Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Most people make carrot cake in the springtime… I make it in the fall to celebrate my mom’s birthday.🙂 It’s one of her absolute favorites. I have made this yummy version several times- they are special and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that are Really Fun by Ina Garten. I cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes, adjusted the baking times for a convection oven, and used the orange cream-cheese frosting from my favorite (springtime) orange chiffon bunny cake.

Fabulous! A true gold standard. Happy Birthday, Mom.❤❤

Yield: Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg plus 2 T beaten egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (less than 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 stick, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated orange zest, from about 1/3 of a large orange, about 3/4 tsp
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the egg, mix to combine. Repeat with the additional 2 T of beaten egg.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  6. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
  7. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  8. Using a cookie scoop,  scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Cook an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add the zest and salt, beat to combine.
  3. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: If the recipe is doubled, 3 large eggs can be used to make 22 to 24 cupcakes.

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Red Velvet Brownies

I think that all I have to say is that I’ve already made these wonderful brownies three times before posting them! They are a great modification of the classic Southern cake- including the essential cream cheese frosting.

The recipe was adapted from Fat Witch Bake Sale by Patricia Helding with Lucy Baker. Fat Witch Bakery is a family favorite NYC bakery, and one of the first we visited after moving to New York. I used semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate chips, lined the baking pan with parchment paper, and modified the baking time for a convection oven.

I contemplated omitting the red food coloring, but it just would not have been as much fun. (…besides the fact that my daughter had a very strong objection!)🙂 Yummy.

Yield: Makes one 9×9-inch pan 16 square brownies or 32 triangle brownies

For the Brownies:

  • 5 1/2 T (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp red food coloring

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and coat again with cooking spray.
  3. In a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, sugar, and milk. Stir until everything is completely melted.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is melted and well combined.
  5. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.
  7. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda directly into the chocolate mixture.
  8. Using a whisk or electric mixture on low-speed, beat until no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
  9. Add vanilla and food coloring and continue to beat on low-speed until everything is throughly combined.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula.  Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or up to 30-35 minutes in a standard oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only crumbs, not batter, on it.
  11. Cool in the pan on a rack for at least 1 hour. Make sure that they are completely cooled before frosting.

Note: This is a good time to bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature before making the frosting.

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Sift the sugar directly into the butter mixture. Beat until thick and creamy.
  4. Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies.
  5. Transfer to the refrigerator to set the frosting.
  6. Cut the brownies just before serving.

Note: The brownies will keep longer if they are stored uncut. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 days.

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Pear Snacking Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

This cake was just calling for all of the Bosc pears that I’ve received in my CSA share recently. I love it when I have all of the ingredients readily available to make a special treat.🙂

As a side note, I don’t really understand the idea of a “snacking” cake. This is definitely a CAKE. The brown butter glaze was absolutely essential and absolutely fabulous. Yes, it was easy to eat and, yes, it’s not a fancy layer cake. I also suppose it would be a wonderful snack! We enjoyed it for dessert.😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour and decreased the amount of fresh nutmeg. I also omitted the nuts. Delicious!

I’m sharing this special “snack” at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #142 this week, co-hosted by Elaine @foodbod and Michelle @O Blog Off. Enjoy!🙂

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup/227 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, more to grease the pan
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 large pears (2 1/4 pounds/1 kilogram), peeled, cored and shredded or finely chopped (to yield 2 1/2 cups) (I finely chopped the prepared pears in a mini-food processor.)
  • 2 ¾ cups/350 grams all-purpose flour (I used 175 g all-purpose flour & 175 g whole wheat pastry flour)
  • ¾ cup/75 grams rolled oats
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped, optional

For the Brown Butter Glaze:

  • 5 tablespoons/70 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons/25 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup/125 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons/45 milliliters heavy cream or milk, more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt
  1. Prepare the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-2-inch square or 9-inch-round pan and line bottom with parchment paper. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add sugars, baking powder, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves and baking soda and beat for 1 minute.
  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  5. With the mixer on low, beat in half the pears, and then beat in the flour until smooth.
  6. Beat in remaining pears, then the oats, beating until well incorporated.
  7. Beat in nuts, if using.
  8. Spread batter in the prepared pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed in the center of the cake, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Prepare the glaze: In a small saucepan, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, about 3 minutes. It will smell nutty and rich when it’s ready.
  10. Whisk in brown sugar until it dissolves.
  11. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla and salt until you’ve got a thick glaze with the texture of hot fudge sauce.
  12. Spread this over the cooled cake. Let the glaze set for at least 2 hours before serving.

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Churro Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

My kids had friends over for a taco dinner the other night, and we “needed” a special dessert. These churro cupcakes were perfect for our theme!

This recipe was adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain, via Sweet Carolines Cooking. I loved the cinnamon-sugar topping underneath the cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Although we did debate whether or not these cupcakes were more “churro” or “snickerdoodle,” we all agreed they were tasty.🙂

I’m sharing this party food at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #140 this week, co-hosted by Julie @Hostess at Heart and Linda @Fabulous Fare Sisters. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcake Batter:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cake flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1½ T ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¾ granulated sugar, plus 2 T for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups milk (I used 1 percent)

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:

  • 4 T unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon

For the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. (1 brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp milk, if needed to thin consistency

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 2 muffin pans with liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla extract.
  5. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until just combined after each.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner three-quarters full. Bake 17-20 minutes, or until cupcakes bounce back at the touch of a finger.
  7. Remove cupcakes from oven and place cupcakes on wire racks to cool.
  8. Meanwhile, make the cinnamon-sugar topping: Place the butter in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, or until melted.
  9. In another small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
  10. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, brush melted butter on the tops and dip into the cinnamon sugar mixture, making sure to entirely coat the top of the cupcake.
  11. Make the frosting: Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and cinnamon.
  12. Add confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, until incorporated and desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add a teaspoon or so of milk to thin.
  13. Using a pastry bag with a fluted tip, frost cupcakes. Be careful not to coat the outer edge of the cupcakes so that the cinnamon sugar can shine through.
  14. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Damson Plum & Cream Tart

This is the second dessert I was able to make with the bounty of Damson plums I received in my CSA share. The plum compote was a great way to preserve the plums for a later use; it keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

The sweet compote paired very nicely with the lightly sweetened cream filling and crust. The quantity of compote used to garnish the top of the tart can be adjusted to affect the overall sweetness of the finished tart.

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet, via Epicurious.com. The pastry recipe is from Martha Stewart. Store-bought pie crust could easily be substituted. I have been eating the leftover compote drizzled over vanilla ice cream!

Yield: One 10-inch tart, Serves 6 to 8

For the Pastry:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

For the Compote:

  • 1 pound Damson plums or prune plums
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or citrus juice
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

For the Cream Filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  1. Make pastry dough: Pulse flour, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined.
  2. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.
  3. Drizzle 1/4 cup ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture holds together when pressed between 2 fingers (dough should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse.
  4. Shape dough into 1 large disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (Dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 3 months. Let chilled dough stand for 10 minutes and frozen dough thaw before using.)
  5. Make the compote while pastry chills: Bring whole plums, sugar, salt, wine/citrus juice, and bay leaf to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved (be careful juices don’t boil over). (I used an enameled cast iron saucepan.)
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until plums fall apart, about 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a bowl and chill, uncovered, until cold, then cover.
  8. Discard pits and bay leaf, then add a little confectioners sugar to taste if desired.
  9. Prepare the pastry: Between layers of plastic wrap, roll dough into an approximately 12-inch round, enough to cover a 10-inch tart pan bottom and sides.
  10. Prick bottoms all over with a fork, then freeze tart pan on a cookie sheet until firm, at least 1 hour.
  11. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle, preferably on convection.
  12. Place chilled tart crust in oven. Turn oven temperature down to 400°F and bake until golden all over, 11 to 13 minutes.
  13. Transfer tart pan to a rack to cool completely, then remove shell from pan.
  14. Make the cream filling: Put cream in a large bowl, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream.
  15. Beat in sugar and zest with an electric mixer until cream just holds stiff peaks.
  16. Fold in about 2 tablespoons plum compote, then spread cream in the prepared tart shell.
  17. Serve topped with some of remaining compote (you will have a lot left over).

Note: Compote keeps, covered and chilled, 2 weeks.

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Single-Crust Damson Plum & Apple Pie

I “had” to make this wonderful weeknight pie with the Damson plums I received in my CSA share.🙂 Apparently, they are too tart to be eaten raw and must be cooked. Lucky for me, I received over two pounds of them and was able to enjoy them in two different desserts!

The combination of tart fruit with a sweet cookie-like crust in this pie was absolutely delicious. Blending plums with apples was a wonderful bridge from summer to fall as well.

This recipe was adapted from The Guardian, contributed by Nigel Slater, via Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe used prune plums. It was almost a cobbler with its crumbly lid and oozing filling. Amazing.

I’m sharing my pie at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #138 this week, co-hosted by my friends Mollie @The Frugal Hausfrau and Johanne @French Gardener Dishes. Enjoy!

For the Pastry Lid:

  • 7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (I used the zest from about 1/2 a naval orange.)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt
  • milk or heavy cream, for brushing crust
  • turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling crust
  • softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional (unnecessary!)

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ripe Damson plums or Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
  • 1 pound apples, peeled, cored and cut into smaller chunks (I used Pink Lady apples.)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • squeeze or two of fresh orange juice
  1. Make the pastry lid: In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in the lightly beaten egg and scrape down sides.
  3. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.
  4. Scrape dough into a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and stick in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until firmed up.
  5. Assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C or gas mark 4).
  6. Butter a pie dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  7. Add the fruit and sprinkle it with the sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Gently toss the ingredients together once or twice. 
  8. Roll out the firmed-up lid dough between sheets of plastic wrap or on a very well floured counter.
  9. Gently lift it onto the pie and fold the edges underneath to fit the dish. Crimp the edges, as desired. (Note: The crust may tear- all the better to let juice erupt through.)
  10. Cut 4 vents in the top to allow steam to release and additional juice to bubble through.
  11. Brush the crust with milk or cream, sprinkle with sugar. 
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top, covering the edges after the first 15 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.
  13. Scoop onto dishes and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired. (I thought it was perfect on its own!)

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Blueberry & Corn Crisp

I can’t try enough crisp recipes using summer berries. This dessert was described as a “unique and textured crisp with the flavors of corn muffins and blueberry jam smashed together.” I loved the textural contrast of the fresh corn kernels in the topping with the soft blueberry filling. Yummy!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Nicole Rucker. I used medium-fine cornmeal instead of coarse. We ate it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course.🙂

Yield: Serves 8

For the Filling:

  • 5 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) blueberries
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse  salt

For the Topping and Assembly:

  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup coarse-grind cornmeal or polenta (I used medium-fine cornmeal)
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from about 1 large ear)

To Make the Filling:

  1. Toss blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, and salt in a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

To Make the Topping and Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Using a pastry blender or your hands, work butter into dry ingredients until no dry spots remain and mixture holds together when squeezed.
  4. Add corn and toss to evenly distribute.
  5. Press topping between your fingers and break into large pieces over filling.
  6. Place baking dish on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling, 50–60 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Crisp can be made 1 day ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

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