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

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.

Icing Ingredients

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!

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13 Responses to Celebrations!

  1. MarathonVal says:

    Your mom looks SO young, especially of the one where she is holding up the bowling ball in front of her face… seriously, she looks like she is in her early 20s in that pic…. you ladies have great genes!

  2. Katie says:

    Your mom is gorgeous and looks like she’s having a blast! I haven’t gone bowling in so long… thanks for the reminder. Those cupcakes look perfect… I love your spin on Nigella’s recipe!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Let The Great World Spin =-.

  3. Christina says:

    I agree with Val! You guys look like you could be sisters!

    The cupcakes look and sound beautiful Mara!
    .-= Christina´s last blog ..Cupcake and Cookie Bouquets =-.

  4. Your mom looks like she is 25! 🙂 And your cupcakes always look perfect.
    .-= Jessica @ How Sweet It Is´s last blog ..Happy Mother’s Day. =-.

  5. Lauren says:

    So what will it take for you to come and visit me and bake these AMAZING cupcakes? Oh my goodness Mara, I think this is my favorite thing you have ever made!!!! 🙂

    So glad you had a great weekend darling.

    <3 you!!
    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..Down To Business Day =-.

  6. Lauren says:

    What a fun birthday celebration! The carrot cake cupcakes look delectable, and the maple brown sugar buttercream sounds like the perfect frosting.
    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..Tart Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt =-.

  7. This was such a great post! I love that the book “fell” on you. Also, I used to LOVE book fairs 🙂 That’s a side note.

    Wow do those cupcakes look good! Happy birthday wishes to your beautiful mom! It looks like you gave her quite the treat!
    .-= Jenn (eating bender)´s last blog ..Wine Me, Dine Me, Then Take Me To AZ =-.

  8. Biz says:

    Sounds like a wonderful weekend Mara – Happy Birthday to Mom and Bubby!

    My step-son loves all things carrot cake – except it has to be plain – no raisins or nuts in the batter!

  9. Liz says:

    I love carrot cake with cream cheese frosting… this post had me drooling on my keyboard!

  10. reve reed says:

    Yes I was reading your recipe and it calls for 1 1/2 c of baking soda. Is this correct? It just seems like a lot? Ive been looking for a great carrot cake recipe.

    Thank you

  11. Malinda says:

    So cute! I must know how you piped these!!

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