Our baby girl is one year old.
I made cupcakes for her yesterday morning, after spending several days debating with myself about what kind of cake to make. It’s such a big deal, this first birthday. Even though Gabi won’t remember it, the kind of cake she has is well documented. There are several dozen pictures of her eating it. It’s written about in her baby book and her journal. And as she grows up, she’ll see pictures of herself on her first birthday with orange cream-cheese frosting around her little mouth.
I wanted to make her some crazy good cake, but nothing too sweet. We hadn’t given her sugar yet. Everything she puts in her mouth is homemade, unsweetened and unprocessed, in hopes that she grows up to love good food, and not the wrong kind.
This carrot cake was perfect. I reduced the amount of sugar called for in the original recipe by about 30 percent (didn’t miss it), and left out the pecans, since babies aren’t to have them. It’s essential to use the smallest holes on the box grater for the carrots. They almost melt into the cake. Using white sugar, rather than brown, makes these especially light.
The ginger here is subtle. You barely will notice it. The orange zest and ginger in the cream cheese frosting brightens it up a bit.
As for the birthday girl, she liked her first cupcake. But even more, she liked having her favorite food that came after — avocado, spinach and sweet potato.
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
1 cup (3 ounces) pecan halves (optional)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound large carrots, peeled
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
Orange Cream-Cheese frosting (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper cupcake liners. If using, spread pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate; let cool completely. Chop pecans finely, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside. Using the smallest holes of a box grater, grate carrots (you will need a total of 2 1/2 cups). Place grated carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil, and ginger in a large bowl; whisk until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the chopped pecans, if using.
Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto the rack; then turn them back over and let them cool completely, top sides up. Spread tops with Orange Cream-Cheese Frosting.
Cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes 20-24 cupcakes.
Orange Cream-Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
Pinch of salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with he paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, and beat until combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the remaining ingredients, and beat 5 minutes. Frosting can be kept at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 hours.