little bit ironic, don’t you think?! What she ended up having was more of a spiced cake.
It occured to me then to integrate the carrots and walnuts in the mix, that way she would be taking advantage of the many benefits from the carrots and walnuts nutrients. What I do is grind some walnuts and then add some boiled carrot pieces to create a smooth paste. Not only is this a way to include these two obvious components of carrot cupcakes on Mariana’s batch, but they also provide sooooo much moist and flavor, it's really a complete and delicious take off from the traditional recipe. I get amazing compliments every time I make this carrot cupcakes recipe, because it's different with an unexpected twist. They are truly moist and flavorful and, with the coconut oil and plain greek yougurt, filled with good for you things. And you basically make everything on the food processor, no messes around the kitchen or soreness on your arms the next day. And the maple cream cheese frosting that I made using pure maple cream is to die for! You have to put them on your recipe to do list. I know you are going to love them as much as my daughter does and they will be on your favorites list.
Some recipe notes to walk you through:
1. It's always a good idea to read the complete recipe first, especially when baking. That way you could follow some particular order of procedures that will help you not to make a big mess (see paragraph #1!) and take out any special equipment you may need, which means the ones that you store in the less accesible areas of your kitchen.
2. Put away the stuff and clean as you go. This could take a couple of minutes but really makes a difference when you finish your baking.
3. If you have a medium size food processor, skip the step where you return the flour mix to the food processor cup and leave it on the bowl. Just combine in the food processor the carrots and walnuts with all the other wet ingredients, then make a well in the center of the flour bowl and mix the wet ingredients in three addings without overmixing.
4. Do not soften the butter on the microwave. There are always particles that will become liquid and this will affect the final texture of the frosting.
5. Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool. Pour a very chilled glass of milk and saveur.
6. Repeat the last point for the next 2 days!!!
16 to 18 cupcakes
Total time – 50 minutes (including cooking time of the carrots) Active time – 15 minutes
Equipment – Cupcake pan, cupcake liners, medium or large food processor
Sliced carrots, boiled without salt - ¾ cup (2 medium carrots approximately)
Unbleached wheat flour - 2 ¾ cup
Baking powder – 1 Tsp
Baking soda - 1 Tsp
Ground cinnamon - ½ Tsp
Ground nutmeg - ¼ Tsp
Kosher salt - ¾ Tsp
Walnuts - ½ cup
Natural sugar - 1 ½ cup
Black sugar, pressed - ½ cup
Large eggs – 3
Greek plain yogurt – ¾ cup
Coconut oil – 8 oz
Preheat oven to 325°.
Boil the sliced carrots until they are completely soft and reserve ¾ of the cup.
In the food processor bowl pour the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda and pulse various times consecutively until everything is integrated. Pass it to a medium bowl.
Again, in the food processor bowl, pour the walnuts and grind until they are finely minced, from 1 to 2 minutes. Add the boiled carrots and process for 1 minute, reincorporate the content that adhered to the wall of the bowl and process for 1 to 2 additional minutes. Verify that the content is integrated. You may still see little pieces of carrots, that’s okay.
Add the flour mix to the food processor bowl (see recipe notes) and process for 1 minute until everything is integrated. Add to this the sugars, the eggs and the yogurt. Process for 2 minutes and then, with the processor running, start to slowly integrate the coconut oil through the bowl aperture. Process for 2 to 3 additional minutes, until the mix looks homogeneous.
Place the cupcake liners in the cupcake pan. With an ice-cream scoop or a measuring cup fill ¾ of the cupcake liners, leaving the border free so the mix has space to grow (see picture #7). If you are using two pans fill with a little bit of water the empty spaces. If you only have one cupcake pan, save the remaining mix to bake later. Bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and let it cool for various minutes. Take the cupcakes out of the pan and fill with the remaining mix, filling with water the empty spaces and bake for 30 minutes. You can also freeze the remaining mix for up to 3 months in a plastic freezer bag. Let them cool before decorating.
Cream cheese and maple frosting
1 ½ cup to decorate
Total time – 25 minutes Active time – 15 minutes
Equipment – Electric hand mixer
Cream cheese, at room temperature, in pieces - (regular o 1/3 less fat) – 12 oz (1 ½ package)
Unsalted butter, at room temperature - 1 cup (16 TBSP or 2 sticks)
Icing sugar – 2 ¼ cups sieved through a strainer
Pure maple cream – 2 TBSP
Note: This quantity of frosting is to heavily frost the cupcakes. If you are only going to frost them moderately you can do it with half the ingredients and the same procedure.
In a deep bowl add the butter at room temperature and start to whip using the electric hand mixer with the whipping attachment in medium speed until the butter is creamy and with some air integrated, 3 minutes. Lower the speed and add the sugar in three addings. Raise again to medium speed and whip for 2 additional minutes, verifying that everything is well mixed. Lower the speed and add the cream cheese in pieces and continue whipping. Add the maple cream and whip a little more. When everything is well mixed raise the speed to medium high and whip for 4 to 5 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. Frost the cupcakes with a spatula or a piping bag.
This method of integrating the sugar with the butter at the beginning will prevent that the frosting ends being too runny, like it happens with some recipes of this type of frosting.