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Iced Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Servings: Makes 12 cupcakes
These delightful cupcakes are great as soon as they've cooled, but their carrot-cake moistness and hint of spice really come through the day after they're baked.

For the Cupcakes:
4 medium carrots
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Icing:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Garnish: (optional)
Candied Carrot Curls (see recipe and instructions below)

For the Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper muffin liners.

2. Coarsely grate enough carrots to measure 2 cups.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl.

4. Whisk together oil, eggs, brown sugar, grated carrots, and vanilla in a large bowl, then stir in flour mixture until just combined.

5. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake on middle rack of preheated oven until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

6. Cool cupcakes in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack, about 1 hour more.

For the Icing:
7. Sift confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in zest and 2 tablespoons juice until smooth. If icing is too thick, add more juice, 1 teaspoon at a time. Dip top of each cupcake into icing, letting excess drip off. Put a carrot curl on top of each and let icing set, about 15 minutes.

Cupcakes, without garnish, can be made and iced 1 day ahead, then kept in one layer in an airtight container at room temperature.

Candied Carrot Curls

These sweet ribbons are the perfect way to turn carrot cupcakes into edible presents.

Makes about 15 curls

1 large thick carrot, or 2 medium size thinner carrots
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

1. With a vegetable peeler, peel layers from carrot lengthwise on one side until you begin to get wide slices. Peel wide strips, reserving them, until you get about 15 strips (there will be a few extra).

2. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add wide carrot strips and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, discarding syrup. Let stand 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 225°F/107°C. Place oven rack in middle of oven.

4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, then arrange candied carrot slices flat in one layer on sheet. Bake until dry but still flexible, about 30 minutes (leave oven on). Wind carrot strips, one at a time, around end of handle of a wooden spoon in a loose spiral, then slip off each curl and return, seam sides down, to lined baking sheet.

5. Return curls to oven to dry until crisp, 30 to 45 minutes more. Cool completely on baking sheet.

Carrot curls can be made 5 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Re-crisp carrot curls in a 250°F/120°C oven 10 minutes.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2007

Date: March 8, 2008