Today, I bring you another dish that includes a vegetable I’ve harvested from my edible garden. I pulled the first bunch of lovely “Round Romeo” carrots this week, which I planted back in October. At the time I sowed the seeds, their uncommon round shape intrigued me and looking back, I think I planted them primarily for their novelty. However, upon tasting them, I was pleasantly surprised by these smooth-skinned carrots and their sweet flavor and crunchy texture; they are delicious! I used a couple of them for these cupcakes, along with some regular carrots I already had on hand. I am going to steam the rest and toss them with a little butter and chives to fully enjoy their uniqueness and flavor.
I really like carrot cake, but inexplicably, I have never thought to make it until now. I don’t really care for versions that include pineapple, applesauce, or raisins so I chose this cupcake recipe from the Food Network website that is free of all those ingredients. I must admit that a huge reason why I am such a fan of carrot cake is because of the traditional cream cheese frosting used to ice them and these cupcakes seem like a good vehicle for the massive quantities of frosting I plan to devour. Since it is the height of citrus season, I added some orange zest and juice to the cake batter and to the icing. These orange-laced cupcakes turned out so moist, full of flavor and absolutely yummy! They’re perfect in the morning for breakfast or as a sweet ending to meal. They are my new favorite things to make (and eat).
The one little hiccup I had with this recipe was with the candied carrot topping. The strips of carrot came out of the oven way too sticky to handle or to arrange into any sort of attractive shape before hardening. They were difficult to eat and stuck to my teeth. I like the idea of this topping, though, since they add great color and crunch so I’ll keep working on getting them right. Suggestions are warmly welcomed.
Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 12 cupcakes
For the Topping:
1 medium carrot
3/4 cup granulated sugar
For the Cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
zest of one orange
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Orange Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/8 cup honey (or to taste)
1 cup powdered sugar
To make the topping, peel long ribbons from the carrot using a vegetable peeler, then slice the ribbons lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strands (you’ll need about 12). Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Bring the granulated sugar and 3/4 cup water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot strands and simmer until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Arrange the strands on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until dry, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely.
To make the cupcakes, raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Put the flour, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and orange zest in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Set aside.
Whisk the grated carrots, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Divide among the muffin cups, filling each three-quarters of the way. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans to cool completely.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter, orange juice and honey in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in two additions, beating until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for at least one hour to set. Pipe or spread on the cupcakes. Top with the candied carrots.
Adapted from the Food Network Magazine
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