This weekend has been full of celebrations! Every few years, it works out that my mom's birthday is either the Saturday before or the day of Mother's Day, and this year was one of those and it was a weekend full of celebrating!
We started out yesterday at one of my old hangouts: Waveland Bowl in Chicago. It's a classic bowling alley that's been re-done with electronic scoring, but is still full of the typical neon decor of a retro bowling alley.
There were about 20 people there to celebrate my mom's birthday. She seemed to have a great time!
What would a birthday be without cake? I volunteered to make cupcakes, and asked my mom if "hypothetically" I was to make her cupcakes for her birthday, what flavor would she want, you know, hypothetically? She immediately answered "Carrot! With cream cheese!" So that answered that dilemma. But then came another: Which recipe to use? Should I go with Ina Garten's classic? How about the more sickly sweet pineapple-laden recipes of my youth? Or do I go with a random online recipe?
The answer literally jumped on my foot at work the other day. I was walking through the book fair when a student bumped the book rack in front of me. A book landed on my foot: "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson. I've loved Nigella since I first saw her on our local PBS station years ago, and had yet to own one of her books. So, to benefit my school and my mom's birthday, I bought myself the book.
On Friday afternoon, I set out baking and adjusting the recipe to suit my mom's taste and the number of cupcakes I needed to make. The result was, quite possibly, the most delicious cupcake I've made yet! The fluffy carrot cake needed an amazing topping, beyond just the standard cream cheese icing. What did I come up with? Maple Brown-Sugar Cinnamon Cream Cheese Italian Meringue Buttercream. PHEW! What a mouthful!
Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Italian Meringue Buttercream (MBSCCIMB)
Adapted from "How to be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson
* 1 c. light brown sugar
* 1 1/2 c. neutral-tasting oil (I used vegetable)
* 4 large eggs
* 3 c. all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 t. baking soda
* 2 tsp. cinnamon
* 1 tsp. cloves
* 1 tsp. fresh-grated ginger
* 1 tsp. vanilla extract
* pinch salt
* zest of 1 lemon
* zest of 1 orange
* 6 medium carrots, washed and grated
* 1 c. chopped walnuts
* 1 batch MBSCCIMB (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 400*F.
Beat the sugar and oil together, then add the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla, salt and zests, then fold in the grated carrot and walnuts. Line two 12-cup muffin/cupcake pans with paper or foil liners, then fill 3/4 of the way up with the cake batter. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Adapted from allrecipes.com Maple Brown-sugar Buttercream
* 3 large egg whites, brought to room temperature
* 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
* 1/4 c. water
* 1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
* 1/2 c. real maple syrup (MUST use the real stuff!)
* pinch of salt
* 1 1/3 c. unsalted butter
* 8 oz. cream cheese
* 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer. Add the cream of tartar and salt. Whip using the whisk attachment to firm peaks, then stop the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment. Mix together the water, sugar, and maple syrup in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, then cook until it reaches the soft ball stage (240*). Re-start the mixer and slowly pour the sugar mixture into the egg whites in a steady stream. Beat the egg white/sugar mixture until completely cooled, about 15-20 minutes. Then add the butter in small pieces until fully incorporated, then do the same with the cream cheese. Add the vanilla extract and mix a couple more minutes. Use to frost your favorite cupcakes, or eat with a spoon.
The cupcakes were a hit with everyone who enjoyed them yesterday, and my mom was delighted to take a half-dozen home with her to enjoy today.
We spent today with Adam's family celebrating his Bubbe Myra's birthday! She's an amazing 86 years old, and an amazing woman.
It was a great time, but I still feel a bit odd that I didn't spend today with my mom... so we're spending next Sunday together!
Happy Mother's Day mom! Even though we didn't spend today together, just know that I appreciate you every single day! I love you!