What better time to talk about desserts than when it’s raining? The sky is gray, the red tiled roofs of the buildings in the courtyard slicked with wet. Slushy snow flakes dot the drizzle in what the weatherman calls a “wintry mix.” And I’m thinking about cupcakes.
A long time ago, before I moved to Schöneberg, when I still called Neukölln home, I was in a baking mood. I don’t think the weather was quite so dire nor was I feeling quite as lazy as I am today – or else I’d be baking these cupcakes right now instead of dreaming about them and staring out my window.
My friend Ellie, who is an excellent baker in her own right, was over, and we measured ingredients and splattered batter around the kitchen while gossiping, of course, as all good bakers do. I’d soaked golden raisins overnight in some blood orange juice and Cointreau, and since there was still an almost full bottle of juice just lying around, I’m sure there were mimosas involved in this event. I’m dreaming of that day. Of those cupcakes.
Not overly sweet, these cupcakes are moist, with the warm, spicy fragrance of a traditional carrot cake balanced by citrus notes. The sweetness comes from the cream cheese icing – the tang of cream cheese swirled with heavy cream, powdered sugar, butter, and just a splash of vanilla.
The most beautiful part of the whole experience is waiting by the window while they bake, filling the kitchen with the heavenly aroma of sweet stuff in a hot oven.
You can see why I’m still dreaming of them. Especially on a day like today – wet and gray and not a note of sugar in the air. So go bake these. And then send me one.
Carrot Cupcakes with Cointreau
Adapted from What Katie Ate. This is a recipe that involves an overnight prep step – just a heads up in case you’re as bad as reading all the way through a recipe as I am.
½ cup golden raisins
¾ cup blood orange juice (or orange juice)
1 tbsp. Cointreau
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
3 large eggs
1 vanilla bean
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
small handful of walnuts
Cream cheese frosting:
¾ cup powdered sugar
¾ stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup cream cheese
1 tbsp. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Soak the raisins in blood orange juice and Cointreau in the fridge overnight.
When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a cupcake tray with paper cups.
Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds – this pasty substance is what you’ll use in the recipe. In a small bowl, combine the scraped vanilla seeds with brown sugar, oil, honey, and eggs. In a separate, large mixing bowl, blend your dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. With a grater, finely shred the carrots and add them to the mixture along with the soaked raisins.
Divide the batter between the cupcake papers, filling each about three quarters. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. When the cupcakes are done, cool them on a wire rack.
While your cupcakes are cooling, make your frosting: With an electric mixer, blend powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, whipping cream, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.
Coarsely chop walnuts, then dry toast them in a small skillet. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting and chopped walnuts.