Thursday, February 16, 2012

a step in the right direction

{carrot cupcakes with goat cheese and maple syrup icing}

A friend recently asked me to recommend a healthy, but still tasty cupcake recipe for her son's first birthday. The birthday boy needed a baby friendly amount of sugar, but his big sister had to be into the taste too. I was at a loss. 

Most of (all of) the sweets I make are decidedly unhealthy. Health is something I take seriously; we eat loads of veggies, fruits and fish, I promise. But when it comes to sweets I normally throw caution to the wind.

I read an article by my mentor Nigella (I'm only partially joking) where she explained her philosophy toward eating; there are normal everyday meals where health and moderation ought to be guiding principles and then there is celebration eating, a time of community and indulgence. I am paraphrasing but that was what I took away from the article and I like that approach to eating.

Nonetheless, I couldn't believe I was at a loss for a "healthy" dessert recipe, and then I remembered I had taken part in a recipe exchange a few months ago. It was kind of like a chain letter; I forget the details but the outcome was essentially an inbox full of delicious recipes. One of the recipes I received was for carrot cupcakes with goat cheese icing.

The cupcakes are not healthy like kale is healthy but they are a heck of a lot healthier than the cupcakes I made last weekend. First of all they have two vegetables in them: carrots and zucchini. They also have apples and perhaps most impressively no butter. Even the "icing" is healthy; instead of butter and sugar it is made out of goat cheese and maple syrup.

I couldn't wait to give them a try. The part of the preparation I disliked the most was grating the veggies and the apples. It isn't hard but it is tedious. A food processor would have made short work of the job but Violet was sleeping when I made these and despite the fact we have a state of the art machine I am wary of using it. As I mentioned before I have had a few run ins with small appliances in the past few weeks and I can only imagine the mess I could make with that amount of horse power. The batter wasn't the most appealing thing I've ever laid my eyes on, but that would be asking a lot of most batters. I let it go.

{if it looks like carrot cake and smells like carrot cake...}

The cupcakes smelled awesome while they were baking. Just like carrot cake I dare say (although I am almost embarrassed to admit I have never made carrot cake). When I pulled them out they looked great. I envisioned the cupcakes would look healthy - like little dense muffins. I was wrong.

I waited for the cupcakes to cool and slathered one in the goat cheese icing.

I broke a piece off one and gave some to Jeff.

Goat cheesy was my first thought. Too goat cheesy was my second.

Jeff said, "that isn't a cupcake, that is a muffin."

He had a point. 

I tried another piece with just a little of the "icing"  - delish. My advice is use the goat cheese icing sparingly. It doesn't taste like cream cheese icing on a carrot cake, but your heart will thank you!

I decided to send the remaining eleven muffin/cupcakes to my mum's school. She recently told me they were out of the snacks they give kids who don't have any lunch. I'm sure the kids would prefer a fruit roll-up but my muffin/cupcakes were made with love. The same cannot be said of a fruit roll up.

So what do you think, are these muffin/cupcakes healthy? Do you have any recipes for healthy sweets that are actually yummy? I'd love some suggestions.


Carrot Cupcake Recipe

for the cupcakes:

  - 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  - 3/4 cup white sugar
  - 1/4 cup brown sugar
  - 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  - 2 cups shredded carrots
  - 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  - 1/2 cup shredded apple
  - 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  - 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  - 1/2 teaspoon salt
  - 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  - 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  - 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

for the frosting:

  - 1 long round of goat cheese at room temperature
  - enough maple syrup to get the consistency you want

Cupcake method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Set the round of goat cheese out to warm up.
  3. Beat together the eggs, white sugar, and brown sugar in a bowl, and
  mix in the oil and vanilla. Fold in carrots, apple and zucchini. In a

  separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and
  ginger. Mix flour mixture into the carrot mixture until evenly moist.
  Transfer to the prepared muffin cups or baking tin.
  4. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted
  in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Let cool before frosting.

Frosting Method
  1. Beat together the goat cheese and one tablespoon of maple syrup until
  2. Check to taste, add more syrup for more flavour. You'll need about a
  quarter cup of syrup for the frosting to have a strong maple flavour. The
  more syrup you add, the more liquid the frosting gets, so you may have to
  chill it or apply the frosting a few times as it tends to drip. 

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