Sunday, August 29, 2010

Carrot Cake (or cupcakes) with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm going to start this with a giant apology for the 2 month hiatus in posting- I survived the worst semester ever, I've moved and my best friend got married last weekend, so life was a wee bit busy! On the plus side, I'm now on the other side of all that and even though classes have started again, I can't imagine it will be nearly as bad as this summer. I have 3 recipes ready to go from the summer, so hopefully some rapid-fire posts will make up for the two months I was absent.

New kitchen to break in!

I've spent a lot of time looking for a fantastic carrot cake recipe. I've tried several in the past and none of them were as good as I wanted them to be. I was going to birthday/Easter brunch at my friend Michaela's and her mom had made this cake for her -- and it kicked my sad little coffee cake's tuckus! It's incredibly moist and fruity, which matches well with the carrots. Shockingly, it actually tastes best when made with all applesauce instead of oil- crazy, right?! So the moral of this delicious story, is that you can have your cake and eat it too, because it's mostly fruit and veggies with very little fat. Even with the cream cheese frosting doesn't do much damage in comparison most other recipes out there. So shred some carrots and enjoy!

*A note about shredding the carrots: after many attempts with carrot cake recipes, I think I've found the most efficient way to get the shredded carrot component. First of all, start with the big carrots- shredding baby carrots does more damage to your fingers than it does to the carrots! On this last attempt, I tried continuing to peel the carrot after the initial outside layers were off and then chopping the shred at the end, which seemed to be speedier than using a grater.

Carrot Cake (makes a 9x13" cake or 24 cupcakes)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Grease and flour a 9x13" baking pan or cupcake pan.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat the sugar, applesauce and eggs together until well mixed.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.
5. Fold in carrots, pineapple, coconut, walnuts, raisins and vanilla.
6. Pour the batter into a pan of choice and bake. A 9x13 cake takes 1 hour. Check the cupcakes after 15 minutes, they're done when a toothpick comes out of them cleanly - my oven runs high, so my time may be off).
7. When they're cool, frost with cream cheese frosting or dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese -- don't bother going below the 1/3 reduced fat versions, it just doesn't taste right!
4 tbs butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1. Soften the cream cheese slightly.
2. Beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer.
3. Carefully beat in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.
4. Mix in the flavoring of your choice.

*Vanilla is the traditional flavoring for this frosting but I was out when I made them, so I substituted almond extract instead. It gave the frosting a slightly more tart flavor that if vanilla extract would have been used, which was a great change-up and very well-received.

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