Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I have always loved birthdays. Not just my own, but everyone’s. I have never been one to shy away from a surprise party, I often encourage them. I used to always try to throw birthday parties for my friends growing up. I even threw my friend Laura more than one in high school, until on her 18th birthday she was less than thrilled with me, so I learned my lesson. I never really understood why my friends didn’t want to celebrate their birthday with parties, balloons, good food and lots of friends (and booze). It’s YOUR day. The one day of the year where people can celebrate YOU. I think everyone deserves that day and it’s a good way to remind you how much people care about you and feel lucky to have you in their life. It’s all about embracing your day because you only get one. That’s how I have felt every single year, until now.

This year, my birthday is giving me a sense of impending doom. I notice myself catching my breath at the thought of THIS birthday, but it’s a silly feeling and I am hoping that when the day gets closer (it’s a few months away), maybe a strong martini will cure my birthday blues. Or even better, a margarita on the beach. I could get behind the idea of celebrating my 25th birthday on a beach. Anyway, helping Laura to throw her boyfriend Adam a surprise party for his 26th birthday definitely made me feel a little better about turning 25 (sorry Adam!). Since I love celebrating birthday’s I thought I would help her out and make some snacks for the party.

What better treat than cupcakes for your birthday! I have been wanting to learn how to make my mom’s Carrot Cake recipe for a while. I have made it with her a few times, but never on my own. Cooking with my mom is one of my favorite things, but sometimes you need to be alone in the kitchen to see if you are capable of actually making the recipe correctly. So, carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting it was!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. Salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil

2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cups chopped pecans

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Beat eggs, sugar and oil together until combined.


Grate the carrots and chop the pecans if needed.

Stir in flour, fold in carrots and nuts. Mix well.

Pour into cupcake pans and bake for about 12 minutes.

Frost with cream cheese frosting and enjoy!


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Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip

I instantly fell in love with Spicy Buffalo Chicken dip when my friend Sarah made it for a birthday party almost two years ago. She made it again last year for my Super Bowl party and unfortunately haven’t had it since.  Luckily,  my friend Caroline had some leftover from her Super Bowl party and brought them in to work  for us to snack on. So when I needed to make “comfort food” for a work party, I knew exactly what I needed to make. I was worried it might be a little bit too spicy, but no one seemed to complain (and that is a good thing)! I had remembered what ingredients my friend Sarah told me she used and just went for it. If you don’t like things too spicy, I recommend cutting down on the Cholula hot sauce.

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

3 boneless chicken Breasts (some recipes called for canned chicken, but that just sounds horrible)

1 cup light ranch (or regular)

1 cup Cholula hot sauce

1 package of fat-free cream cheese (or regular)

1 package of shredded cheddar cheese

Boil the chicken breasts. While the chicken is cooking, add the ranch, cream cheese, hot sauce, and shredded cheese to a baking dish. Cook at 350º for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, mix ingredients, and put back in the oven for 10 minutes. By this time, the chicken should be done cooking. Shred the chicken and mix with the ingredients in the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Serve with chips (I prefer scoops!)

*Tip – My co-worker Betsy told me that if you put chicken in a crock pot with a little bit of water and let it cook during the day (even if it’s frozen) it will instantly shred once it is ready.

My next cooking adventure will hopefully be this weekend, as I am thinking about having a little Oscar’s party with some of my friends. Wishing I had access to all the party accessories I would need from A Classic, but I guess I can give my sister something to blog about – hosting Oscar parties!

Lucia

Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook

I finally downloaded pictures from Easter and am trying to decide what I want to do this weekend.  I am heading back to Indy again and am really looking forward to having a more relaxed weekend compared to last weekend.  Saturday my sister and I are going to look at invitations for her wedding.  I can’t believe it is approaching so quickly!  I don’t think these kitchen adventures are helping me get into great shape for her big day, but oh well.  You do what you gotta do!  Hopefully I can come up with something great tomorrow…maybe I will go back to basics and make meatballs.  Sunday’s are spent sitting around my Grandparents kitchen table eating and catching up, so normally I could have made something to bring there, but it is my cousins baby shower, so that is not an option.  Hopefully something inspires me tomorrow….

Tonight for dinner my roommate heated up some of her homemade matzah ball soup and in true Italian fashion….I tried to top it off with some parmesan cheese.  Apparently only Italians add parmesan to their soups!    I got another present for my Kitchen Adventure!!  My Grandpa found a cookbook called “Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook” and on the inside…the book is dedicated “To Gina, who was the inspiration for writing this guide.”  How ironic,  Lucia’s survival guide dedicated to Gina…Gina is my sisters name.  Gina is also my best friend and someone I would dedicate a book to because she is someone I admire most.  The book was not only meaningful because it came from my Grandpa, but it was extra meaningful because it has some irony to it!

Here are the pictures from the weekend and the recipe for the Italian Cream Cake!

Italian Cream Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, softened

2 cups of sugar

5 eggs – separated

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour, sifted

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup coconut

1 cup pecans, chopped

Beat softened butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks, oil, flour, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the coconut and 1/2 cup of the pecans. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy (hint: they should form peaks). Fold egg whites into batter.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Ice with cream cheese icing (recipe below)

Cream Cheese Icing

**Makes enough icing for 1 cake (3 layers)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 boxes of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 boxes Powdered Sugar

1 1/2 sticks softened butter

2 tsp Pure Vanilla extract

In a mixer, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla.  Mix well until creamy and light.

Batter from the Carrot Cake…not including all the ingredients though!

The Italian Cream Cake requires egg whites – you can tell they are finished when they form peaks!

After a long day of baking – here is half of the mess

Italian Cream Cake

Carrot Cake

Scrape It Don’t Shake It!!

So I had a few things planned for my Easter activities, but they all unfortunately fell through.  The weather here in Chicago was SO nice, I couldn’t bring myself to stay inside after work coloring Easter eggs…so that never happened.  I was so flustered while packing Thursday night to go home, I  forgot to pack my recipes of inspiration for holiday flare and was unable to find them online in time to make them for everyone.  SO, instead, I went with second best.  I made an Italian Cream Cake and a Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing.

Let me tell you, I am so glad I did not find the recipes in time because I learned so much while baking with my mom (actually I did the baking, prepping, and cleaning while she did the directing and watching).  Similar to my first kitchen adventure when I was making dinner for my cousins, I learned a few things in the kitchen.

1. there is a difference between a wet measure and a dry measure.  How was I suppose to know that?  Who tells you these things?  It’s not like I had baking class in high school (thanks a lot Brebeuf…useless).  I asked my mom how she knew this little fact and she had no clue.  So here I am telling all of you – there is a difference.

2.  Do not shake off the extra flour when measuring.  You have to scrape it off the top or it will make your cake heavy.  Do not shake off the baking soda or the baking powder either.  You MUST scrape it off.  Ok, seriously?   That just seems absurd to me…what is a little shake going to do?  Apparently, a lot.  So don’t shake…scrape!

3. When the directions say combined and sift….you should always combined the ingredients in the sifter and THEN sift.  Sifting one at a time is not correct.  Adding all together without sifting is not correct and if it says combined into wet ingredients…combined together first then add.  DO NOT add one at a time.  Good thing I have baking 101 right in my own home kitchen thanks to my mother.

4. I don’t know how people bake without high-tech tools.  I could never accomplish what I did without the Kitchen Aid Pro.  That thing is a God Send.

5. When filling your cake pans, use a measuring cup and put about 2 cups in each round pan in order to make your cakes even after baking.

I was so grateful to learn all of these things over the weekend, so I hope you are equally as intrigued and appreciative!  My cakes turned out fabulous.  I was able to share a piece of the Italian Cream Cake with my sister before it was too late.  The cake was gone within 30 minutes after lunch (my family usually hides pieces of this cake to take home with them – it is a coveted dessert in the Bayt family!).  The carrot cake was taken to my mom’s family and I tasted a little bite of it.

I don’t usually choose carrot cake as my dessert option.  I was always freaked out by the fact that it had carrots in it and in my mind carrots ≠ dessert.  But in the cakes defense…it tastes nothing like carrots and was actually really good.

It was nice being able to spend the day baking with my mom, but it was exhausting….I was glad to finally be done and head out to my friends to watch the Butler game!  Sad ending last night, but so proud of them!