2017 & cake for dinner.

friends, i’m fairly certain that i could sit here for hours looking at the screen with this post 75% ready to go with the cake picture, link, and recipe written & formatted. days, even. maybe weeks? because the other part of the post – the part where i jump back in to this little old blog spot-o-mine – that part i feel like i need to do “right.”

“right.” oy! such an unnecessarily heavy word sometimes, isn’t it? but we’re going to shake off all of that & jump in. just like that :o) small steps, one at a time.

a few things have happened since that last post just shy of two (two?!) years ago. i tried writing about 15 different posts after that one, as we stepped into IVF, and i don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t work to post them. so to fast forward: we are one of the incredibly, overwhelmingly, beyond-any-words-ever blessed couples that it worked for. and i have to tell you: we have spent the last year watching the most ridiculously awesome little boy grow & learn & basically amaze us daily. we are for sure THOSE cliché parents.

we also moved into a new house (1.5 weeks before the babe arrived. totally sensible!) on the exact opposite side of town. so, you could say that 2016 was full to the brim with learning  & all the new things all at the same time. it was wonderful. and it was busy. and it was exhausting.

i love every ounce of what 2016 held for us – how we grew together as a family, how it shaped us more into who we are created to be, how we learned about each other & ourselves as husband & wife, parents, creatives…and i am looking so forward to 2017. to slowing down, savoring this sweet, fleeting season, loving well & focusing on each other,  doing some new things.

and how better to start a year than with cake for dinner on new year’s eve, right?

to back up a few steps, my permanent christmas eve job is bringing dessert. i hadn’t even started thinking about what to bring when i stumbled upon this recipe, but there was immediately no other option once i saw it. in the interest of full disclosure, the cake itself is easy to make, but the marshmallow fluff & buttercream frosting take some time. it’s not an every day, one bowl & done recipe, but for a special occasion, it’s absolutely worth the effort. plus, the recipe as written made extra fluff & buttercream, so i made an extra cake on new year’s eve. which gets us back to that cake for dinner thing. there’s a first time for everything!

:: hot chocolate cake ::
adapted – barely – from the cake blog (a recipe by olivia bogacki)

IMG_1253

i joke that there are certain female “musts” that i wasn’t born with – one being i don’t love chocolate. i’ve never been one for chocolate cake or chocolate frosting, much less the two together, so the fact that this cake recipe & this chocolate frosting recipe are now my go-tos says something. the cake is dense & rich while the frosting is light & rich. both in their own way that i can only best describe – as strange as it may sound – as luxurious.

the recipe as written made three times more marshmallow fluff and two times more buttercream than i used to assemble the cake – and i don’t think i skimped on either one. we used the leftovers in hot chocolate & took little tastes by spoonful before making a second cake & still having fluff left over.

the original recipe didn’t mention anything about making components or assembling the cake ahead of time, but i don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do either of these things. if you would like to do either of these things, i’ve made notes at the bottom of the recipe.

ingredients

cake
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil (i used canola)
½ cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot chocolate, made with milk

marshmallow fluff
⅓ cup water
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
3 large egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

chocolate buttercream frosting
5 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ cups butter, at room temp, cut into ½” cubes
4 oz dark chocolate, melted & cooled (i used bittersweet)

instructions

cake

  1. preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. grease two 8″ round cake pans. line bottoms with parchment & dust with cocoa powder.
  3. measure all dry ingredients into the bowl & mix until combined.
    * i recommend mixing by hand with a whisk. both times i used my electric mixer i ended up with a thin layer of cocoa powder all over my counters…even when i was really careful the second time.
  4. in a separate bowl or large measuring cup (4 cup works well), mix the eggs, oil, buttermilk, & vanilla. slowly add the warm hot chocolate while whisking constantly.
  5. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes (or by hand until everything is combined & there is no sign of dry ingredients). the batter will be very thin.
  6. pour batter evenly into prepared pans. bake for 30 minutes (checking at 25 minutes) or until a toothpick  inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
  7. cook cakes on wire rack for about 10 minutes, then take them out, peel off the parchment, & let them cool completely.

marshmallow fluff

  1. combine water, sugar, & corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, then insert a candy thermometer and stop stirring. you are watching for the temperature to reach 225ºF.
  2. while you are waiting, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  3. when the sugar syrup reaches 225ºF, start whipping the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. *continue monitoring the sugar syrup*
  4. when the sugar syrup reaches 240ºF, remove the pan from the heat, turn the mixer speed to medium, and very slowly pour the sugar syrup into the whipped egg whites in a thin stream.
  5. once all of the syrup is in the mixer with the whipped egg whites, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and whip the fluff until it is thick & glossy and the bowl of the mixer is no longer hot. the original recipe says this takes about 7-8 minutes.
  6. turn the mixer speed down to medium, add the vanilla, and mix until combined.

chocolate buttercream frosting

  1. place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk until combined.
  2. insert a candy thermometer into the bowl with egg white & sugar mixture, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk constantly (to prevent eggs from cooking).
  3. when the egg white & sugar mixture reaches 160ºF, remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8-10 minutes – again feeling for the bowl to cool down, this time so that it is no longer warm. the meringue will be fluffy, glossy, & will hold stiff peaks.
  5. switch to the paddle attachment and, with mixer speed on low, slowly add the butter in small cubes. mix until all of the butter is mixed in & there are no streaks or chunks.
  6.  add the vanilla and cooled chocolate and whip on medium-high until silky and smooth.

to assemble the cake

  1. place one cake layer onto serving plate. pipe a dam of chocolate frosting around the edge of the cake (this prevents the fluff from seeping out; i put some frosting in a plastic bag & cut a small tip off) and the spread about a cup of the fluff in the middle.
  2. put the second cake layer on top.
  3. from here you can do whatever works for you. if you want to do a crumb coat – go for it! if you want to just frost it – go for it! the original recipe called for a crumb coat & 20 minutes in the fridge before frosting. i skipped the crumb coat & didn’t have any trouble.
  4. i used my fancy plastic bag for piping again & did little scallops of fluff on the top, but it was a little fussy, so i went with piped rounds around the bottom of the cake. the video they link to is helpful if you want to try the scallops :o)

assembling the cake ahead of time: the second cake we made was eaten over the course of a week (stored in the refrigerator), and we didn’t think it ever dried out or lost flavor. i think assembling the cake up to one day before serving it would be just fine. Store the assembled cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator, taking it out 30-60 minutes before serving to let the buttercream warm up.

making components ahead of time: each component (cake, marshmallow fluff, buttercream frosting) can be made prior to assembly.

  • cakes: the fully cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap & stored one night before assembly (i did this), or in the comments, the author of the cake blog says they can be wrapped in plastic wrap & stored in zip-top freezer bags in the freezer, thawing before assembly.
  • mashmallow fluff: can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. you can use it cold from the refrigerator for assembly.
  • buttercream: can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. let it warm to room temperature for 30-60 minutes before assembly.

yield: one 8” 2-layer cake; 12 servings

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monday gratitude.

practicing gratitude truly turns what we have into enough. lately i have been grateful for…

twinkle lightstwinkly lights at every turn…

breakfastslow mornings with pancakes & bacon (and brooklyn nine-nine)…

christmas 2014 giftshomemade christmas-gift-making…

sk gingerbread biscottismitten kitchen’s gingerbread biscotti dunked in decadent hot chocolate

hsg 2014 encouragementpeople that know & love us, not only share life’s journey but jump right onto the path to be with us, & overwhelm us with encouragement & truth…

and for ellen. 40 seconds of hilarity ensues as dancer (the 12 days reindeer mascot) busts out some sweet moves. at 2:45 i was crying i was laughing so hard.

happy monday!

inspiration & gratitude.

brave life

*original link is no longer available. if anyone knows to whom credit belongs, please let me know.

oh, time…you crazy, crazy thing. sometimes i feel you whooshing past me. thank you for the nights & weekends & hours filled to overflowing with adventures & laughter. and thank you for the just-plain-busy days and weeks of the mundane, not-so-glamorous yet necessary, every day life stuff. both are teaching me, and memories & goodness are in it all.

so, where i last left off…creativity. fears. dreams. the gap. perseverance.

inspiration is honestly everywhere. in gathering people at our house, in nature, checking out a new or visiting an old favorite restaurant or cafe, in a conversation, in sunsets and conversations…the list goes on. and, of course, there are copious gems on the inter webs, too. i’m thankful for brave, savvy creatives who have taken risks, shared their passions, and created spaces for beginners like me to look up to. here are some of my inspiration, encouragement, advice, & support go-to creatives.

cooking

  • smitten kitchen: deb’s writing is fun, witty, & approachable.
  • sprouted kitchen: sara’s recipes are fresh, healthy, & delicious.
  • molly yeh: i love molly’s blog for her lightness & silliness, stunning photography, & all-around inspiration. and a girl who did an in-depth study of the best mix-ins for funfetti cake?
  • sara kate gillingham: co-founder of the kitchn, cookbook author, & a potter, too!

life & faith

  • caroline schandel: this woman’s words pierce my heart & refresh my perspective in ways no one else’s ever have.
  • today’s letters: i could gush about this one – a daily go-to. hope-filled, life-giving, creative, encouraging. em writes most, but tim sneaks in sometimes, too. they write about everything from marriage to their backyard chickens, local coffee & good food, getting outside & the beauty of community, gratitude, raising their sweet babe, recipes – it’s a total mixed bag of goodness.
  • jen hatmaker: this post catapults me into laughter-until-i-can’t-speak with tears streaming down my face every. single. time.
  • story people: i love brian’s beautiful, simple-yet-profound work.
  • natalie creates: this woman really spans a number of categories, too: farming, creating, cooking. very down-to-earth, approachable, and fun.
  • momastery: her post earlier this month, the 5 habits every strong woman keeps, was incredible. this part in particular: “I have come to believe that a woman’s character is not just formed by the roles she plays or the job she has or where she’s from or what has happened to her. A woman’s character is most profoundly shaped by the daily habits she keeps. And this is hopeful to me, because it’s never too late to adopt a habit or two from a woman we admire.”
    part 2 jumped out at me instantly: strong women show up before they are ready. this is an area i have been desperately, intentionally seeking to grow in. i am so thankful for glennon’s thoughts on this. i love what she said about us having two roles but for some reason creating a third that we somehow put first. (although the link above works, embedding the video here isn’t working at the moment. i’ll add it as soon as i figure out what’s not right.)

paper & hand lettering

#WriteOnDesign #inspiration #HandLettering #KidPresident

A post shared by write on! design (@jenngietzen) on

makers

  • little bit funky: i follow crystal on instagram more than her blog, but her blog is full of fun tutorials & inspiration, too.
  • amanda rydell: amanda is such a fun, local creative. she started be crafty workshops that she hosts here in minneapolis but she also travels to host them around the country, too! her instagram & blog are full of colorful, beautiful ideas & projects.
  • curly girl design: i am such a sucker for leigh’s cards. her way with words & whimsical images spark something in me.
  • the purl bee by purl soho: i mean, just one peek at their site is candy for a creative girl’s eyes! the patterns, yarns, photography…i could (and sometimes do!) get lost in the awesome tutorials & ideas!
  • fresh lemons quilts: faith’s quilts & other projects on her blog are beautiful! this is the quilt that first caught my eye (on instagram, of course), but i was quickly enamored by all of her work. definitely lots of inspiration here for this quilting-wannabe :o)
  • floret: ooooh my…erin can do things with flowers that make my mind race. she & her family plant and harvest field upon field (upon field) of the most unbelievable flowers. and her arrangements – i can’t even go there. you need to check out their website, blog, & instagram feed to soak up all of the overflowing goodness. i have never seen such stunning sweet peas, ranunculus, peonies, & dahlias. nor did i ever know there could be such a diversity of each type, color, & shade of bloom. the image below, from erin’s instagram feed, is just one example of what i’m talking about…

My view this evening. #farmerflorist #dahlias

A post shared by Erin Benzakein – Floret (@floretflower) on

one thing that i am beyond excited to work with next year is lara casey’s power sheets. i learned about them last year and finally jumped in when she launched the beautiful 2015 sheets. after learning a lot this year (you know, things like being true to myself, naming fears…) and desiring to grow in goal setting & tracking – paired with being & diehard list-maker :o) – i am really, really excited to see how the power sheets will help me grow personally & creatively in making what matters most to me & our family happen.

community, failure, & chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_5670

when dustin and i got engaged, i remember that one of the first things i felt in some of those initial conversations as i shared our exciting news was feeling like i had just gotten invited to a special club. not because of the ring or anything like that, but because as one of the last people to get married in my group of friends, among lots of fun new connections, being engaged allowed me to (finally) be part of the marriage-y conversations. the good, the challenging, the utterly hilarious.

marriage, like all relationships, requires us to be intentional, present, and honest, and having a community to share with and be accountable to has added a richness to our growth as a couple. we are blessed beyond measure to have a community that stretches near and far including friends and groups we meet and share with individually as well as family and friends that we hang out with together. we are also incredibly grateful to have been welcomed together as a couple into a couples small group. we get together monthly at one of our houses for dinner, a considerable amount of laughter, and conversation about marriage, challenges, joys, faith, encouragement.

this month’s dinner was this past weekend, and we had volunteered to bring dessert. i woke up saturday morning super excited to find a new recipe to try, and it didn’t take me long to do so. my search ended when my heart got set on bon appétit’s caramel budinos with salted caramel sauce (“budino” is Italian for “pudding”). they had me at caramel. topped with salted caramel.

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legit banana bread.

friends, i won’t beat around the bush. this banana bread: oh! my! i’m not typically a person that dubs things as “the best.” my list of things that start with an emphatic lead-in is pretty short, unless we’re talking about my husband. so to go to extremes about banana bread of all things seems pretty ridiculous. it’s a simple recipe, and there are limitless spins on this classic. i just hadn’t ever found one that i particularly loved. so, when in search of a new old thing, where else does one turn but to Google. when my search lead me to this recipe (among a sea of others) earlier this year, the name kinda turned me off. “ultimate”? yeah, right.

those smarty pants at america’s test kitchen know what they are doing, though, because every so often, i’d think about the recipe. as luck would have it, we didn’t end up making as many breakfast smoothies last week. i eyed the bananas mottling perfectly on the counter & Googled “america’s test kitchen ultimate banana bread.” this time i noticed a video in the search results. since i’m an ATK nerd (they always teach me fun new things that make so much sense) i watched it, and i was finally convinced. if for no other reason than the recipe called for all brown sugar (be still, my beating heart), i at least i needed to give the recipe a chance.

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in my glory.

for many kids – i’d go so far as to even say, probably most – growing up is full of backyard adventures, skinned knees, building forts, dress up, and make believe. although i do have a few pretty ridiculous memories along those lines (like alli & i collecting baby frogs from the pond by our house and putting them in our strawberry shortcake toy bin to “play with later”…accidentally leaving a few in our pockets for our mom to wash & dry.), i was in my glory when i was making something with my hands.

little heather cookingmy mom did a fantastic job of involving us in the cooking & baking she did for us. i bet we can create a pretty legit timeline through our childhood out of just the pictures of my mom with us in the kitchen: from bellying up to the counter by standing on the open dishwasher door or a chair to helping with Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners. i imagine that time spent together in the kitchen planted a seed for my love of all things culinary. i soaked up every opportunity i could to learn, taking cooking classes in elementary summer school, practicing with a kids cookbook i adored, and dreaming up my own concoctions.

little heather sewingof course a girl can’t be in the kitchen all the time, and when i wasn’t unveiling some new recipe, i had no end to the crafts i wanted to learn. instead of playing with dolls or dressing up, i would color for hours on end. i adored my little play sewing machine, making crayon shavings “stained glass windows”  and  friendship bracelets, doing cross stitch, and so much more.

many years later, it’s abundantly clear that creating is more than a fun pastime or hobby for me. creating brings me deep joy. it is a way for me to be refreshed and energized, to unwind, and to connect with others – a passion that the Lord knit deep inside of me. being able to dream up new ideas and being inspired by others is a blessing that i am most often at a loss to find words to explain, so having this little space to share it all in as i continue to grow and learn is such a gift.

10 things: 12.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i would love to have a “year of the sock” à la amanda.
  2. dear youtube, thank you for helping me determine that our washing machine was, in fact, broken and for showing me how to fix it so easily!
  3. and then there is this (unfortunately they re-did the video & added annoying extra commentary – skip that part. the little boy is incredible!): 
  4. it took everything in me to not put up our advent calendar the day we got it. this is the first time either one of us has done an advent calendar, and we for sure picked a stellar one – this beauty from naptime diaries. it was my favorite decoration, and it was my very favorite way to end each day.IMG_3747
  5. this month was full of great highs & hard lows…
  6. but through both, we learned deeper value in God’s vision of marriage. and we are so, so thankful.
  7. our little JulieAnne is still rockin’ through the winter, still giving us beautiful lemons. it’s, like, “infinity x ten” times better than a unity candle. and the flowers that are still blooming in december…in minnesota?! our house smells heavenly with the sweetest smelling perfume.
  8. our contribution to christmas eve dinner was, per usual, dessert. we ended up tweaking this gingerbread latte cake with this eggnog buttercream. YUM!
  9. my absolute favorite memory of our first married christmas was christmas morning with just us. it was more special than i imagined it could be.
  10. we got to have a fun new year’s eve night with just the girls while we sent michael & joy to the thunder game. it was our second annual celebration, kicked off with pan-a-cakes for dinner :o)

10 things: 10.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i have learned, and love, that dustin likes to sign the cards & gifts that we give. he doesn’t want me to sign his name for him.
  2. we are so grateful to join a couple’s group with some old & new friends.
  3. obviously such momentous occasions call for making a recipe that’s been held in the wings for ages: smitten kitchen’s apple pie cookies. i did apple and peach…i just couldn’t resist the peaches.
  4. then, the ladies & guys from our couple’s group meet separately every other wednesday to do a ladies’ small group & a guys’ night. such a gift!
  5. although we aren’t super consistent with them, video calls with our nieces are highly anticipated & pure entertainment.
  6. the sunrises have been incredible this month.
  7. we have EIGHT lemons on our sweet little lemon tree!
  8. this instagram post by cranny and me had me laughing so hard when i found it, i had tears streaming down my face, and i couldn’t stop. the look on his face with those goggles – i mean, come on!
  9. we can’t wait to dive into the new artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. we already have so many recipes bookmarked.
  10. i’ve been scrolling back regularly to this image rhiannon posted…IMG_3480

10 things: 07.2013.

10things_witness

  1. WE’RE MAAAAAAAARRIED!!
  2. i had so much fun cooking for our wedding with the nieces. marshmallows, cake, & frosting, oh my!
  3. we got to celebrate miss allisyn’s birthday in minnesota :o)
  4. we made our first big purchase together – a truck!
  5. i reconnected with today’s letters, one of my favorite blogs. they’re totes flaming my desire to homestead one day.
  6. we started our first tradition: sunday morning waffles, thanks to the fabulous the faux martha’s recipe.
  7. julie-ann (our wedding lemon tree) joined the family. we’re quite smitten.
  8. husband made the most delicious pork chops!
  9. tommy turned ONE…and is going to be a big brother!
  10. we went to our first wedding as the crawfords.

carrot cake cupcakes & honey vanilla cream cheese frosting.

i whole-heartedly believe that there are legitimate moments & experiences that warrant being “the best ever.”

the first time i had the ipsento at ipsento in chicago was for sure the best latte i’d ever had (it’s still the reigning champ, even tho the boone’s beard at bull run here in minneapolis is thiiiiiiiis close). the day i got to stand up as the maid of honor for one of my very dearest friends – definitely one of the best days ever. meeting & snuggling my dearest friends’ babies – hands down, more best days ever. the day dustin proposed – it goes without saying ;o)

but, overall, i kinda cringe when i hear of this, that, & the other thing being the. best. ever. ditto for everything being amazing. everything can’t be the best ever, and surely we can stretch our minds a few adjectives beyond amazing. did that statement just hurl me into the “practicing mom” category? licking my thumb & cleaning things off of children’s faces and responding to “whys” with “because i said so’s” may not be far off…

with all of that said, we made these carrot cake cupcakes on Easter, and they were really, really, really good. they aren’t the best carrot cake i’ve ever had, but they are incredibly close. and they are definitely the best carrot cake i/we’ve ever made (gotta throw in the “i’ve” because they are the only carrot cake “we’ve” ever made).

i got the carrot cake idea stuck in my head a week before d’s birthday & wanted to surprise him with them. i didn’t ended up making them because we wanted to spend time together, but the birthday idea turned into a giant craving, and Easter seemed like a good reason to make cupcakes, too (because i really had to look hard for a “reason” for cupcakes?). making them a little later meant we got to make them together (which is always, always more fun) and share them with nate & mary for their birthdays, too. so it all worked out perfectly.

i searched the depths of the interwebs for 10-15 minutes comparing carrot cake recipes but ended up returning to the very first post that i found. it was titled “the BEST carrot cake,” and, well, i’ve already made my feelings clear about statements claiming something is “the best.” much less “the BEST.” i kept my expectations reasonable & was pretty pumped when, one drop of batter outside the bowl & one finger-swipe-and-lick later, i almost abandoned making cupcakes entirely to lick the bowl & utensils clean. instead, i froze, looked at d, & quietly uttered, “you need to try this batter.” resisting all urges & demonstrating the strength of our last strands of willpower, we slid the cupcakes into the oven & moved on to the frosting.

oh, friends – the frosting. i found the recipe on hannah’s blog, honey & jam. d & i have a soft spot for honey, so it was a no-brainer. honey & vanilla are a natural pair in my mind, so we added vanilla extract, which was a great start. next time we will for sure also add vanilla bean (we were baking at mary’s & forgot to bring one from the house). it’s not a necessity, but the tiny black speckles & delicious flavor pops are irresistible. it wasn’t tough to take as it was, tho, i promise. it’s a miracle any frosting made it to the cupcakes.

the only thing that held us back from devouring multiple cupcakes after dinner & changing our meal plan to include a cupcake at every meal was being able to share them.

:: carrot cake cupcakes & honey vanilla cream cheese frosting ::
adapted from tech love design & honey and jam

carrot cake cupcakes with honey vanilla cream cheese frosting 2

the cake had great texture & layered flavors from the coconut, grated carrot, crushed pineapple, & toasted, chopped pecans. we whipped the frosting until it was light & fluffy, and the flavor was rich & deep from the cream cheese, honey, & vanilla. although the nuts can be skipped, i can’t imagine carrot cake without them.

tailoring these recipes:
– you can omit the coconut & nuts from the cake, if you would like, without needing to compensate for the omissions.
– vanilla beans would be a delicious addition to the frosting, as noted above & included in the recipe below.

carrot cake
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cloves
pinch of ginger
1 cup shredded carrot, packed
1/2 cup coconut, unsweetened (optional)
4 oz crushed pineapple, reserving juice
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted & chopped (optional)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup vegetable oil works also)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs

frosting
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 – 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional)

to prepare cake
prepare muffin tins (cupcake liners) or baking pans (non-stick spray/oil/butter and flour or lined with greased parchment paper), and preheat oven to 350º.

in a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, & spices.

in a large bowl, blend butter until light & fluffy. add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and vanilla. mix in carrot*, pineapple, coconut , & nuts.
*we like texture, so we shredded ours using the larger grating side of the grater. feel free to use a fine grate if you prefer.

sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients in batches. blend well after each addition to make sure everything is incorporated, blending after the last addition for about a minute. do not over mix.

divide batter into prepared pan(s) & bake:
– cupcakes: 25-30 minutes
– 9″ cake(s): 35-40 minutes
– 9″ x 13″ cake(s): 45-50 minutes

overs can vary so, to be safe, it’s a good idea to:
– rotate pans half way through baking
– set your timer for the lower time in your desired cake’s baking time range & check the cake for doneness; you can always add time :o)
– test the cake for doneness in whatever way(s) you prefer: it should be golden brown, should spring back when pressed, & a toothpick should come out clean.

to prepare frosting
in a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, & honey with an electric mixer. start blending on medium speed, increase to medium-high, & blend 4-5 minutes until light & fluffy.

add powdered sugar & blend on low until incorporated. add vanilla & vanilla beans & continue beating for another minute or two.

to assemble
once cupcakes have cooled completely, you can frost them. we scooped the frosting into a ziplock bag, snipped the corner, & crowned our cupcakes with the delicious goodness before sprinkling them with more toasted pecans. spooning or spreading the frosting works great, too.

heck, i’d applaud you if you chose to dip your cupcake in the frosting one bite at a time. after all, in the end, the only thing that matters is getting the frosting & cake cozy, right?