I’d like to think I’m a fairly dedicated soul when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. I eat lots of vegetables, snack mostly on nuts and pretzels instead of junk, and ride my bike a lot. I also try to go to the gym over my lunch break every day. I’m not a fan of the corporate culture, but I do have to say I love having a company gym that makes winter workouts convenient. But even with the treadmill a mere 15 steps from my cozy cube space, the “convenience” just wasn’t making an impression on me yesterday. Fridays are always a tough day for discipline, aren’t they? Instead of hitting the gym, I found myself daydreaming about dessert. Woops.
I couldn’t dispel the daydream all afternoon and found my feet shuffling towards the grocery store (instead of the gym) after work in search of ingredients for a recipe I’ve been concocting in my head all week. Little did I know I wouldn’t need the gym to get my workout in the end…
Ever since my parsnip soup post’s discussion about this underrated vegetable’s sweetness, I’ve been thinking about how to use them in a dessert. I was thinking maybe scones or a quick bread. But then I was struck by the idea of carrot-turned-parsnip cake. I mean, it seemed so obvious that these two root vegetables could be used interchangeably. So that was my plan. Until Friday night’s cold walk to the grocery store, during which I decided I wasn’t in the mood for a carrot cake knock-off, at least not entirely.
Make your own cupcake/muffin liners using squares of wax paper
Wandering the aisles, narrowly missing first a baby stroller and then another shopper’s cart, I mulled over my options. I definitely liked the idea of cake. But gym-shirker that I was, I didn’t want anything too guilt-inducing. I saw some ginger and the idea ball started rolling from there. I decided to put together a relatively airy and warmly spiced batter to transport my parsnip into cupcakes (portion control, my friends, is what it’s all about) that I’d then top with a lighter version of cream cheese frosting accented by fresh ginger. I think I had just uttered “eureka” in my head when literally I tripped over the shelf holding the raw sugar, which turned out to be the perfect decoration for these homespun treats.
Wondering yet how it is that I got my workout? It wasn’t terribly long, but it was demanding. I’d never grated a parsnip before and if these cupcakes hadn’t turned out so darn delicious, I never would again. Those things are tough!! But the cupcakes are amazing, so it was worth the grueling upper body workout to get the couple cups of grated parsnip that I needed. If you have that glorious luxury called a food processor, I’d advise using it.
So that’s the story about how I got my workout and felt justified in satisfying my Friday night sweet tooth with a cupcake.
But there’s a bit of a story left yet behind the cupcake itself. You see, I’ve created several original recipes, both on and off the blog. However, this one is the first where I feel like I really stepped it up, gathering flavor profiles together in my mind and transposing them into an almost sublime sweet. Since starting a food blog, I’ve been pushed to become more confident in the kitchen and have had lots of practice time with all the recipes that have found their way onto these pages. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not patting myself on the back here for all the cyber world to see. I’m actually kind of pleasantly surprised that I could conjur up with this cupcake creation. But it does nonetheless feel like some sort of milestone.
I think I’ll celebrate with another cupcake! After all, I’ve earned it. While I do that, tell me about your greatest success story in the kitchen…
Parsnip Spiced Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
A Straight from the Farm Original
2 c. grated parsnip (about 1 medium parsnip)
1 ¼ c. fat free milk
2 T. brown rice syrup
2 t. vanilla extract
¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ c. sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3 egg yolks, room temperature
2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 ¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ t. ground cinnamon
½ t. ground cloves
¼ t. ground ginger
¼ t. ground allspice
8 oz. fat free cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2-3 t. freshly grated ginger
2 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
Raw sugar for decorating
In a bowl, combine the milk, rice syrup and vanilla. Set aside. Place egg and yolks in another small bowl and beat lightly. Set aside. Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until well incorporated. Add the milk mixture and stir well. Fold in a half cup of the flour mixture at a time just until all the dry ingredients are moist. Do not over mix.
Place cupcake liners in muffin tins (you’ll need about 20-24) and preheat oven to 350 F. Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
To make frosting, whip together the cream cheese and butter. Add the ginger and mix well. Slowly add the sugar and then beat until light and fluffy. Let chill for at least 15 minutes while cupcakes cool.
To decorate, spread frosting over cupcakes and use a piping bag to create different designs if desired. Use the raw sugar to decorate by sprinkling over entire top of a cupcake or create shapes using small cookie cutters (see picture). Store in an airtight container.
(makes about 2 dozen)