Monday, April 25, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Dulche de Leche Buttercream

Every time I weasel a bite out of carrot cake (or cupcake, as it were), I am struck dumb-speechless with utter amazement. How can anything so typical, so every-day tasting, be mixed with spices, sugar, oil, flour, and (usually) pineapple and then result in something superbly extraordinary? My heart goes out to you if by some tragic misunderstanding you have come to abhor anything carrot-cake related, for truly you must’ve been mistaken. No one can NOT just love carrot cake; to me, carrot cake is really no different from a beach vacation. Who doesn’t adore the relaxation that comes from lounging your feet into warm sand while inhaling that salty, balmy smell that comes from a warm sun and loud, violent ocean waves? Preciously.

And carrot cake, may I remind you, doesn’t taste like those long, orange, fibery veggies we see packaged up in the store. No no. Rather, carrot cake tastes moist (excuse moi if that word makes you shudder with disgust). It tastes warm and welcoming, inviting and friendly. The aroma from those subtle spices will bring only pleasant thoughts to your mind as you guiltlessly work your way through its crumby and yummy ness. Carrot cake tastes like autumn and Easter to me, all in the same moment.

Perhaps like you, the one and only appropriate yet perfect frosting for carrot cake in my mind was a traditional cream cheese (or if you’re really going for the big guns, mascarpone frosting)…. until about 36 hours ago when I took a leap of faith on something new: dulche de leche frosting. Fancy talk for caramel frosting.

And ohhhhhhwhat a sweet, sweet conversion it was. Trying out this very uncomplicated, but extremely rich frosting will heighten your carrot cake consumption and your adoration for delicious frostings. If you can’t tell, these might just be an all time favorite cupcake. Ever. Ever. Ever.

(If you opt for a cake instead of cupcakes, I recommend googling an actual carrot cake recipe instead of a cupcake recipe, because the leavening agents may differ in measurements from what is listed here. But proceed with the frosting recipe as follows- it will make enough to frost a normal sized cake- the thought continually crossed my mind what a rich and decadent cake this frosting would make any carrot-flavored one. YUM!)

Carrot Cupcakes with Dulche de Leche Buttercream

{recipe via; makes about 28 cupcakes}

4 cups peeled and finely grated carrots

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)

1/2 cup crushed pineapple, well drained

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla seeds, and coconut, pineapple and nuts if desired. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted into centers come out clean, 23 to 28 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks, 10 minutes. Turn out cupcakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen for up to 2 months in airtight containers.

Frost cupcakes with dulce de leche or cream cheese frosting. Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature, and sprinkle with toasted coconut (press gently to adhere) before serving.

Dulche de Leche Buttercream Frosting

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

pinch of salt

3/4 cup prepared dulce de leche (any good-quality and thick prepared caramel sauce)

Cream together softened butter and powdered sugar on low using an electric mixer. Add cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth and no lumps appear. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the prepared dulce de leche and beat to incorporate. Frost cooled cupcakes using a knife ( Kate note: knife is my way of frosting- I suppose I enjoy that "rustic" look-but either method is great!) or a pastry bag and tip. Top with toasted coconut.


Rose said...

This sounds SO good. I'm going to try this frosting next time I make carrot cake. And an easy way to make great (and authentic!) dulce de leche: Boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for three hours, taking care that the can stays submerged (adding extra water as necessary. Let the can cool completely and when you open it its contents have magically morphed into delicious carmelly goodness. But you MUST wait till it cools or else it will spray you and your walls with carmel- yes, that happened to me.

katie m said...

That is amazing and I am so glad to know of this wonderful tidbit! Quite admittedly, I am a little nervous to do this boiling can thing, though on the other hand, it sounds too good to resist!! I guess having caramel sprayed all over the walls ISN'T the worst thing ever-- snack for later, right??