It must be love if it's...Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake.  I hear this and immediately a look of disgust washes over my face.  I think of a cake with chunks of things, crunching down on, wait, is that a nut?..., and that overly sweet, thick cream cheese frosting.  But people love, love this cake.  I know such a person.  My husband.  The poor guy always loses out when it's an option on the dessert tray.  Thankfully we built our relationship on chocolate, and therefore there is always another dessert we can agree on.  He's such a good sport.  And on top of that, he's a pretty awesome daddy to our boys.  So how does this lady show her man love and appreciation on "his" day?  Bake a carrot cake.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcake Project

-1/2 c. sugar
-3/4 tsp. baking soda
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. ground cardamom, scant
-1 c. finely grated carrots-approx. 2 medium-lg carrots
-8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
-1 c. desiccated coconut*
-1/2 c. currants or raisins (raisins are larger)
-1/4 c. coconut oil (available at Kroger's in health food dept.)
-1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
-2 eggs
-1 c. flour

-  Preheat oven 350 F.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
-  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients minus oil, butter, eggs and flour
-  Add oil and butter and beat at a medium speed until combined
-  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition
-  Stir in flour, 1/2 c. at a time, mixing until just combined
-  Divide evenly among cupcake liners.  I use a 1 3/4 oz cookie scoop.
-  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
-  Let cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.

*Go here to learn how to make desiccated coconut

Cream Cheese Brown Butter Frosting
by Me
1/4 c. unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, brown your butter.  Stirring constantly, it will melt, foam, and start to turn golden and will have a nutty aroma.  Bits will be at the bottom of the pan.  Watch these.  They can go from dark brown (where you want them) to burnt in milliseconds.  Remove from heat.  Set aside and let cool.  Once your butter is cooled, in a large bowl at a medium speed, beat browned butter and cream cheese until combined and creamy.  Stir in vanilla and cinnamon.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar, then whip together at a medium-high speed.  Pipe or spread on cupcakes immediately.

1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. sea salt

In a small pan on stove, toast nuts over a medium heat, occasionally tossing.  You know they are toasting when they give off a nuttier aroma and start to look slightly glossy.  Once they reach this stage, sprinkle with sea salt.  Toss to coat.  Remove from heat.  Let cool before garnishing tops of cupcakes.

I asked the hub's to describe his feeling after first biting into the cupcake.  "Euphoric."  Okay, now, let's not go overboard!  I must say I had some divine inspirations while making this cupcake.  I've never used cardamom before, so I gave it the smell/taste test.  It smells like a cleaning product and is quite spicy. I think the Cupcake Project woman is very talented, but I was not about to make a frosting with 2 teaspoons of the stuff.  I thought about using cinnamon instead, but even as much as I love cinnamon I thought it would be a bit much.  And so I thought about other things I love.  I love butter.  I love to brown my butter.  Let's do that.  Put me on the train to Yummytown, because that is where I was headed!

Walnuts were not in this recipe.  Probably one of the main reasons I chose it apart from that it was labeled moist.  Yet, my husband loves them and if I was going to make carrot cake in the first place I really wanted to give him what he likes.  I thought the nuts showcased on the top of the cupcake would be nice.  That way, you know they're there and since they are toasted and salty they offer a nice contrast and texture to the sweet frosting and soft cake.

And so, my friends, if you're one of those people who enjoy carrot cake.  Make this.  They are surprisingly easy, and I guess, euphoric.

Hey hon, your crazy's showing.  It is just carrot cake.

I'll Have Samoa Those!!!

Clever and original title.  Yes?  Okay, no, but these bars might have you turning those little Girl Scouts away later this year.  Who am I kidding?  Those girls are too sweet to pass up on their cookies, but as soon as the boxes hit $10, I'm out!  Nowadays you can find many recipes that pay homage to our favorite yearly treat, and Samoas happen to be a family favorite.  Growing up, these and Thin Mints were a fixture in my house for a week, because let's be honest, a sleeve of Thin Mints can be inhaled in minutes if you aren't paying attention.  So I hope you enjoy my adaptation of Samoas via inspiration through Baking Bites.

Samoa Cookie Bars

1 pouch Sugar Cookie Mix
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

Coconut-Caramel Topping:
12 oz. pre-wrapped caramels
3 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
3 c. coconut, toasted

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate for coating and drizzling

-Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Coat 9x13 pan well with non-stick cooking spray.  Blend sugar cookie mix, butter, and egg with hand or stand mixer until ingredients are combined well and dough forms.  Press dough down evenly in pan, prick dough all over with fork.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven, slide a sharp knife between the dough and pan, let cool completely on wire rack.

-Melt 10 oz. of chocolate using a double boiler or microwave in a microwave safe bowl for 30 second intervals until smooth.

-Cut cooled cookie base, width wise, down the middle (this helps base from breaking when removing from pan).  Again, loosen the dough around the sides of the pan.  Turn pan upside down onto parchment paper and let cookie base fall onto paper.  Spread melted chocolate evenly over the bottom of the base.  Let chocolate cool and harden, this process can be sped up in fridge.

-Turn oven temperature down to 300 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread coconut.  Toast coconut for approx. 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to toast evenly.

-In a microwave-safe bowl, combine caramels, milk, and salt.  Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping a couple times to stir.  Once caramel is melted, stir until smooth, fold in coconut.  Spoon coconut-caramel mix evenly on top of cookie base.  Gently press down onto cookie base.  Let the cookie bars cool completely before cutting.

-Cut cookies into squares.  I was able to get 24 squares.  Melt remaining 2 oz of chocolate and drizzle over each individual bar.

My sidenotes:
-To coat my baking pan, I use a cooking spray that contains flour.  I prefer the Pam brand.
-Dampening my hands to evenly spread dough into pan and the coconut-topping prevents the headache of having to deal with 'stuff' sticking to utensils.
-If you can find desiccated coconut, use that for authentic Samoa cookie texture.  You can use regular coconut, they will still be yummy!  Or, take regular coconut and grind into smaller pieces in a food processor.
-Make sure you really keep an eye on your coconut as it toasts; it can go from golden to burnt in seconds!  Trust me, I ruined my first batch.
-Before cutting my bars, I lightly sprayed my knife blade with non-stick cooking spray to keep the caramel mix from sticking.  You may not need to do this, but clearly I don't like things sticking and go to paranoid measures to prevent it!
-If you don't want to chance removing the whole cookie base and spreading it with chocolate, then skip that step.  After you cut cookie bars, melt the chocolate, and individually dip the bottom of the cookies into chocolate.

I hope I didn't make these sound difficult!  They are not!  But it is a longer process because you have to let each step cool before you can move to the next step.  I'm not a patient person, but the wait is worth it. I really am getting a kick out of these treats.  HAHA Girl Scouts!  I've made something that tastes like your expensive little cookies and I don't have to wait an entire year before I can get them again!  But don't worry, I'll still be waiting for your Thin Mints.