Happy St. Valentine’s week, all! When you’re a romance writer, it takes a certain amount of willful self-cloistering in an unheated, shuttered garret studio to forget about old Valentine’s Day. I’m a social media Luddite compared to many, but I am on Twitter, and it’s been abuzz with V-Day-themed blog posts and giveaways and book releases, to say nothing of friends sharing their plans for the holiday. And if that wasn’t reminder enough, my local NPR station (which is on about as constantly as the heat or lights in our house) runs an annual guerrilla fundraiser selling Valentine’s roses by the long-stemmed, fairly traded dozen that lasts nearly a week. It’s not a day I can forget.
Not that I want to forget it. I used to get a real kick out out of Valentine’s Day, back when I worked in an office. It’s fun to have flowers delivered; I’m girly enough that I like having my roses or new shoes or haircut complimented (oh, this old thing?) Now I work from home, which I wouldn’t trade for anything, but it leaves just little old me to admire any flowers that might show up. Plus there are no witnesses to keep me from eating an entire cardboard heart full of chocolates in a single afternoon.
But the main reason my husband and I don’t bother with Valentine’s Day is that his birthday is two days before. We always go out for a nice dinner (Indian this year, with plenty of wine) and watch a movie and get otherwise romantical, and to do that twice in one week would kind of take the shine off it, I suspect.
But to everyone who digs V-Day, I hope you had a great one! I, alternatively, had a great Husband’s Birthday Day on Sunday, which I kicked off by baking his favorite dessert item—carrot cake. Carrot cake cupcakes, to be precise. It was my first time making carrot cake, but I found it pretty easy, if a bit intensive, clean-up-wise. Credit where credit is due—I’ve adapted the following recipe (changed some ingredients and most measurements) from the one in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking cookbook.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups grated carrots (4–5 medium, 2–3 large)
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins
1 cup sugar
1 stick salted butter, melted
? cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
juice from ½ lemon (optional, but I like it)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease bottoms and sides of 12 muffin tin cups, then dust bottoms with flour and shake out excess. You could probably also use muffin liners, though I didn’t try it myself.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, stir together carrots, walnuts, and raisins.
4. Melt butter and allow to cool slightly. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter together in a large bowl on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs and beat some more. Gradually add in flour mixture, mixing on low speed until just mixed. Fold in carrots, walnuts, and raisins.
5. Dole batter evenly into muffin tins.
6. Bake 20–25 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes, then gently run a butter knife around the sides to loosen the cake. Invert and cool.
7. For the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese and butter together in a medium bowl until creamy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in lemon juice.
8. Once cupcakes are cool, frost them. I found they tasted better when they’d cooled completely, rather than still warm from the oven—I could taste more of the cinnamon for whatever reason.
Also, if you’d rather not have a dozen cupcakes tempting you at once, cut the recipe in half, or refrigerate half the batter and frosting to bake another day. I did the latter, and the second batch was just as good as the first.
For the calorie-conscious, I fed the ingredients into my little nutrition app while I was baking, and can report that each cupcake is about 270 calories—190 for the cake and 80 for the icing. Not too bad, for birthday cake!