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Archive for May, 2007

Take two of these and call me in the morning.

Yep, these cupcakes turned out to be delicious…AND nutritious, according to some. To all, a unanimous favorite.

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I was searching for recipes on Epicurious when a list for the top five recipes of all time caught my attention. One of the recipes was the double layer chocolate cake that I had mentioned previously. Another was a recipe for a triple-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I recalled making this cake before, so I rummaged through my nicely “organized” stack of recipe print-outs. Folded and slightly rumpled, it looked like it had been put to good use.

I changed the recipe a little, in an attempt to make it more accommodating for cupcakes. The recipe for the cream cheese frosting is perfect as it is. Be prepared to expend a lot of energy grating the carrots…it’s a workout. And watch out for your fingers! (I managed to grate my pinky.)

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Carrot Cupcakes
30 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups sugar
1-1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk, plus 1/3 cup milk
3 cups finely grated, peeled carrots (about 1 1b)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped raisins (I like using golden raisins b/c they’re more plump and juicy.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Beat sugar and butter until combined and fluffy.
2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.
4. Beginning and ending with flour mixture, alternate additions of flour mixture ( divided into 4 parts) and buttermilk/milk mixture (3 parts), mixing well after each addition. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans, and raisins.

Fill lined cupcake tins nearly full (the batter does not rise much). Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating pans three-quarters of the way through. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter, room temperature
2 – 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Beat butter and cream cheese together on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing at low speed to incorporate.
3. Add vanilla extract and beat until smooth and creamy.

Assembly

Pipe cream cheese frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (I used a large round tip.) Top with carrot slices. For decorative carrot slices: Peel carrot, score multiple “V” trenches along the length of the carrot, as evenly spaced out as possible. Discard the flesh in-between, and slice carrot (cross section).

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Hazelnut and chocolate…what a fine combination. The Italians certainly knew what they were doing when they invented Nutella. Nutella has become my favorite spread, especially when it comes to finding a home in banana + _________ crepes. And for eating straight out of the jar, it beats peanut butter by a landslide. So why should the Ferrero Rocher have all the fun? Cupcakes need some chocolate-hazelnut lovin’, too.

toasted hazelnuts

I wanted to use straight Nutella as frosting, but that would have gotten a tad bit expensive, and maybe even too indulgent. My solution to this problem was to supplement chocolate buttercream with hazelnut flavoring to get a chocolate-hazelnut frosting, and to use the Nutella only as a filling. I picked up a few flavoring oils at a cake decorating store awhile back, and one of them was “chocolate hazelnut.” Each unit (dram) of flavoring is rather inexpensive at $1.79 each, considering that you need only a few drops to flavor a batch of frosting. One drawback is that the flavoring comes with a slight liquer-ish taste. (Not too many people noticed it, but next time I might opt for hazelnut extract instead.)

chocolate hazelnut

Ciao, Ferrero Rocher! The cupcake has arrived.

ferrero rocher

Chocolate Cupcakes
24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2-1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, plus 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl.
2. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

Fill lined cupcake tins 3/4 full. Filling: drop about 1 tsp Nutella onto the tops of the batter (The Nutella should sink into the centers of the cupcake as they bake…it helps to have more spherical drops.) Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating pans three-quarters of the way through. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream

1-1/2 stick butter, room temperature
12 oz melted semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used a combination of Trader Joe’s and Ghirardelli’s, microwaved at 15 second intervals until softened)
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
~1/3 cup milk
6 drops chocolate hazelnut flavoring

1. Beat butter on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Add melted chocolate chips and beat until incorporated
3. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating on low speed until incorporated.
4. Add half of the milk and the remainder of sugar and beat well.
5. Continue adding milk until desired consistency is achieved.
6. Beat in six drops (or to your taste) of chocolate hazelnut flavoring.

Assembly

Spread chocolate hazelnut buttercream onto each cupcake. In this case, it is okay to spread on the buttercream while the cupcake is still slightly warm. The chocolate in the buttercream will harden if the buttercream is allowed to sit, making for a stiff, unspreadable chocolate glob. Immediately after spreading on the frosting, hold the cupcake upside-down and press it firmly into a shallow dish of chopped, toasted hazelnuts (I toasted 1/2 to 3/4 lb raw hazelnuts at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, or so, shaking them around once for more even toasting.)

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