One of the benefits that comes along with learning to cook and/or bake is that you never have to buy presents for anyone ever again. Instead, you can just cook them their favorite meal or bake them their favorite treat. And usually, if the person is worth the sweat and toil, they will offer to share their present with you. This, my friends, is a true exemplification of the gift that keeps on giving.
It was my friend Anu's birthday this past Saturday and when I asked her what she wanted she promptly responded, "Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting." A girl after my own heart. Can you see why we are such good friends?
As fun as carrot cake is to make, I decided to go with cupcakes instead. My roommates and I were hosting a room party the night of Anu's birthday (actually we were the first stop on a room crawl - kind of like a pub crawl but with rooms in our apartment building) and it is much easier to serve cupcakes to large amounts of people than it is to serve cake. More of a self-contained chaos kind of deal.
So I spent Friday night grating 3 cups of carrots by hand and developing carpal tunnel syndrome and Saturday afternoon teaching myself how to pipe frosting out of a ziploc bag. In the end, though, it was all worth it because Anu almost fainted from happiness when she bit into the first one, proclaiming them the best carrot cupcakes she has ever eaten. I maintain that anything tastes good when you smother it with cream cheese frosting, but she's right. The cupcakes were pretty damn good.
Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 24, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots
1 lb neufchatel or regular cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake liners or grease the tins.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk the sugar and oil and applesauce in a second bowl until well-blended. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Mix the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the carrots.
3. Divide batter among cupcake molds. Bake for 14-18 minutes (longer for me - about 20-25 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing.
4. In a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioner's sugar, and maple syrup. Chill for at least 20 minutes and then pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.
NOTE - I like my cream cheese frosting to have a little bit of tang to it, which is why there isn't that much confectioner's sugar in it. Some people like a sweeter frosting and I have seen recipes that call for a whole box of confectioner's sugar. Add it based on your own taste.