Erica Lea on Apr 9th 2012
Super-sweet cakes are definitely not my cup of tea. Ever since I was a little girl I have disliked overly sugary desserts. Often times I would refuse birthday cake and opt for plain ice cream. Of course these days I’m a little more polite. I’ll eat my share of sickly-sweet treats; but give me a perfectly sweetened dessert and I’m much happier.
The frosting is another hang-up. Gobs of powdered sugar + only a tiny bit of butter = disgusting, in my book. To balance out the sweetness, frosting needs a good measure of fat, whether it be in the form of butter, cream cheese, cream or peanut butter.
Here I give you (what I consider to be) one of the best types of cakes: Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. The actual cake doesn’t taste like sugar fluff; it has flavor and a bit of spice and it’s nice and moist. The cream cheese in the frosting makes it pleasantly tangy and the maple syrup and vanilla give it a lovely flavor.
What do you think? Do you prefer your desserts with less sugar, or do you have a major sweet tooth?
In keeping with my lower sugar preference, I cut out some of the sugar both in the cake and the frosting. If you have more of a sweet tooth than I do, you can go ahead and put in the full amount of sugar.
Of course I had to use half whole-wheat flour.
The original recipe called for nuts, but since Reuben prefers his desserts without them, I only put them on top.
Because I have always wanted to try it, I halved the recipe and baked the cakes in two 6-inch pans. I have provided the full-sized recipe below, but if you want to make a cute cake, just cut everything in half and bake in smaller pans.
Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting | Printable Page | Makes 10-12 servings
For the Cake:
- 3/4 pound raw carrots (preferably organic), peeled and finely grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (preferably ww pastry flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled, or any other flavorless oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1 cup organic confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Cake:
1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
3) Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the eggs until frothy, about a minute. Slowly add the sugar & beat until thick and light colored, about 3-4 minutes. Add the oil in a slow steady stream. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the grated carrots.
4) Equally divide the batter between the two prepared pans (I weighed the batter for precise measurement). Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
5) Remove from oven and allow the cake to cool, in the pan on a wire rack, for about 5-10 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pans onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
1) Beat the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy.
2) Sift the powdered sugar over the cream cheese/butter mixture and mix until well combined. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Erica Lea on Mar 14th 2012
There’s something clear and fresh about lemons that whispers “Spring” to me. The bright tartness reminds me of one of those nippy spring days that seem to hold onto winter. The clean, fresh tastes speaks of new beginnings. The cheerful, warm color says sunny days.
Thus, as these Minnesota days are finally warming up, the birds are beginning to sing and the snow is almost gone, I bid farewell to winter. I love winter for its nostalgia and (most of all) for the skiing, but I am quite ready to say hello to jackets and flats and good-bye to heavy coats and snow boots.
But on to the pudding!
I was very much surprised by the creamy smoothness of this pudding - I was half expecting it to curdle horribly. However, the only lemon that hits the pudding while it cooks is the zest. Only after the pudding has completely cooled do you gently whisk in the lemon juice, ensuring that the pudding stays velvety.
The lemon flavor isn’t loud and sharp; it’s soft and slowly curls out as you savor each bite. Little bits of zest find their way into the finished pudding, even after straining, and give you a pleasant surprise. It’s marvelous.
- I used white sugar because I didn’t want to compromise the delicate color, but you could easily substitute a more natural sweetener for a healthier treat.
- I highly recommend serving with a dollop of whipped cream. It elevates a delicious treat to a decadent dessert.
Creamy Lemon Pudding | Printable Page | Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (make sure you lemon is organic!)
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1) Begin by putting a fine-mesh strainer over a heat-proof bowl set on top of a hot pad. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream and egg yolks. Slowly whisk into the cornstarch mixture.
2) Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat and strain into the prepared bowl. Whisk in the butter and vanilla.
3) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Gently whisk the lemon juice into the chilled pudding until smooth. Spoon into small bowls and serve.
Erica Lea on Jan 13th 2012
Can you believe it? A new year is upon us. In fact, we’re almost two weeks into 2012.
I’m usually not one to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the new one. I hate making resolutions that I’m bound to break. But sometimes listing goals is a good way to give you some perspective and push you forward. Last year I started a Project 365, but only got to 146 photos. I’m not sorry at all that I started that project; even though I didn’t finish, I still have many moments preserved and I feel that I learned so much from the experience.
So I’ve decided to write down some food goals for myself for 2012; goals I know that I’ll break. But they’ll give me something to works toward.
My Five Food Goals for 2012:
1. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods.
2. Eat less processed, prepacked baked goods.
3. Make new recipes; don’t get stuck in a rut of making only the recipes you know.
4. Try to overcome your fear of sharing your food creations with others. You can’t always please everyone, and sometimes you’ll make something that just isn’t that great. Get over it.
5. Try something new, even if you think you won’t like it. You never know!
On to the cookies!
I believe that these cookies are a good representation of a few of my food goals. They’re made with natural ingredients (whole wheat flour, demerara sugar, rolled oats, etc.), they contain an ingredient that I was a bit afraid of (carob chips), and I had to overcome my fear of sharing them with others.
You see, Reuben loves carob, but, I must admit, I’m not the world’s biggest fan. Give me a choice between 70% cacao chocolate and carob and I’ll take the chocolate 9 times out of 10. But I wanted to make something that he loved. And I found that the carob chips added a lovely malty flavor that fit these cookies very well.
However, I was so scared that everyone would think they were gross and too “healthy” tasting that I always put a caveat before them: “They’re healthy,” or “They’re made with Carob chips.” To my surprise, no one hated them, and a gentleman even asked for the recipe. Just goes to show that you should get over your ego and share your work.
- These cookies are none too sweet: just the way Reuben and I like them. If you prefer something a little sweeter, simply add some extra demerara.
- If you can’t find any carob or you can’t stand it, you can easily substitute it with chocolate chips.
Peanut Butter Carob Chip Cookies | Printable Page | Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup demerara sugar or sucanat or rapadura
- 3/4 cup natural peanut butter (I really like this kind)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour (aka soft white wheat)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup regular rolled oats
- 1 cup semisweet carob chips (we really like this kind), or chocolate chips
1) Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.
2) In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), cream together the butter, sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the butter and sugar mixture. Add the oats and chocolate chips.
4) Form the dough into balls the size of golf balls and place on an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten the balls slightly.
5) Bake in the preheated oven for 8-12 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing.
Erica Lea on Dec 22nd 2011
My Dad hates citrus in baked goods. Thus, I have always been leery of cooking with lemons, oranges, limes, etc.
Reuben loves lemon bars. When he informed me of this, I promised to make him some. I searched the internet over for the perfect recipe, and settled one entitled “Lemon Curd Squares.” When I saw that the ingredient list included cream, I knew I needed to make them.
And I wasn’t disappointed in my choice. Reuben loves them. He requested I send several bars in his lunch so he could share them with the other guys. That day he posted on my Facebook wall: “Best lemon bars ever. :)” <— Proudest. Moment. Ever.
These lemon bars are the perfect medium between overpoweringly sweet and mouth-puckering sour. The crust is wonderfully tasty, enhanced by a smidgen of cinnamon. Dust with a little powdered sugar, and you have an elegant, scrumptious dessert.
Lemon Curd Squares
Adapted from Willams-Sanoma | Printable Recipe | Makes 12 Bars
For the crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used demerara)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
For the lemon filling:
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used ground demerara)
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbs. heavy cream
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
To make the crust:
In a food processor, combine the flour, granulated sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pulse briefly until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the dough forms moist crumbs and sticks together when pinched, about 1 minute. There should be no trace of dryness. Press the dough into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared baking dish, lightly flouring your fingertips if necessary to prevent them from sticking. Bake the crust until pale golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the filling:
1.) In a bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, flour, salt and lemon zest. Add the eggs, lemon juice and cream and whisk until just blended. Carefully pour the mixture over the baked crust.
Bake until the filling is set but still jiggles slightly when the dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes, or longer if using a metal pan. Transfer the pan to the wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes. Run the tip of a small knife along the inside of the dish to loosen the crust from the sides, then let cool completely.
Cut into 12 small rectangles (fewer if you want larger bars). Grab the sides of parchment paper that stick out from the pan and carefully remove the bars from the dish. Just before serving, sift a dusting of confectioners sugar over the bars.
Now for the Shabby Apple Giveaway Winner!
Erica Lea on Dec 13th 2010
Chai Tea meets Gingerbread in these scrumptious, soft, spicy bars. Find the recipe and my step-by-step instructions on the Tasty Kitchen blog.