Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Have You Been All My Life, Carrot Cake?

A few weeks ago I was perusing the grocery store for some brunch eats. I stumbled upon a mix of half a dozen cranberry mini muffins mixed with half a dozen mini carrot cake muffins. I bought them because I'm absolutely obsessed with cranberry muffins and figured I'd just feed the carrot cake muffins to my husband. He instead got sent on a TDY, so there I was, face to face with half a dozen muffins that I couldn't bring myself to throw away. To me, carrot cake has always been a large joke that I feel like other people didn't realize was being played on them--there's vegetables in your dessert, people!! But since I'm on this whole kick where I try things I used to hate as a child (I believe this is called "adulthood," but not 100% certain), I decided to eat a damn mini carrot cake muffin. I figured if it was as terrible as I remembered, it could at least be finished in one bite. Flash forward to me eating them by the handful and wondering why my childhood taste buds hated me so much. I mean, McDonald's for every meal, tiny Kate? Intense hatred of avocado? Refusal to eat hibachi? I had issues, man. And now I try to make up for lost time by piling avocado on everything, munching on salads with ginger dressing at least once a week, and, apparently, eating carrot cake like it's going out of style. It has only been two weeks since the mini carrot cake muffins changed my life, but like any grown woman with a bank account and no one to enforce rules about boundaries (I believe these are called "parents," but not 100% certain), I decided it was time to make my own. A twist on a traditional carrot cake muffin, these are filled with Craisins instead of raisins because like I said, hugely obsessed with cranberries, and, naturally, super low cal and delish.
But they don't look it, and that's what matters.
This recipe makes a baker's dozen (that's thirteen muffins for those of you who somehow managed not to become a foodie as an adult), and they're each only 110 calories a pop...and that's with some extra toppings!! I thought perhaps my head was imploding after I did the math, but it turns out I was just on day four of a sinus headache and my brain was responding to the pain of slowly turning into a balloon too large for my cranium. I rechecked my math to be certain (thankfully calculators are still a technology not too advanced for a thirty-something to use). Number crunching aside, I recommend making these due to the sheer fact that they make your home smell like a maple-cinnamon wonderland. And they taste like one, too! I had originally intended for these to be cupcakes, but honestly, they are perfect for brunch. They're not too sweet, but with the addition of crushed pineapple, maple syrup, and Craisins, they just scream breakfast decadence. I topped them with Cool Whip Free, cinnamon, and a caramel-covered raisin. I've never been more eager to get up in the morning as I am now that these are waiting for me to eat (trying not to do that by the handful).
It's a large line up.
I've yet to make any claims about low ingredient numbers because it's rather obvious this is an "everything but the kitchen sink" kind of recipe...which is totally fine because you can add or adapt these to fit your taste preferences. As long as the carrot is still in there, it's technically a carrot cake muffin, so have a little fun breaking the rules for once (this is more a reminder for me than you. Breaking the rules makes me twitchy). To make these round up:
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup cinnamon applesauce*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar free Hungry Jack maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup reduced sugar Craisins (can replace with regular raisins)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots 
*If you only have regular applesauce on hand, use a tablespoon of cinnamon.

Start off by preheating your oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with liners and spritz with Pam. Applesauce makes for a dense muffin/cupcake, so if you're not using foil liners, the cooking spray will be needed unless you enjoy ingesting tiny scraps of cupcake liner that won't peel off the muffin. I'm not judging...maybe you just really like fiber. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
I'm still getting used to carrots mingling freely with pineapple and cranberries.
 In a stand mixing bowl, blend the applesauce, eggs, syrup, and vanilla until you've got a nice sloshy mixture. Add in the Craisins, pineapple, and carrots. Blend well in short bursts so the Craisins stay...craisiny. Dump half the dry mix in with the wet and blend well, scraping the bowl before you add in the rest of the dry mix. Don't over mix, but make sure your ingredients have all be incorporated nicely.
Things will be chunky, and that's okay.
 I'm still getting used to experimenting with textures and food. This was why I hated avocado, mashed potatoes, and carrot cakes until recent years. Foods that look lumpy but taste smooth in texture really freaked out my childhood sense of reasoning, apparently. I used a cookie scoop to plop my muffin mix into the cups so they were 3/4 full:
Pay no mind to my disgraceful muffin tin on the right.
 I smoothed out the tops of these muffins with a spoon so they would at least look pretty and not lumpy. I baked until a toothpick came out clean, and this hit at the 20 minute mark. Let them cool on a rack in the tin for 10 minutes before you remove them and allow them to finish cooling.
This will be tricky. Because they will smell like an absolute dream.
 My house has never smelled more distinctly Canadian than the moment these cinnamon and maple-syrup infused muffins came out of the oven...and this is coming from a woman who regularly uses maple syrup wax melts. I really love maple, okay? And Canada. I'm obsessed with Canada. From its beautiful landscape to its equally beautiful people and prime minister, it's a fine place to be. Both literally and figuratively, eh.
I hear Justin Trudeau's smile can cure cancer, just sayin'.
Let these muffins cool in the fridge for a half hour before frosting. You could call it a day here and have a muffin distinctly for breakfast, but since I'm trying to blur the lines between brunch and dessert so that I can have more of both, I went with a simple cinnamon whipped topping. Added sweetness appropriate for a.m. or p.m. time frames! Bless the versatility of the carrot cake and my overarching desire to always be full of cake.
Cake and Kate go together. Just ask the name of the blog.
 To frost, I used half a large tub of Cool Whip free, a dusting of cinnamon, and single Sun-Maid caramel salted yogurt raisin. I don't care who you are or how much you hate raisins (which I assume would be most people between age 5 and 75), these yogurt-covered raisins are literally the best thing to ever happen to raisins since someone figured out how to turn them into wine. Buy them; love them.
Along with this giant French decorating tip.
 My tub of Cool Whip was somehow partially frozen even after sitting out for like two hours. This meant the not frozen part had gotten a little soupy, so my French tip decorating ideas didn't really hold up well (literally). Things started to get a little soggy and melty, but thankfully the cinnamon covered most of that up. I used a large Ateco French tip and piped a large mound in the middle of the muffin-cupcake. When I had a substantial puff of Cool Whip, I pushed my tip down into the mound and pulled away quickly to create a little pillow puff lined with greatness:
And finished off with said life-changing raisin on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
 Had my Cool Whip been less temperamental than me after not eating for more than three hours, this would've looked prettier, but still, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one or five. Seriously--I'm probably turning my skin orange by sheer amount of carrot products consumed. I absolutely adore the flavor mix between the pineapple and the Craisins. It's a great, soft texture that bursts with flavor. And when you finish eating one, your hands will smell like maple and cinnamon. I defy you to be in a bad mood when your fingers smell like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It simply isn't possible. This is probably why Canadians are so damned friendly. If I always smelled of maple syrup, cinnamon, and could eat poutine whenever the hell I wanted, it might not cause me physical pain to smile daily or even hourly. Lofty goals, but with carrot cake, all things are possible. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I'm only smiling now to practice unhinging my jaw to eat these in one bite...

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