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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shortcut Carrot Cake

Of all the desserts out there my favorite by far is Carrot Cake.

I just love it.

From the pecans, to the raisins to the cream cheese frosting nothing brightens my day more than a piece of delicious, moist, flavorful carrot cake.

I love finding that wonderfully tasting piece when I least expect it. There is nothing worse than biting into a piece of dry, flavor-less cake. But when you find a piece of good carrot cake you remember where you were and get go back and get it again.

Since I was a child, this has been my very favorite cake. But until now I have never made it myself. I can't explain why, it's just one of those cakes that I didn't think I could do well and I thought it would take forever.

Boy, was I wrong!

For Easter this past Sunday I made what Kraft Foods calls their "Shortcut Carrot Cake". I was hesitant trying this out but gave it a go anyhow. And boy was I glad I did. This recipe was right up there with my favorite carrot cake slices, the best part of the whole recipe? start with a box of Spice Cake Mix!

Just add in a few ingredients and you have got a delicious carrot cake! The biggest surprise was the cream cheese frosting was so incredibly light and fluffy. Something that you rarely get with any carrot cake.

My only change that I will make is the next time I will add raisins. One thing that the recipe does not.

Next step is making this recipe into cupcakes! I can't wait!

Shortcut Carrot Cake

1 pkg. (2-layer size) spice cake mix
2 cups shredded carrots (about 1/2 lb.)
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup PLANTERS Chopped Pecans, divided
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Prepare cake mix batter as directed on package, stirring in carrots, pineapple and 3/4 cup of the pecans until well blended. Pour into 2 (9-inch) square baking pans. Bake 25 to 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool.

MEANWHILE, beat cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer or wire whisk until well blended. Stir in whipped topping until well blended.

PLACE 1 cake layer on serving plate. Spread with 1-1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture. Carefully place second cake layer on top of first cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining cream cheese mixture. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Nest Cupcakes

So after looking at just how far I had to go back and update this blog I figured instead of starting with the cupcakes that I had made in the fall and the recipes that I would start at the most recent and work backwards.

With that said, I am going to blog every single day until I get caught up!
So if you check back try to hold me to that!

At any rate, let me start off with the Easter Nest Cupcakes.

I found a recipe in an old Pillsbury Recipe booklet (the ones in the checkout line at your neighborhood grocery store).

The recipe was basically starting out with a box of chocolate cake mix and some chocolate frosting. Sprinkling them with chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) to build the nest and placing 3 egg candies for decoration. Viola! You have your Easter Egg Nest Cupcakes.

I had some frozen cupcakes in the freezer that I defrosted (for lack of extra time), and some Vanilla Buttercream that I used instead.

The recipes for those that I used initially were from the "Cupcakes From The Cake Mix Doctor" book.

They were for the White On White Cupcakes which I have since renamed to White Chocolate Cupcakes and the Basic Vanilla Buttercream. Before I begin with the recipes let me give you my observations.

You think White on White Cupcakes should give you a White Cupcake...WRONG! That was what I was expecting until I noticed that you need a whole egg. That immediately turns the batter a light yellow. When they bake they are indeed yellow. Next time, I think I will stick to just the egg whites to get a true white cupcake. The cupcakes themselves were fine, the white chocolate flavor didn't stand out. Which I took to be a good thing and a bad thing. I myself, don't like White Chocolate but I wish the flavor stood out a little more. This will definetly be a recipe I play with when I have some more time.

From personal expierence they freeze very well. The batch I used for the Easter Nests were from an order I put together at the end of February. I think they are actually better and have more of a moistness when frozen and thawed.

As far as making the nests go, I followed the pictures of the Pillsbury nests and didn't like the way they looked. After a little inspection of my pantry I found some coconut which I toasted. After applying the Buttercream and dousing them with a good helping of coconut I placed 3 Cadbury Mini Eggs on top for the egg in the nest look.

Very pleased with the end result!


The recipes are as follows:

White on White Cupcakes:

1 cup White Chocolate Chips
1 Package Plain White Cake Mix
1 Cup Whole Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Large Egg
3 Large Egg Whites
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Place the white chocolate chips in a medium sized glass mixing bowl in the microwave on high power for 50 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a small rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place the cake mix, milk, oil, eggs, egg whites, vanilla and melted white chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two thirds of the way full.

Place them in a preheated 350 degree oven for between 17 to 20 minutes. (They should be golden and spring back lightly when touched).

Vanilla Buttercream

8 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 Cups Confectioners' Sugar, sifted
3 to 4 Tablespoons of Milk
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffly, 30 seconds. Stop and add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons of the milk and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Add up to 1 tablespoon of milk extra if the frosting seems stiff.

Where Has The Time Gone?

Wow, my last post was in October?

Holy crap!

I knew I was behind but I didn't think I was THAT far behind.

I don't even know where to start.

And here I thought this was going to be a quick post.

Let me go back and see what I have done.

Stay tuned!