Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ooey Gooey Carrot Cupcake Recipe

Here's the winning recipe from today's cupcake tasting:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tb ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tb vanilla
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple, juice drained but reserved
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine eggs, both sugars, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add in spices and other dry ingredients. Stir in carrots, pineapple and nuts by hand. Batter will be quite runny, but do your best to scoop it into muffin pans lined with cupcake papers. Fill the cups almost to the top because batter does not rise much. Bake for 20 minutes, until browned on top. While cakes are still warm in muffin pans, poke holes in top with toothpick or fork and drizzle with buttermilk glaze (below). Let cool and frost with Pineapple Cream Cheese frosting (below)

Buttermilk Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tb granulated sugar
  • 1 Tb light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in saucepan over low-medium heat until smooth and simmer for 5 minutes, being careful not to get it too hot or glaze will break and separate.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 Tb drained pineapple juice
  • 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups confectioners' (powdered) sugar

Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer, using only 1 Tb of the pineapple juice to begin. After mixture starts to come together, add more juice or sugar, depending on desired consistency.

Based on recipe from American Home Cooking, by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.

The Bloggers


I spent my morning making cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes, but wedding cupcakes. This was a trial run, a tasting, for a close friend of mine who's getting married in July. The happy bride-to-be and her fiance wanted carrot cake, one of my favorites, and the flavor of my wedding cakes (oh yeah, we also had some Opera Cream Torte from the Bonbonerie too). Sure, I went to culinary school and worked in a professional pastry kitchen, but the thought of making a traditional multi-tiered wedding cake scared the hell out me. Just too much risk associated with stacking the layers when it's not something I do every day. But cupcakes, now those I think I can handle.

I put two competing carrot cake recipes to the test, the doctored them up a bit to give them some choice. The winning recipe came from a classic book, American Home Cooking, and though time-consuming to make, yields a cake that tastes dense, rich and worthy of a momentous occasion. I love "from scratch" cakes and this one's a delicious example of why. Freshly grated carrots, crushed pineapple, chopped pecan and a hint of buttermilk make this recipe a standout. For some reason, I had trouble judging the number of carrots I need to grate to get to three cups, grated enough carrots to feed an army, and am now left wondering if I should make carrot soup. Once the soupy batter is baked, you poke holes in the top of the warm cakes and then pour a sweet buttermilk glaze on top to soak in and make the cake rich and gooey. I finished the top with a cream cheese buttercream frosting, lightly flavored with pineapple. After eating at least three cupcakes "just to make sure," Peter agreed that the cake was a winner.

The tasting went well, and I now have my work cut out for me come July. But sitting between my friend and her mom and listening to them talk through decision after decision about detail after detail, I remembered again why I'm so glad all my own wedding planning is behind me. It's only after the fact that you realize that no one will remember the color of the napkins, the kind of centerpieces, or even the taste of the cake.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Paula Deen and Mayonnaise

This post isn't about a restaurant, but instead about a meal we cooked ourselves this evening. Paula Deen is one of our favorites on the Food Network because of her liberal use of butter, cream and bacon--we watch her religiously on Saturday mornings as part of our drink coffee/read the paper routine. So for Christmas I bought Paula's cookbook for Peter. We had yet to make anything from it and decided tonight was the night. Peter chose the Hot Chicken Salad and I avoided watching the specific ingredients he used so I wouldn't freak out about how much weight was going to be instantly added to my hips. It's a very simple recipe: mix together rotisserie chicken with some celery and chesse, and glue it all together with mayonnaise. Our first problem came when the amount of mixed ingredients didn't come anywhere close to needing a 9x13 pan--an 8x8 square was much more appropriate. It was sprinkled with potato chips before a quick 20 minutes in the oven until brown and bubbly.

The dish looked promising enough when it came out, but when we went to dish it up, we saw that nearly the entire 8x8 pan fit into just our two bowls. This would've been fine, except that the recipe indicated that it served 8-10. The taste was just okay--not terrible, but much too salty and it had a definite oily sheen. I got about halfway through my portion when Peter told me he'd used an entire cup of mayonnaise in the mix. So given that we were already eating portions meant to feed 4 people, I now had 1/2 CUP of mayo in my serving alone? I had to put the bowl aside and put my hand to my mouth to keep from seeing what I'd already swallowed come back up. That was the end of that. To say the least, we won't be repeating this recipe again. Good thing that we bought some popcorn to go along with our viewing of King Kong tonight. If only Peter could keep the popcorn off the floor.

My mom has a similar but vastly improved recipe, and if readers are interested I'd be happy to post it here. It's much lighter and has the additional crunch of water chestnuts. Peter will vehemently disagree with me here, but there's no earthly reason to use full-fat mayo when the light stuff tastes so good.

Polly Campbell Agrees!

See her take on Nectar here:

Sweet Nectar

We'd been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Nectar. I first heard about the restaurant through a friend currently enrolled in the Culinary program at the Midwest Culinary Institute. Excited to hear that it would be opening on New Year's Eve, I kept a watchful eye on the location but was disappointed when nothing new came on the scene. Soon enough though, the dumpster went out front (strangely closer to Millions than I'd anticipated) and the paper on the windows and paint indicated some activity inside the tiny store front. When I finally read that the restaurant was opening, I couldn't wait to try it and put it at the top of my list. With a great location and great chef, I knew this restaurant had much promise.

The night we were there the restaurant fit the bill perfectly. Having worked far too much at my day job in advertising, both my husband and I were in desperate need of both some alone time together and some nourishment beyond pizza and Rice Krispie treats. After one glass of wine on our porch, we decided it was the perfect evening to try out a new restaurant. Nectar was full of other patrons, but not to the point that it was overflowing or that we had to wait for a table. Our service was prompt and cheerful, and I was delighted to see that though the wine selection was limited, every offering was available both by the glass and in full bottles. The warm rolls and marinated olives quickly disappeared from our tabletop and I had to use every ounce of willpower to refuse seconds.

I began with the bibb lettuce salad, a starter I chose largely for the salty, crunchy marcona almonds mentioned in the description. The dish did not disappoint, with a very well-balanced, not too acidic vinaigrette and just the right amount of seasoning. For my entree I chose the healthier-sounding escolar, served on a bed of le puy lentils. The dish was rich and flavorful and the fish was seared to perfection--crispy on the outside, flaky and tender on the inside.

We were enjoying everything so much that there was no way we could pass up dessert. To be extra indulgent, we chose the cheese course and a fried banana concoction, not to mention dessert wine, which we hardly needed after 2 other glasses of a yummy, crispy white wine. The cheese course gets especially high marks for its the presentation complete with membrillo (quince paste) and Fourme d'Ambert , which we recently learned about on Bravo's Top Chef. Is there any better way to end a meal than cheese?

The decor is a bit stark and lacks personality. Some wall hangings could help to really cut down the ambient noise for a more pleasant dining experience to match the refined food. This is really a minor criticism to an overwhelmingly positive special night out.

The damage: about $70 per person, for three courses each plus 3 glasses of wine each.

Watch out for: it's loud in here. Also, there is no bar or waiting area, so call ahead and make a reservation .

Food: 3.5 out of 5 forks

Romance: 2 out of 5 kisses (it's so close in here there's not much privacy, but the lighting and atmosphere are nice).

1000 Delta
Mt. Lookout
(513) 929-0525