Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting

Do you remember turning 1? Pictures tell me that I wore a pink bow and smiled a lot. My brothers and their friends were there to wreak havoc and stuff their mouths with cake. My face shows nothing but confusion. It was at a park and the sun snuck through the monkey pod trees.

How about 5? 13? My 16th birthday party was at a karaoke joint. My friends brought water bottles spiked with coconut rum and pineapple juice. My 18th birthday party was over a pot of tea and petit fours. I was a goldfish when 20 rolled around. I turned 21 in New Zealand.

No matter where, how, when, why you celebrate your birthday, make sure you do it with frosting.

And in my nephew’s case, make sure you throw some vegetables in there, too.

Why can’t Boston supermarkets sell organic carrots with the stalk and leaves for $2.00 a bundle? Berkeley, you sure do know your way to a lady cook’s heart.

Pealed, washed, ready for grating.

Carrot cake should never bake without ginger, cloves and cinnamon.

Walnuts not required. But much appreciated.

These munchkins are going into the oven, where they’ll bake for about 25 minutes and a toothpick comes out clean. For the love of peaches and cream, take a few swigs of batter.

I was told you can make dulce de leche quite easily with a can of condensed milk and a pot of boiling water. I didn’t want to risk it. We’ve got a birthday party on the line.

Oh, hello there.

Ready for a hungry, post-choo-choo-train-ride birthday boy.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting.

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

4 cups finely grated carrots
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, thoroughly drained

For the frosting:

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup prepared dulce de leche
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together to flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. In a separate large bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (including the walnuts, carrots, pineapple and coconut) until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in two separate batches and mix thoroughly. Should be a bit goopy.

Prepare cupcake pans with liners and fill about 3/4 of the way with batter. Bake for about 23 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

As they cool, prepare the frosting by mixing all of the ingredients with a hand-held or standup mixer. The frosting should be thick and creamy.

Make sure the cupcakes cool completely before decorating with frosting.

Makes 28 love-filled birthday cupcakes.

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

I totally win. Vegetables in a dessert? Come on. I deserve a trophy. A medal of valor. At least a foot massage. I also think that these look like a Care Bear took a magical poop on top of them.

Before we leap into tomorrow, let me tell you a short story:

My apartment almost burned to cinders this week.

Before you start to think I left a pizza in the oven and it set the place ablaze, let me put all guessing to rest. The fire started beneath the front porch and those men in red had to hack away at some of the shingles. I wasn’t there, but thank poop my housemate smelled it in time.

I came home and it smelled like the flame-cooked eggplant my mom makes. Except more like a burning house.

We still have no idea how it started. Maybe someone got super sick of smelling these amazing beet cupcakes and not being allowed to eat them. I totally would’ve given them to said arsonist.

This is a PSA: wash your beets before you roast them! You might accidentally snuff a lady bug!

Beets are cut with about 1/2 inch of stem left, wrapped in foil, then roasted for a while.

Totally shredded. One batch for the batter, the other for the frosting.

These are pretty normal cupcakes outside of the root vegetable chunks. Chocolate-ee, sweet, fluffy, yum.

Cocoa powder should always be sifted to get rid of the millions of little chunkies.

Butter should be room temperature so that your mixer doesn’t heat up and burn the house down.

Beets are a natural food coloring. If you like pale pink frosting.

Always have spare frosting.

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes.

For the cupcake:

2 medium beets
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate soy milk (or buttermilk, or regular milk)

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
fresh-squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut off the beet stems to about 1/2 inch and scrub well, but do not peel. Wrap tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until a fork penetrates it with ease, about an hour. Once done, let them cool completely.

Turn down the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 3/4 cupcake pans or dress with cupcake liners.

After the roasted beets have cooled, snip off the stalks and peel before grating them at the finest grade. Set aside 3/4 cup for the cupcakes and 1 tablespoon for the frosting.

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, milk and beets. Mix for a few minutes until the beets are full incorporated.

Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet at a time, making sure it’s fully mixed before adding more.

Fill each cupcake container about half way and bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting, mix the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. At the rest of the ingredients and mix until creamy, pink, and amazingly good. Dress the tops with desired flair.

Makes 24 cupcakes.