Monday, February 20, 2012

Carrot Cupcake Swirls

Three-day weekends are my favorite. With one extra day of blissful vacation, I feel even more motivated to wipe my schedule free of plans, thus creating a vast landscape of openness. Clearly, I've thought long and hard about this. When I heard that Omnivore Books was having another baking contest I grappled with my decision to participate. Saturday of Presidents Day Weekend: laze around or get straight to work in the kitchen? The latter, then the former, the latter, then the former. Remembering last year's fun, I went with the latter.

This year, instead of a cake contest, they hosted a cupcake contest. Everything I did, I did in a hurry, which called for Martha. Stewart (not Washington, although I'm sure everyone's minds went to our very first First Lady as it is President's Day). Martha Stewart is the ultimate go-to in times of rush and urgency. Now, where to find the culinary inspiration? A few weekends ago, when I was in Madison, Rachel's friends baked a delicious carrot cake that that we enjoyed over a game of Banana Grams. Carrot or banana, carrot or banana? In the end, I went with the Carrot. Cupcakes.

The recipe was super easy and it was my very first time truly decorating a cupcake! (if you want to know how to make, scroll down to the bottom).

Once the cupcakes were out of the oven, cooled, frosted and sprinkled with coconut, I didn't feel satisfied. Something was missing because they looked plain and not very Martha. Was it my messy frosting skills? Was it something Martha excluded from the recipe? Perhaps it was color? I decided these cupcakes needed some flair. Kind of a Downton bling?

There were a few leftover carrot shavings so I experimented with those. I rolled one into a tight swirl and pressed it into the top of my cupcake. The carrot swirl looked like a flower and the end had a kind of lacy, delicate je ne sais quoi as it extended out. In my mind, it was the perfect final touch - and might get me 1st place in the contest! I figured that Martha would be proud with my savvy decor-while-running-out-the-door.

After my success in the kitchen, it would take my success in the bookstore to determine how good these cupcakes really were. To be honest, though, I wasn't really in it to win it. If I had been, I would have sent out an invite weeks ago, inviting everyone I knew (the public votes, you see).

Even with the last minute notice, I did manage to bring in some sweet supporters, like my friend Mariana (pictured above). Anyway, win or no win, I was proud.

And, you guessed it, there was no win. But I'm happy I decided to "enter" the weekend with some sweet treats and the continuation of an ongoing tradition of participating in local baking contests that I don't stand the chance of winning. Interested in the winning cupcake? Captain Crunch cupcakes.

Anyway, my carrot swirls were a hit in my mind! Here's the recipe from Martha (with a few small asterisk indicated additions from the kitchen of Poem, Sweet Poem):

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons orange juice
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
• 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots ***(plus extra for swirls)***
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish
• 8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
• 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and eggs.
2. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
5. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with shredded coconut***and carrot swirls***.

Happy Baking!!! and to all the Martha's (Stewart and Washington), thank you!


  1. awww, these are gorgeous and I love the carrot swirls! je ne sais quoi indeed!

  2. Ah sissy these are beautiful!!! Looks delish!

  3. anything carrot related obviously works for me!

  4. I will be making these and adding your little carrot flourish!

  5. these are so cute and i want to eat them up! carrot cake is my favorite cake -- even better when it's in cupcake form. you're the sweetest. xo

  6. The look delicious and beautiful, and I love your Vivier messenger bag - perfect.

  7. cupcake win or not, you are still the reining MAGARONI and cheese winner!