Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter cupcakes

I have a coworker whose mother-in-law is Columbian, and makes the most fantastic food. Her rice is buttery and rich, her plantains perfectly cooked (mine always get too brown too fast), her yucca moist and tender, and I'll even eat pork chops if she makes them. I know all this because my coworker often gives me her food. One day I brought myself what I thought of as "boring veggie lasagna" for lunch, and my coworker brought typical MIL food but didn't feel like she could stomach it that day, as she was feeling under the weather. As we walked to the lunchroom we engineered a trade, and both were 100% more happy with lunch as a result. Any time coworker has extra, she knows where to bring it.

Due to all this feeding of delicious food by this coworker (let's call her B), I wanted to repay the favor and either feed this coworker or her mother-in-law. As Easter approached, I knew the other chief baker in the office (coworker J) would be traveling and thus not bringing in her thin, tender and frosty sugar cookies, so I had the baking field open for myself. I asked coworker B what kind of cupcakes I should make, and she selected Carrot Cake. Well, first she said strawberry, but then she said she's deathly allergic to strawberry and since I'd almost certainly use real strawberries, that wasn't the best option (and she was right, if you can consider Frozen Bag Strawberries "real"). And so, Carrot Cake it was.

And here's the funny part. I mixed up the icing into "easter-y" colors and almost threw up on myself with how cute they were. I got them to the office, and my boss and several other coworkers* were surprised with how cute they were, too. They're a little out of character.

I used the recipe my mother got when she was a teenager from Paul Newman's mom. No, not that Paul Newman, just the Paul Newman my aunt B used to date. My mother thought this recipe was pretty novel when she was a teen, because her family did not cook this sort of Weird Food. Her mother (my grandmother) still doesn't, though we've realized in recent years that my grandfather might've enjoyed the weird food all along, but never did and likely never will find out. I am not certain, but I suspect my grandmother finds something suspicious about pizza, and the closest she'll come to pasta is macaroni and cheese, or perhaps tuna casserole. You know, that ever-so-exotic Pasta.

Here's the carrot cake recipe, slightly modified from the Augie Newman family version, because I just cannot bring myself to put another 1.5 cups of vegetable oil into anything.

2.5 cups flour (some all purpose, some whole wheat pastry flour)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t soda
1/4 t salt
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg (gross - I substituted cardamom)
1/2 t ginger
1.5 c sugar (recipe called for 2 c, I think 1.75 would be a better compromise)
0.5 c vegetable oil
4 eggs (I may have used 3 only)
2 c grated carrots
1/2 can (14 oz?) crushed pineapple (with juice)
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c craisins (there may have been fewer raisins and craisins, don't go crazy on them, just enough to look right)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then mix in the carrots, walnuts and raisins so they get coated with flour and suspend a tiny bit better in the mix. Then add the liquid parts (oil, eggs, pineapple) and stir until everything's wet. Dispense into 24 cupcake wrappers (or a 9x13 pan) and bake "until done" at 350. I'm actually a bit perturbed at this "until done" because that's what's in the recipe, and I honestly can't remember how long it took to get done. Cupcakes, probably start at 25 mins. Large pan full of cake? perhaps 45? but check it sooner to see.

8 oz package cream cheese (room temperature)
4 T butter (room temperature)
0.75 t vanilla extract
0.25 t lemon extract
dash salt
2.5 c powdered sugar (perhaps more if necessary to get your desired consistency)

Cream the butter and cream cheese in the stand mixer, then add the flavor extracts and salt. Slowly add sugar a half cup at a time, until all is incorporated. I separated the batch into four parts, and colored them individually.

Cadbury mini-egg on top. The chocolate ones with hard candy shell, not the gross "Cream Egg," the grossest simulation of a food you wouldn't eat in that form anyway. Blech!

*Coworker B noted that said cupcakes looked like they had nipples, and almost made coworker D (no longer with us**) shoot coffee out his nose.
**Not dead, you sicko, just got a new job. In Austin, making me combine a number of clues together and realize I miss living in Austin sometimes. Mainly because the "farmers' markets" here in DFW are just terrible. The produce is labelled with the same stickers you see on store produce, right? This suggests to me that there's a wholesale produce provider that sells all they can to the chain grocers, then sells the rest to these smaller vendors, a few days later. I believe this because if you buy anything at the farmer's market, it will spoil about 3 days sooner than you expect. And the prices aren't that great either. In Austin, the farmer's market I like requires that the vendor produce the items being vended, which is lovely. Except for the Emu Oil man, who can go to hell for putting EMU OIL on my hands. Gross.


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