Archive for the 'Cakes + Cupcakes' Category

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes + Chocolate Peppermint Frosting

Hiya blog friends!  Before I get into my latest création délicieuse, I wanted to point out a couple fun blog updates for you all.

1. If you missed my last post, you may not have heard the excitement.  I joined Twitter!  So if you’re interested in what I’m up to between posts or care to get sneak peaks into what my next baking adventure might be, you can now follow me there or keep tabs by checking out the widget along the right side of the blog.

2. You already know that everything I bake is full of whole foods and free of refined flours or sugars.  But I thought I’d take the health factor a step further and label my recipes with specific dietary preferences(V) = vegan; (GF) = gluten-free; (DF) = dairy-free.  So check out my Recipes page if you haven’t been in a while.  Perhaps an oldie but goodie will now catch your eye!

Ok, baking time!

My sister and I had BIG plans for our Christmas dinner desserts this year – an eclectic assortment of seasonal mini cupcakes.  Flavors to please every palate.  All bite-sized to allow for maximum taste bud enjoyment without maximum belly filling.

Well, all did not go according to plan…

We started with five cupcake ideas.  Imagine the spread!  The family would be blown away.  But we then remembered all baking and frosting would have to be done on the same day we were cooking Christmas dinner itself – darn tight travel schedule!  And five quickly narrowed to three.  No worries – three still provided a great variety.  So the ingredients were bought, the holiday arrived, the family opened presents and we got to work.

And two of the three recipes bombed!  One did not rise at all and left us with flat cupcake “discs” as they not so affectionately became known.  The other was a crumbly mess – though we were able to miraculously salvage it by transforming the cupcake scraps into a quite yummy bread – cupcake? – pudding.  Chaos feeds creativity people.

And then there was one…

The sole recipe to survive – or dare I say, thrive! – was for Mini Chocolate Cupcakes + Chocolate Peppermint Frosting.  I found this recipe for chocolate cupcakes and this one for chocolate frosting and basically followed them to a tee.  Just added some vanilla extract to the cupcakes – because I believe no recipe is complete without vanilla – and some peppermint extract to the frosting – because otherwise we wouldn’t have Chocolate Peppermint going on, now would we?

Oh – and these were very fun for me to bake because they contained a new-to-me ingredient – COCONUT FLOUR!  Using coconut flour is not only thrilling for me – it also means the cupcakes are gluten-free!  Whoo!

Here’s the recipe:

Cupcakes:

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated butter substitute (I use Earth Balance)

2 cups unrefined powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

2 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk (or almond, rice, etc.)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Spray mini cupcake pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, agave and vanilla extract until well-combined.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 10 minutes.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting by blending together non-hydrogenated butter substitute, unrefined powdered sugar, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, soy milk, cocoa powder and salt with an electric mixer until smooth.  Once cupcakes cool, spread frosting on top.  Makes 16 mini cupcakes.

These cupcakes are SO cute and SO tasty!  I think I have a new addition to the Sweet + Natural favorite recipes list.  The frosting is an absolute dream.  Fluffy but rich.  Chocolately but refreshing.  And I am very excited to have had such success with my first ever coconut flour baking attempt!  That is one ingredient that will definitely be experimented with further in my kitchen.  Yep yep.

Have you ever baked with coconut flour?  Any tips for the newbie?

Chocolate Carrot Cake + Cream Cheese Frosting

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So I’m back in NYC after two gloriously relaxing weeks visiting the fam in St. Louis – hooray for holiday break and vacation days to use up!  I could have stayed even longer – ahh, the life of no responsibility – but I do have to say, it feels good to get back to my usual routine.  Not gonna lie though, I’d be happy to go without the return of work tomorrow!  Oh well, c’est la vie, right?

Before I left STL and between holiday festivities, I made sure to squeeze in some more baking time.  You didn’t really think that Yogurt Glazed Carrot Cake was the only thing I whipped up while I was there, did you?!  That treat was for the sister.  This one’s for the dad.  And it comes with a back-story…

My dad e-mailed me a few weeks ago with a baking proposition.  One day last month, he was finishing up a working lunch with some colleagues when the dessert tray appeared at their table.  A richly dark, moist-looking cake immediately caught his eye.  Upon his asking, the waitress proclaimed it to be a “chocolate carrot cake.”  Now this was something Dad had never heard of before!  Intrigued and delighted, he ordered it on the spot and greatly looked forward to that first taste.

Much to his disappointment, said waitress later returned to inform him that his forthcoming dessert was actually a spice cake, not the carrot cake of his dreams. Well, poor Dad couldn’t get the thought of a chocolate carrot cake out of his mind, so he asked me (repeatedly) to bake one up when I came home.  And bake one up I did.  This version has cream cheese frosting, because that’s the way Dad likes it.

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My recipe for Chocolate Carrot Cake + Cream Cheese Frosting:

Cake:

3 cups grated carrots

3/4 cup agave nectar

2 eggs

2 egg whites

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips

Frosting:

12 ounces Neufchatel cheese

3 cups unrefined powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together carrots, agave nectar, eggs, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into prepared cake pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool in pans.

While cakes are cooling, prepare frosting by blending together Neufchatel cheese, unrefined powdered sugar and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth.  Once cakes cool, spread about a third of the frosting over cake #1.  Place cake #2 on top of cake #1.  Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

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Melty chocolate and carrot specks!

This cake was a huge hit around my house! The chocolate chips gave it some extra special chocolate sweetness and the cream cheese frosting was addicting!  I snuck a lot of licks from the bowl before it got to the cake.  You know, for testing purposes.  And though I made it for Dad, I think Mom may have liked it even more.  After a couple bites and some long, contemplative looks, she declared it the “best thing you’ve made yet.”  Don’t worry, I enjoyed some slices myself before she could polish it all off (j/k Mom, j/k).

What have you seen combined with chocolate that was somewhat surprising?

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Carrot Cake + Yogurt Glaze

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I love visiting my family in St. Louis for lots of reasons…I get to see mom, dad, brother and sister – and dog and cat!  The lazy suburbs are a nice break from the constant go-go-go of New York City.  I get to spread myself out over an entire house rather than a teeny apartment. And I get to bake for a whole group of people instead of just myself!

This last point, my friends, is a very important one.  You see, it’s just me and my roommate at home in NY.   And since she’s not a big fan of sweets – I know, what?! – and I probably shouldn’t eat ALL of what I make by myself, I’ve got to spread the wealth of my oven around to Dan and my friends to make sure every last goody is eaten while it’s still deliciously fresh.  This is where the practical girl in me takes over.  I tend to shy away from baking things that aren’t easily dividable and transportable – it’s always cookies and muffins instead of cakes and pies.  Baking for the family in St. Louis, these little details are non-issues.  Freedom!

So…you can imagine my excitement when I asked my sister what she wanted for our Christmas Eve dessert and she replied without hesitation – carrot cake!  A CAKE!  Hooray!  Apparently she has recently discovered a special fondness towards carrot cake and her college winter break would not be complete without it.  Fine by me!  But I wanted to do a little something different, of course, so I topped the cake with a yogurt glaze instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting.  And to make sure the cake really soaked up that glaze, I poked holes all over it and let the yogurty sweetness ooze in.  I also did a bit of lightening up by using applesauce instead of oil and egg whites instead of some whole eggs.

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Here’s my Yogurt Glazed Carrot Cake recipe, adapted from Baking With Agave Nectar‘s carrot cake:

Cake:

3 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup agave nectar

2 eggs

2 egg whites

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Yogurt Glaze:

1 1/2 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together carrots, coconut, agave nectar, eggs, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared cake pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool in pans. 

While cakes are cooling, prepare yogurt glaze by mixing together Greek yogurt, agave nectar, vanilla extract and salt.  Once cakes cool, poke holes in them using a fork and remove from pans.  Drizzle half of yogurt glaze over cake #1 and sprinkle with half of the walnuts.  Place cake #2 on top of cake #1.  Drizzle remaining glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.  Note: You may want to do this over a wire cooling rack with something underneath to catch the dripping glaze.  Makes for easier clean up! 

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The tip of a cake slice is the best part!

The cake got the approval of the fam!  It was perfectly spiced and super moist, especially where the yogurt glaze seeped into the poked holes.  And that glaze complemented the cake wonderfully.  It was nice and light but still flavorful – I actually thought it tasted a lot like cream cheese!

Are you a carrot cake fan?  What’s your favorite baked good with a vegetable star?  

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Contact

ashley.sweetandnatural@gmail.com

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