Without the little marzipan carrot garnish, these cupcakes don’t look like much but they taste amazing. Add that little candy carrot and you’ve got a treat that just won’t quit. I made a batch of these and took them to several meetings I had this week and they were a big hit every place I went.
The cupcake recipe itself is a fairly straightforward carrot cake, with the addition of fresh ginger. The MSBH instructs that you use a small grater to grate the carrots into thin strips but I took the easy route and used my food processor. I think smaller strands of carrot would be much better for these little cupcakes, but I opted to just use the processor.
If you’ll recall my tragedy with the chocolate cupcakes falling while they baked, you’ll understand that I took special care to adjust the leavening in this recipe for altitude (I’m at 7,200 ft above sea level). I nixed the baking powder altogether and increased the baking soda by 25%. Whenever I make adjustments like this, I try to note them in pencil in the margins of the recipe. If they don’t work out, I can erase them but if they do improve the outcome of the recipe, I leave them for future reference. Sometimes I’ll also note the date and occasion I made a certain recipe in the margin, kind of like a little diary.
This cake comes together really quickly – carrot cakes are one of the easiest cakes to make, I think. I mixed it together by hand in one big bowl.
Then just scoop the batter into the paper-lined tins and you’re ready to rock and roll.
My adjustments paid off – my cupcakes baked up perfectly with nice, convex (can “convex” be used to describe cupcake tops?) tops. They tasted great too, so no need to try further adjustments!
The Orange Cream Cheese Frosting is made by beating together butter and cream cheese for several minutes, and then mixing in orange zest, fresh ginger, powdered sugar, and some salt. It all creates a very smooth, fluffy frosting.
I made both the frosting and the cupcakes the day before I actually frosted them, and they both kept fine in air tight containers (I kept the frosting refrigerated). The next day, about an hour before frosting the cupcakes I made the marzipan carrot decorations.
Marzipan is a very pliable almond candy that has a texture a lot like Play-Do. The recipe calls for an entire 7 oz tube of marzipan, but trust me you only need a little more than half that (4 oz would be more than enough) to make carrots for all 24 cupcakes that this recipe yields.
Orange food coloring gel is kneaded into the marzipan log by hand. This took about 2 minutes of constant kneading and about 5 drops of the Wilson orange food color to achieve the color of orange below. My hands did turn orange, but it all washed off easily with soap and water. I cannot speak for other brands of food coloring, but Wilson has always been great for me in terms of coloring the food and not everything else it comes in contact with.
The colored marzipan is portioned and rolled into individual logs that will be shaped into the individual carrots. The MSBH instructs to portion 1/2 teaspoon balls but here’s a tip from me to you: portion into 1 teaspoon-sized balls, roll into a log, and then cut that log in half to form two carrots. You save a lot of time this way.
The marzipan is a cinch to work with and if you think it is at all difficult to form perfect, realistic carrots then think again. A five year old could master this in no time. The marzipan dries out rather quickly (although if you live somewhere humid, this may not be the case), so I would form five or six carrots and them put them in an airtight container until I needed them.
Once my carrot bases were formed, I frosted the cupcakes.
Then, I assembled the carrots by scoring in the carrot “ridges” with a paring knife, poking a hole in the carrot top for the leafage, and sticking a few small stems of Chevril in the hole. The MSBH recommends using actual carrot tops for the green leaves, or fresh dill, but I had some chevril on hand and it worked out really well.
Once all that was done, it was just a matter of placing the carrots on top of each cupcake. The smaller ones looked the best, so I’d say err on the side of making the carrots too small. From top to tip, they should maybe be no bigger than half of your cupcake top.
Here’s a dozen packed up to take to my meeting. There were ohhhs and ahhhs, let me tell you!