My wonderful, smart, talented, beautiful older sister turned 30 today. She is an amazing woman, strong and opinionated, sensitive and compassionate. She can kick my butt running (well doing anything athletic, really) and trivial pursuit, but is still nice enough to share a bottle of wine or a delicious meal with me. I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate her birthday with her, for the first time in years, here in Chicago and I wanted to send her home with one of her favorite treats: carrot cake.
I cannot think of carrot cake without thinking of my sister and our former backyard neighbors the Sonnabends. They have three kids, and the older two and my sister were inseparable growing up. Carrot cake instantly brings to mind a snapshot of Rian and Sara in matching bikinis with their little pot bellies sticking out, hamming it up for the camera, waiting to take on the suped-up slip and slide my dad concocted. Whenever it was time for a Sonnabend birthday, you could pretty much guarantee that a carrot cake would be blazing with candles. For some reason I always despised carrot cake, and thought it was weird that a kid would want a cake made out of vegetables for their birthday, when they could have their choice of anything. Chocolate, vanilla, fun-fetti, angel food, come on, with all the options, carrot cake? Really??
I have since come around and now really enjoy carrot cake, I even snagged a cupcake or two for myself last weekend. Paired with a rich and not too sweet cream cheese frosting, these spiced carrot cake cupcakes made the birthday girl very happy.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes & Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes two dozen cupcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups grated carrots, I used a micro plane to grate the very finely, but you can use the small side of a box grater
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line two cupcake tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and whisk together. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to incorporated between each addition. Fold in the carrots, the add the dry ingredients to the wet, and using a wooden spoon, gently mix just until combined, and all dry ingredients are wet.
Spoon into lined muffin tins, until each cup is about 3/4 the way full. Bake for 16-20 minutes on the middle rack, until a toothpick entered into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans for a few minutes, then remove from tins and let cool completely on a baking rack before frosting.
To make the frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of salt