Praise and Plenty Cupcakes

Inspired by the Garden—and a Contemporary Quilt Design
“We all have hometown appetites. Every other person is a bundle of longing for the simplicities of good taste once enjoyed on the farm or in the hometown left behind,” wrote Clementine Paddleford—food writer, tastemaker, and cookbook author—whose hometown was Stockdale, Kansas.  That’s especially true for desserts.

Sometimes dessert inspiration comes from surprising sources. When I was looking through the Home for the Holidays pattern book by Missouri quilt designers Linda Brannock and Jan Patek, I found the germ of an idea—even though I’m not a quilter (and no one would want anything I had ever sewn, to be perfectly honest here).

Brannock and Patek’s “Praise and Plenty” quilt in muted yellow, green, and orange on a creamy white background, surrounded by a border in homespun plaid suggested a twist on traditional carrot cake to me.  Hmmmmmmmm……..

Maybe grated carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash??  Maybe an intriguing blend of spices, too—citrus-tasting coriander, warm cinnamon, and snappy ginger.  Hmmmmmmm……

One bowl of batter later, here it is (and in Heartland: The Cookbook). Cupcakes using garden “plenty” in a way that will garner “praise” for a family get-together, an end-of-summer party, your bid for Room Parent of the Year, or a delicious scratch to that I've-Got-to-Have-Carrot-Cake itch. 

Use small, trimmed zucchini and yellow squash and grate them whole. If you like, spoon the batter into retro-colored cupcake liners from Bake It Pretty Traditional cream cheese frosting and a candied “garden confetti” are the crowning glories.

Praise and Plenty Cupcakes
Makes 3 dozen cupcakes

6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 cups canola oil
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups grated yellow summer squash
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup grated zucchini
½ cup grated yellow squash
½ cup grated carrots
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with 36 liners, and a small baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

2. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl until light and frothy. Beat in the oil. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and add to the egg mixture, a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the grated vegetables and spices until well blended. With a rubber spatula, fold in the raisins and nuts until well blended. Fill the cupcake liners ¾ full.

3. Bake, in batches, on the center oven shelf for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center or a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely.

4. For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Frost the cupcakes after they have cooled and while the frosting is soft and spreadable.

5. For the garnish, combine the grated vegetables, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are translucent and you have a candied confetti. When cool enough to handle, sprinkle the confetti on the top of each frosted cupcake.

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