This is the simplest recipe in Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes, or so says Allison Robicelli. That doesn't mean it's plain: a traditional carrot cake recipe, bursting with spices and fresh carrot, is topped with a cream cheese buttercream and walnuts roasted in butter. The spices of the cake are set off splendidly by a dense, tangy buttercream.
Why this recipe works:
- Carrot cake isn't always everyone's first choice, but the addition of freshly grated carrot and an array of spices make this cake burst with flavor.
- Cream cheese and carrot cake is a well-known pairing, but the super-involved French buttercream, flavored with cream cheese and vanilla, is somehow both light and incredibly rich. It's a cut above the rest.
From Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes by Allison and Matt Robicelli. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Studio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Allison and Matt Robicelli, 2013.
- Yield:makes 12 cupcakes
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:1 hour 30 minutes
- Carrot Cake
- 2 cups shredded carrots, packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cups canola or grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 cup raisins (if you must)
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- Roasted Walnuts
- 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Cream Cheese Buttercream
- One recipe French Buttercream (ingredients below)
- One 8-ounce package cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon guar gum (optional)
- French Buttercream
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 1/2 lbs cold butter, preferably European
Carrot Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 baking cups.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the carrots, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and mix on medium-low until well combined, about 1 minute.
With the mixer running, slowly pour in the oil and vanilla. Continue mixing until combined.
Stop the mixer, remove the bowl and paddle, and use the paddle to scrape the insides of the bowl, making sure everything is fully incorporated.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and add to the batter. Reattach the bowl and paddle to the mixer and mix on medium until just combined, then add the eggs and continue mixing until the batter is homogenous, about 10 to 20 seconds. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer and, once again, use the paddle to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, ensuring that
everything is well mixed.
Add the walnuts, if using, and raisins, if you’re a bastard, and mix them in by hand using the paddle attachment.
Scoop the batter into the prepared baking cups, filling them three quarters of the way.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
The cupcakes are done when the centers spring back when you touch them.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely while you prepare the walnuts and buttercream. Leave the oven on.
Roasted Walnuts: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread out the chopped walnuts and roast in the oven until you just begin to smell them, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Place the butter and salt on top of thewalnuts, gather the corners of the aluminum foil together to enclose the walnuts in a pouch, then shake well for 1 minute to coat with butter and salt. Set aside to cool.
Cream Cheese Buttercream: In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, add water, then add sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar. The last two help keep the sugar from crystallizing. Put the pot on high heat. It's going to be there for a while. Be patient and keep your eye on it.
Put the yolk and eggs in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn to high. Just let it go! Eggs will triple in volume and go to the "ribbons" stage. You can't overwhip!
Wait on the sugar, looking for 235°F, aka "soft ball." When it happens, be ready to move quickly. Turn off the mixer and add the xanthan gum, turn back up to medium. Remove the thermometer from the hot sugar. Lift with two hands. Rest the lip of the saucepan on the edge of the mixer bowl.
Slowly tilt and pour the sugar in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl. Don't go too fast! If you do there will be chunks of scrambled eggs in your buttercream.
Once the sugar is all in, turn the mixer to high. Beat until cool. Gauge this by putting the inside of your wrist to the outside of the bowl. It's more accurate than your hands. Switch out the whisk for the paddle. Next we're adding the butter. It's too heavy for the whisk and you'll end up breaking your stand mixer if you stay with the whisk.
Start cutting the butter into thin pieces - you could shave it with a cheese slicer if you'd like. Add the butter piece by piece.
Once your butter is added, turn the mixer to medium high to add some air, 10-20 seconds at most. It should be fluffy and make you want to eat it with your fingers.
Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat on high until well incorporated. If the cream cheese is particularly liquidy, it could cause the buttercream to “break.” If that happens, add the guar gum and continue beating on high for 2 minutes until the mixture comes back together.
Assembly: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a fluted tip with the cream cheese buttercream and pipe onto each carrot cupcake. Sprinkle the roasted walnuts on top.