Monday, October 09, 2006

The Frosting on the Cupcake

When it comes to baking desserts, cake isn't usually high on my list. It's not that cakes are difficult to make: just whip up a batter, pour it into a pan, and bake. And yet, I would far rather make a finicky pie crust than frost a cake.

Sure, there are plenty of wonderful cake recipes that require no frosting. I'm particularly fond of an orange-almond cake that is topped with sliced almonds, a sprinkling of sugar, and a drizzle of Grand Marnier. But the cakes I love to eat are usually those with a creamy frosting that I save to the very end and eat last for a final sugar rush.

The Chef Mother's legendary carrot cake falls in that category. Though the cake itself can stand easily on its own with its lavish use of a full pound of carrots and lush spices, in my view there's simply no point in making it if you're not going to indulge in the thick cream cheese frosting.

So you'd better believe that if I'm going to make this carrot cake myself (a scandalously short month and a half after my birthday!), I'm going all the way, frosting and all.

In sampling another carrot cake recently, I was inspired to take on the challenge of –- dare I say it? -– improving the Chef Mother's recipe by three simple means: replacing the sugar in the cake with maple sugar, replacing the raisins with chopped dates, and replacing the confectioner’s sugar in the frosting with a lesser quantity of maple syrup.

Last night I felt rested enough from the move and the unpacking to give the oven a workout, and I whipped up the cake batter, spooning generous amounts into paper muffin cups for cupcakes to share at work.

I mixed up the cream cheese frosting while the cakes baked, not waiting until the cream cheese and the butter had come up to room temperature and softened considerably. (There's a major part of my problem with making frosting: not getting the butter soft enough to cream smoothly.) I worked hard to beat the frosting into shape, but in the end the frosting won and remained slightly lumpy (though thoroughly tasty).

I allowed the cupcakes to cool overnight, and this evening I took a deep breath, pulled out a knife, and frosted every last one.

Granted, they're not magazine-photo-worthy, being on the homely side. (I have got to take lessons from the incomparably sassy Spicyflower for fabulous cupcake decorating!)

But I've never been one to make good looks my priority. All I want is for my cupcakes to taste incredibly good.

And they do. Oh, my, yes, they do.

I don't think I can claim that my version outshines the Chef Mother's original recipe, but it definitely ranks right up there with hers. And that's all I ask: a comparably delicious and satisfying dessert.

Oh, and I also ask for happy people tomorrow when I share.

That would be the frosting on my cake!


At 10/10/2006 12:11 PM, Blogger Spicyflower said...

OH my! Those look delicious...mmm...makes me what to whip up something with maple sugar. I think when I did my cream cheese frosting I just let the butter and cream cheese get extremely soft and mixed in increments. I can't think of any other tips to give you.

At 10/10/2006 1:22 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Yes, they are very tasty, and the students have been raving about them all morning. Thanks for the tip on the frosting... I usually just dump it all in one bowl and have at it, but I can see how going bit by bit would be better. Will try that next time. Wish I could share one with you in thanks!


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