Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Carrot & Pear Cupcakes for a Birthday Brunch

 Tomorrow my JiT will be 40. Whoa.

This one was worth celebrating. So we did. We still ARE technically. We'll be heading on a little vacation later this week, but since thats just the two of us, it seemed like a more public celebration was in order beforehand. So I threw a little surprise brunch on Sunday.

He was surprised and it was good fun. We had about a dozen friends pop over and a half-dozen tots a-toddling. Since he was home all weekend, the prep work posed a bit of a challenge. I managed to dream up a ruse about a Monday playdate to explain my sudden desire to clean and put flowers on the table. But the food...the food was the head scratcher.

I ended up throwing together a breakfast strata on Friday morning. Since stratas actually benefit from sitting around for a bit, tt hung out in the fridge all weekend (again, for the alleged Monday playdate) until I baked it Sunday morning. I would have done a post about that but it was gone by the time the party was over.

The part that had me more concerned was the celebratory sweet. What could I make on Friday morning, keep hidden away in our cellar and still expect yumminess on Sunday? And what would be brunch appropriate and JiT approved? He's a carrot cake fan and everyone loves a good cream cheese frosting, so that seemed like a good choice. Happily, these stayed perfectly, deliciously moist tucked away in my cupcake carrier in our cool cellar. They were still moist and delicious at party time. The secret, I think, is the pear (or apple if you please). The extra boost of fruit adds moisture and heartiness. Technically, these could pass as a muffin, but the frosting sets them firmly in the festive cake category, if you ask me.

In addition to the nibbles, I set up a bloody mary and mimosa bar that was very popular with the grownups in the crowd. By the time all of our guests left, my crew was ready for a nap. I never got any pics during the party, but was thoroughly amused by this pic of the aftermath. PJs, diaper, lucky charms and March Madness make for quite a tableau.

Happy Birthday to my charming, sweet, looks-and-acts-way-WAY-younger than his age Hub! Here's to at least 40 more!

Carrot and Pear Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups shredded carrots (about 1/4 pound whole carrots)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pear, peeled, cored and shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F. and line eighteen muffin cups with cupcake liners.
Into a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and whisk in white and brown sugars. Add shredded carrots, walnuts and coconut to flour mixture and toss well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, eggs and vanilla (mixture will remain a little lumpy). Stir shredded pear into egg mixture and add to flour mixture, stirring until batter is just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them three fourths full, and bake 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Cool muffins in tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting, if desired. Cupcakes keep beautifully in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

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