Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Carrot Cake Cupcakes from Gourmet, Dec. 2007

This post is my contribution to the food blogging event I came up with to celebrate Gourmet magazine. If you haven't heard about it yet, you have plenty of time to participate! Just read my announcement post and get cooking! You've got until Friday, October 16 (yes, I extended the deadline by a day!) to send in your link and jpeg. If you're planning to participate, have you already made your dish? Did you choose new or oldie? I can't wait to read about it!

When I moved from Florida to Chicago in June, I cleared out a lot of stuff. That's the beauty of moving right? Well, among the many material possessions I shed were quite a few issues of Gourmet. I saved a select few, which I imagined I simply couldn't give up. As for the rest, I thought, the website will always be there. And even more so, that there would always be new, wonderful recipes, ideas and inspiration arriving in my mailbox every month. I sure hope Ruth Reichl doesn't leave for at least a few more years, I thought.

Little did I know. I'm still surprised and sad that this harbinger of American culinary creativity and critic of food politics and policies is no more. After hearing this news, I quickly determined there's nothing left to do but appreciate Gourmet for what it was: my favorite food magazine. I loved to cook from it (and did so many times on this blog--see below). I also loved to linger over the glossy photos and then go back through and read the articles and recipes that caught my eye. It was good bedtime reading...sweet dreams, for sure.

I felt the need to make a new-to-me recipe for the event, rather than an old favorite. I went through the few remaining issue I do have and couldn't make up my mind. In the end, simplicity was the answer. Mike and I LOVE carrot cake and were long over due to make it. Searching gourmet.com, I found these cupcakes from December '07. Made with vegetable oil and 3 eggs, they deliver the moist texture you love in good carrot cake.

There are very few recipes I follow to the letter, and this one is no exception. That's just my style--I don't think the Gourmet recipe developers would mind. I added raisins, coconut and ground cloves, as well as a bit more cinnamon and ginger than the original calls for. I also replaced the orange glaze suggested in the magazine for classic cream cheese frosting. They are delicious. Thank you, Gourmet, for making me a better cook, a more creative thinker and a smarter consumer.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2007
You can grate the carrots in a flash in a food processor, or use the large holes of a box grater. Don't buy pre-shredded from the supermarket--they'll lack flavor. I always wished gourmet would give weight measurements, especially for baked goods. Since they do not, I'll advise you to measure the flour by lightly spooning it into the measuring cups (do not shake the cup!) and leveling with the dull edge of a knife. If you love nuts, I think 1/3 to 1/2 cup of toasted chopped walnuts or pecans would be great here.

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups shredded carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 8 ingredients (through cloves). In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the oil, brown sugar and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in the carrots, raisins and coconut if using. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Pour batter into muffin cups and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 24 minutes (mine took exactly 22), rotating pan halfway through to ensure even cooking. Cupcakes are done when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes with a bit leftover.

4 ounces cream cheese (lowfat or regular)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Cut the cream cheese and butter into 1-inch chunks and bring to room temperature (should be very soft). With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar in 3 additions, beating on medium speed, until sugar is incorporated and frosting is lightly and fluffy. Immediately frost cupcakes, or refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature to make spreading easier.

More recipes from Gourmet magazine on A Mingling of Tastes:

Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing Make it for Thanksgiving--you won't be sorry!

Pear-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake Easy, yummy and not too sweet.

Cardamom Waffles Great if you love cardamom, and if you're not sure, try it!

Toasted Pasta with Duck Luck Guazzetto This Lydia Bastianich dish is DIVINE.

Ribeye Steak with Pomegranate Glaze An easy sauce to dress up steak.

Roasted Beet Risotto Easy, beautiful, so good.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Coconut Cake with 7-Minute Frosting

I've been wanting to make a coconut cake for Mike's birthday for a few years now. But in the recent past, he's asked for German chocolate and carrot cake. They both contain coconut, but that does not put them under the category of "coconut cake." Not even a little bit.

So this year, Mike said a straight-up coconut cake would do, and I knew exactly where to turn for a recipe. All I wanted was a great cake - light, moist texture; two layers; filling; and good frosting. With no designs whatsoever on reinventing the wheel, I knew I'd use a recipe I pulled out of Good Housekeeping magazine a few months ago. The issue had Paula Deen on the cover, and inside she was noshing merrily on this cake. If it was good enough for her, I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Then, the funniest thing happened. One of my regular blog reads, Cookie Madness, posted an easy coconut cake that was rated very highly by Anna, who I believe more than the things I read in Good Housekeeping (no offense to GH, but you know...). So I decided to make her recipe, which she sourced from recipezaar.com, instead. But, before I baked, I took a quick look at the Paula Deen recipe to see how they differed. Want to guess what happened? They were exactly the same. Now I had a cake with glowing endorsements from all fronts.

This is a great cake. It's easy. I will never tell you to crack your own coconut in the interest of purity, and neither does this recipe. Simple canned coconut milk flavors the cake. A tangy filling made from sour cream, sugar and shredded coconut adds an interesting tangy note. And finally, there's the 7-minute icing. This is an old recipe. I don't know its origins, but it's the one that's kind of like marshmallow fluff, only better. There's no butter - just sugar and egg whites - so it's not as dense with fat and calories as buttercream.

I followed Anna's version of the recipe, which she cut in half to fit 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Paula's version is for 3 (9-inch) pans, and I had no interest in having that much cake in my house (plus, I only have 2 cake pans). Here is Paula's full recipe on the Food Network site, if you do want that much cake (nothing wrong with that). And here's the 7-minute frosting.

As I said, Anna baked her cake in 2 8-inch pans, and that's the ideal size. I thought I could get away with my 2 9-inch pans and just have thinner layers. Once I made the batter, however, I knew it was not enough to respectably fill both pans (and I'd already buttered and floured them, darn it!). So, I just poured all the batter in one pan, baked a little longer and cut the cake in half horizontally with a large serrated knife. I had never performed this cake operation before, but it was wonderfully easy. Just like the rest of the cake.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Are you recovered yet?

This is the first year I've flown home from the family Thanksgiving in Connecticut without feeling exhausted, hungover and stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. I consider this to be a really good thing, especially since we had a great time this year as always.

So, between catching up with everyone, playing board games (and drinking games), hiking, and drinking lots of red wine (and Bud Light), Mike and I whipped up this All-In-One, All-Purpose Holiday Bundt Cake for Thanksgiving dessert. It was a well-traveled cake by the time it had been mixed at Aunt Jo's, transported down the road and baked at Grandma Jean's. But it never complained once and, even with all the juggling around, it baked up beautifully.

This cake is really good and moist. I thought it might have a chunky texture with all the add-ins, but the cranberries soften nicely and the apples absolutely melt into the nutmeg-scented pumpkin batter. All those great fall flavors are there plus pecans, cinnamon and maple syrup in sugar glaze. It disappeared by Friday morning.

This is Dorie Greenspan's cake and her reputation for writing reliable, do-able recipes is proven again. I opted to toast the pecans, but she didn't call for that, so do whatever you want. I think toasting does wonders to enhance the flavor of fresh, raw nuts even if you are mixing them into a cake. I also made a lot more maple glaze than she calls for in her book, but I make no apologies for that. You could also simply dust the cake with sifted confectioners' sugar right before serving. Though it was perfect for Thanksgiving, this is a cake that you'll love serving throughout the holiday season. I imagine it would freeze very well (sans icing) for some advance baking, if you're so inclined.

I'm sending this post to Definitely Not Martha who is hosting this month's Sugar High Friday, a super-sweet blogging event where food bloggers bake around a given theme. This month, it's beta-carotene--sounds a little healthy and clinical for Sugar High Friday doesn't it? But wait, that means everyone will be baking with ingredients like pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes--yum! I'll post a link to the round-up when it's done so you can check out the recipes from other bloggers.

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
This cake contains just about every traditional holiday flavor, so that is where the names comes from. To toast the pecans, spread them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes, shaking and turning them over halfway through, until fragrant and starting to take on some additional color. Watch them carefully to avoid burning.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbs.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup canned, unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecans, toasted (see headnote) and chopped
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
5 to 6 tbs. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center position. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (12-cup) bundt pan well, using waxed paper or a pastry brush to spread the butter into every nook.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the pumpkin, ginger and chopped apple. At this point the mixture will probably looked curdled, but that’s okay.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture slowly, beating just until it is incorporated (over mixing flour results in a tough texture in the finished cake). Using a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a thin paring knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (you might get some streaks if you hit a cranberry). Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for ten minutes in the pan. Unmold the cake and cool to room temperature on the rack.

Transfer cooled cake to a cake stand or serving platter. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Add 5 tablespoons of maple syrup and stir until you have a smooth, thick mixture that coats the back of the spoon and runs off enough to drizzle over the cake. Add additional syrup to thin icing if necessary (or if you need to thicken it, just add more sugar). Drizzle icing off the back of the spoon over the top of the cake so it runs down the sides. Let the icing set for at least an hour before serving.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Today, I want you to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: coffee cake—discuss.

Finished? Good. Here’s my take: I wouldn’t bother with most coffee cakes. Give me a scone, a muffin, even a doughnut over coffee cake any day. My husband likes coffee cake and orders it occasionally at Starbucks. I never had the urge to make it myself until about two years ago. We had just moved into our condo, and a neighbor brought us a lovely, homemade, mini coffee cake. That was a good cake; nothing fancy, just moist, plain cake with a sugary crumb on top.

I was in no rush to duplicate the neighbor’s cake, but the seed was planted. In a baking mood, I batted around ideas yesterday to Mike. Rhubarb pudding cake? Italian Cream Cake? No dice. When I threw out coffee cake, Mike’s eyes lit up and the discussion was over.

I knew we wanted a plain, very moist cake with sour cream, topped with some kind of streusel or crumb. This is just the kind of recipe I knew I would find in my King Arthur Baker’s Companion book. The sweet recipes in this book can be a little heavy and rich, but they always turn out perfectly.

This cake may be even better than the neighbor’s. The batter is very thick, not pourable like a regular sheet cake. When baked, however, it is not too heavy, just incredibly moist and a little tangy due to the sour cream. I slightly cut the amount of flour and sugar in the crumb topping, and still had more than enough for a very sweet, crumbly cake. I also make this cake at night for breakfast today, and I think it does benefit from having ample time to cool and sit. So, it is the perfect sweet breakfast treat to make in advance. Easter brunch, perhaps?

So, now I am on the coffee cake bandwagon. Due to the intense sugar rush, I may not eat it as often as my beloved scones, but it is definitely a nice addition to my repertoire of breakfast treats.

Bloggers love coffee cake; there way too many great ones out there...

Alpineberry's Mini Cherry Walnut Streusel Coffee Cakes have a lovely pink tint.

Seriously Good's Apple-Ricotta Coffee Cake must be as good as it looks since it uses ricotta, an ingredient that's always in my fridge for spreading on toast.

Go take a gander at the gorgeous Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake at Cream Puffs in Venice.

The Dried Cranberry Coffee Cake from Tartelette is quick and simple and uses a secret ingredient--homemade eggnog!

In the archives of Baking Sheet (now Baking Bites) I found another old-fashioned sour cream coffee cake

I wish I had some fresh blueberries to make this Coffee Cake from Chocolate & Zucchini.

This apple coffee cake from Simply Recipes is easy and looks wonderful.

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
I changed this recipe by using half whole wheat pastry flour in both the crumb and the cake. It works perfectly and is undetectable to the untrained eye. Use only all-purpose flour if you want. I suspect it would also be good with only whole wheat pastry flour. I would not use regular whole wheat flour which would change the flavor, texture and color too much for this tender, sweet cake.

Makes two 9-inch rounds or one 9 x 13-inch cake

Crumb Topping:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
14 tbs. unsalted butter (7 ounces)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp. almond extract

8 tbs. (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream (I used lowfat)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round pans or one 9 x13 pan.

Make the crumb: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the butter over the flour mixture and stir to combine until the flour is uniformly moistened and you have a sandy, moist crumb. Set aside.

Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and sour cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to the sour cream mixture and beat on low to medium or stir with a large spoon until evenly combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan(s). Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the batter with your fingers, covering the batter completely. Bake for 20-25 minutes for 9-inch rounds or 30-35 minutes for a 9 x 13 pan. Cake is done when a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean and the sides are light gold and slightly pulling away from the edge of the pan. Cool cakes in their pan(s) on a wire rack.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guinness Cupcakes & A Radio Show!

I have been looking for an opportunity to make Guinness cake, or cupcakes, or brownies for quite awhile, and I finally found it. On Thursday, March 1 at 1:30 eastern time, I am going to be talking about food blogs with Linda Gassenheimer and Joseph Cooper on WLRN, the NPR affiliate in South Florida. I wanted to come up with an easy recipe to share, and this is it!

You can listen in (and find out if they like the cupcakes) by going to www.wlrn.org and clicking on the live audio feed.

Now, back to the cupcakes. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and this is the perfect dessert to follow up corned beef and cabbage or any Irish feast you plan to serve. The cake is very light and moist, with a mellow stout flavor that is the perfect complement to the cocoa. They are not overly sweet, so the espresso buttercream is a perfect topper. This frosting has a light coffee scent, but is mild enough for anyone who is not a coffee lover. It is absolutely irresistible on the cupcakes and helps bring out the Guinness flavor.

I just got the name, “O’Hara,” by marriage, so if you don’t want to take my word for it, my Irish husband cannot stop eating these cupcakes.

Guinness Cupcakes with Espresso Cream Frosting
Cakes adapted from a recipe from The Detroit Free Press via Cupcakes Take the Cake and from a recipe by Dave Lieberman from Dave’s Dinners. Frosting adapted from The Betty Crocker Cookbook.
You can find the instant espresso powder for the frosting at specialty stores and many supermarkets. I ordered mine from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue.

Makes 24 cupcakes

For cupcakes:
1 stick unsalted butter
12 oz. Guinness
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
¾ c. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ c. sour cream
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill two 12-count muffin pans with paper baking cups.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, Guinness and vanilla. Stir occasionally until butter is melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, gradually combine with the Guinness mixture in three additions. Beat in the sour cream, then beat in the eggs one by one.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about three-quarters full. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes (mine took 25) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Leave in the pan to cool for 5 minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack. Frost when cooled completely.

For frosting:
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. butter (5 1/3 tbs.), cut into cubes and softened
1 ½ tsp. instant espresso powder dissolved in 3 tbs. water

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on low speed to combine. Pour in the espresso mixture and continue beating on medium-high until frosting is smooth and creamy. If frosting is too thick, add water a couple drops at a time to reach desired consistency. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes or an 8-9 inch two-layer cake.

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