This past Easter I was pondering what to bake– trying to decide between hot cross buns and cream-filled chocolate eggs– when I realized that I had a big bag of carrots languishing in the crisper drawer, leftovers from a delicious batch of bolognese sauce. I immediately discarded all other options in favor of carrot cake– a cake that I love, but rarely make for some reason. And I knew just the recipe– another Smitten Kitchen post that I’d bookmarked a while ago but never gotten around to trying, carrot cake with graham crackers.
That’s right, there are pulverized graham crackers in the batter, taking the place of some of the flour. Honestly, though, with all of the spices in the mix I couldn’t really taste the graham flavor, so I’m not sure how successful that element was in this case. But the rest of it was a very nice cake (a little heavy on the frosting, but some people like it that way), and since the top was looking a little plain once I assembled it, I made a batch of candied carrot curls to decorate!
For my daughter’s kitty-themed fifth birthday party, the first thing she asked for was “a cake shaped like a house, that’s also a cat.” What could I do but give it my best shot? After all, coming after last year’s castle cake, it should be a snap, right?
When I asked my daughter what flavor of cake she wanted for her fifth birthday, she told me “chocolate with cookies and raspberries,” so what could I do but comply? Not a huge project, but it was impressive (and tasty) enough that I figured it was worth writing about.
The cake is my standard chocolate cake, divided into three 7″ round cake pans. I didn’t have sufficient time for my usual whipped frosting recipe, so I threw some frosting together out of what I had on hand– it was a bit denser than I prefer, but still tasted good. There wasn’t really enough of it to properly frost the cake, but that’s where the cookies came in!
Okay, so first things first– I’ve got to admit that these are a shameless cheat. They’re technically my Pumpkin Pecan Chip muffins with frosting, not cupcakes. But really, once you’ve added white chocolate chips to muffins, they basically become cupcakes by another name anyway, right? And the topping makes all the difference, I promise you!
To take these muffins over the top into cupcake territory, slather them with a brown sugar/cream cheese frosting, then top them with candied ginger and toasted pecans. The combination is amazing– creamy, crunchy, spicy, and everything you’d want in an autumn dessert!
I know that many of the recipes I post on here are complicated and involve tons of fancy ingredients. Those are fun and delicious recipes. But as you can also see, some of the recipes I post involve boxed cake mixes, canned doughs, and other quick-and-easy processed ingredients. Sometimes I use them because it’s easier, and sometimes I use them because they just taste better. Really.
This is one of the latter recipes.
I’m all for traditional fudge, made by bringng a mixture of sugar, cocoa, butter, and water to just the right temperature, then stirring just enough to make tiny sugar crystals and chilling at just the right time to keep it smooth and creamy. I’m all for eating it, that is. My attempts at making it have fallen flat, and the other recipes I’ve seen or tried, using melted marshmallows, evaporated or sweetened condensed milk, or other non-traditional ingredients, aren’t really all that great. But then I tried using canned frosting.
One thing to know about my daughter is that she loves cats. LOVES them. Anything that can have a cat on it, or be shaped like a cat, is bound to come out that way at some point. So when I suggested that we make cookies for a party she was invited to, she immediately declared that they would be “kitty cookies, with chocolate chips for eyes.” Fair enough, I could do that!
Since the only cat-shaped cookie cutter I have is a Halloween-style arched-back cat, I decided to make a slice-and-bake roll of dough and go a little more cartoony and do kitty faces instead. I colored the main dough pink, leaving part of it plain to use for the muzzle and the insides of the ears, and formed the two doughs into a log I could slice cookies off of. A little more work to begin with, but easier than rolling out thin and definitely quick at the end for decorating.
Remember all of the candied lemon peel I had left over from my lemonade concentrate? I had to do something with it, so I decided to bake cake. Cake is always the answer. I decided to go with a pound cake, because I figured that the crumb would need to be fairly dense in order to support the chewy chunks of peel. And what’s a lemon cake without a lemon syrup to soak it in? And a glaze? Talk about gilding the lily…
The finished cake is incredibly moist and tender, and the syrup and glaze combine for a slightly crackly outer crust that immediately gives way to a melt-in-your-mouth icing, full of lemon flavor. While the cake doesn’t slice neatly– too soft and moist– it’s really delicious, and even better the day after it’s baked. Plus, due to the moisture and the glaze it’ll keep, uncovered at room temperature, for at least three days without drying out. Probably longer, but I didn’t have any left to check after three days!