Bake the Book: Carrot Cake Cupcakes

[Photograph: Eric Isaac]

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.

Tips: Grate your own carrots for this recipe. Seriously; pre-shredded carrots lack a lot of the necessary moisture that's accounted for in the batter. Matt Robicelli recommends soaking pre-shredded carrots in water overnight if you can't bring yourself to grate your own, but soaking carrots overnight and carefully draining them seems like even more work than just grating them and getting it over with. Buy 5 or 6 large carrots to be on the safe side. To be on the really safe side, tell your friend you're making cupcakes and need a little help. Then you don't have to do any grating OR soaking.

Tweaks: Both walnuts and raisins are optional in the cake batter, but not in the topping; if you eschew nuts in the cake, be sure to include them in the topping. Leaving nuts and raisins out will give you a homogeneous texture, one that's pleasantly interrupted by crunchy, roasted walnuts sprinkled in the buttercream. Don't feel bad about adding raisins to the batter; some people love them, even if the Robicellis don't.

The trickiest part of this recipe is the buttercream. It's a French buttercream, to which cream cheese and vanilla are added at the end. To make it easier on yourself and your mixer, make sure the cream cheese has been sitting out long enough to be nicely pliable; too hard and you'll have lumps, too liquidy, and you run the risk of "breaking" the buttercream. Even if that happens, adding a bit of guar gum and beating on high solves the problem. See the full recipe for instructions.

As always with our Bake the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes to give away.