My kids’ halloween party cupcakes — victims of poor planning. For weeks they were telling me the party was going to be at 1 pm, and for some reason I kept thinking “7 pm”. So at 10 am on the day of the party, my 14-yo starts preparing these cupcakes and the frosting. They still had to get dressed etc. so I took over, and it finally dawned on me that we wouldn’t have time to let the cupcakes cool before frosting. As you can see, it was a disaster even before we got started with the decorating. The cream cheese frosting was at room temperature and could have used some chilling before being piped. The cupcakes should have cooled completely too, but we were 10 minutes away from leaving so I proceeded to frost, and the frosting started to melt as soon as it touched the cupcakes. It was an exercise in frustration, as we tried to keep the frosting from falling off — it’s supposed to act as a wall surrounding the more liquid caramel, which now tended to seep through because the frosting just wouldn’t hold up properly. I hope my pic doesn’t turn you off from making these, though. It’s one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made taste-wise. It looks like a muffin out of the oven, and I suppose you could pass it off as such, but the texture is lighter, the crumb just perfect. Here’s the recipe from Food and Wine, and I’m obviously violating copyright laws here, but this was too good not to share.

The cream cheese frosting on these moist carrot cupcakes is intentionally undersweetened to compensate for the sweet caramel topping.

* 8 carrots (1 1/4 pounds), peeled and coarsely shredded (4 cups)
* 1 cup golden raisins
* 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups canola oil
* 2 cups sugar
* 4 large eggs, at room temperature


* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons water
* Few drops of fresh lemon juice
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 pound cream cheese, softened
* 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
* 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the raisins and pecans. Onto a large sheet of wax paper, sift the flour with the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the canola oil with the sugar at medium-high speed until smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the carrot mixture.
3. Spoon the batter into the cups, filling them three-fourths full. Bake the cupcakes for about 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE TOPPINGS: In a small, deep saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down the side of the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat and cook without stirring, until the caramel just begins to color around the edges, about 5 minutes. Gently swirl the pan and simmer until the caramel turns a medium amber color, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Using a long-handled wooden spoon, stir in the heavy cream. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
5. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese at low speed until smooth. Beat in the butter, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth.
6. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese frosting over each cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip with the remaining frosting. Pipe a ring around the top of each cupcake, leaving an empty space in the center. Spoon the caramel into the centers. Transfer the cupcakes to a platter and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Cook It!

Recipe by Peggy Cullen
From Sweet and Spooky Halloween | Peggy Cullen
This recipe originally appeared in October, 2004.