Pecan Cinnamon Cupcakes

This weekend I accomplished something that has been on my list for a long time. No, not my taxes... those are still on my list. This was a lot more fun. I completely reorganized my recipe box. I received a special recipe accordion folder from my Mom one Christmas - probably at least ten years ago. It finally died - the bottom fell out. It was completely and utterly irreparable. So, I've had to move on. I bought a completely ugly but made of recycled material 3 ring binder and put all my recipes in the binder. What was fun about this little project was that I finally had a look at all my recipes. There is a lot of good stuff in there that I haven't taken the time to try as yet. Among some of those recipes I found this little gem. To be honest, I only put it in the folder a few weeks ago. It was recipe that I found in the spring issue of the
Food and Drink magazine offered at the LCBO (liquor control board of Ontario - it's a long, sad story). This magazine is really worth checking out online. Some lovely offerings here.

I'm not quite sure what is particularly spring-like enough about pecans to merit this entry in the spring issue but who cares - it looks great and the caption under the title said that it was inspired by fresh cinnamon buns (much better than the stale cinnamon bun, I agree!). The cupcakes come together quickly and they give a lovely spongy texture. The icing can be a little finicky and sets quickly so I found that I had to make sure that I had the cupcakes cooled before make the icing. However, the icing tastes like a cross between caramel and maple syrup - beautiful! Who cares about taxes!!!

Pecan Cinnamon Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

2 lg eggs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted cake and pastry flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk, room temperature

1/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped


1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups icing sugar

1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Line 12 muffin tin cups.

Place eggs in small bowl and cover with hot tap water (to get them to room temperature)

Beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time and then vanilla. Thoroughly mix sifted flour with baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Alternately add flour mixture and milk into the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in finely chopped pecans. Divide the batter into the lined cups.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until light golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack.


Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream. Stirring occasionally, bring to a full rolling boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, cool 15 minutes on a rack without stirring.

Stir in icing sugar until smooth. Immediately ice cooled cupcakes because the frosting sets very quickly. Press a few pieces of pecan into the icing while it's still soft.

... and this is what kid #2 ate!

Carrot Cake....Cookies!

Easter weekend. It's warm, very warm, unsettlingly warm AND I've had the weekend off. What did I do over the weekend? I made hot cross buns, I went for two runs 8 and 12 km., I went biking with my kids and I tried
Hot Yoga for the first time (pretty wicked BTW). My Mother-in-law has recently returned from her yearly sojourn in Trinidad which means that Derek and I get a little time to ourselves. Off to our favourite local and we even had a chance to try another spot (2 days later - no really we're not that piggy!) reported to have the best burgers in the East end. Lastly, I made these cookies. As promised, Carrot cake cookies!

Once again... Martha. Seriously though, this recipe looked so different that I couldn't resist. I love carrot cake and especially love the cream cheese icing. I don't love my carrot cake with too much extra crap. No pineapple, no coconut - more spice cake and moist carrots topped with the sweet and tangy white icing. A beautiful combination.
The cookies themselves have all the good qualities of carrot cake but the addition of oats makes them a cross between carrot cake and oatmeal cookies. Not bad at all. Nice and squidgy (I love that word!) and chewy. The cookies have been getting rave reviews all around - even from kid #1 and kid #2 (both asked where the chocolate was at first though). I changed up the filling a bit from Martha's original - just so you know, it called for only 1 cup of icing sugar (my filling was too runny with just 1 cup) and 1 tsp of vanilla (I just couldn't do it! Nothing should take the flavour away from the cream cheese).

Carrot Cake Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar (although I used dark with success)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 lg eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for flattening)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 lg carrots)
1 cup raisins

Cream Cheese Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 - 2 cups icing sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir to combine. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix well until blended. Mix in oats, carrots and raisins. Chill until firm, at least 1 hr.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.
Bake until browned and crisp, 12 - 15 minutes (rotate halfway through baking time). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling:
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add butter and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Once cookies are cooled, spread about 2 tsp of filling on the flat side of half the cookies. Sandwich together with the remaining cookies.

Mushroom Pasta al forno (baked!)

I'm really enjoying Mushrooms these days. I just heard recently that they are good for regulating blood pressure and they have high amounts of vitamin D. But, I don't care... they taste good. Funny, it's one of those vegetables which as a kid you just never see yourself eating (right up there with peppers for me... but I totally kicked that when at 9 I decided to pretend that pepper strips were just green french fries). They add so much body to a dish, even the low-rent button variety. I love them all!!! I'm also challenging myself to get more creative with veggie food (after our great visit with Brian and Civi, I'm double challenged) and this mushroom recipe fits the bill. With my new 'fresh box' from Front Door Organics I can pick and choose what I would like to get (but I think that there is a little bit of fun in getting something that I wouldn't normally pick up at the store - ya know?) so if they are not sending mushrooms this week I can substitute it for something that I don't want in the box or add it in addition to everything in my box (which is exactly what I did)... and did I mention that it gets delivered to my door... and that in most cases it's cheaper than buying it at the grocery store... and that they support local farms! Ach! I'm so excited about this... it must be annoying - I need to shut up!

Here these mushrooms are gloriously at the centre of it all. No playing second fiddle to something brightly coloured or something crunchy/crispy. Savoury, toothsome, one of life's earthy (haha, good one Wanda) pleasures. I added some Kale that came in our box as well and it's a fantastic accompaniment (I guess that it counts as brightly coloured though!). The recipe itself was inspired by a similar recipe from 'Feast' by Nigella Lawson but it's undergone enough of a transformation here to be barely recognizable to the diehard fan.

Mushroom Pasta al forno
serves 6

1/2 of a large bag of Rigatoni pasta (cooked in a large pot of salted, boiling water for about 14 minutes)

Bechamel (here it is again!)
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp of unbleached, all-purpose flour
5 cups of warmed milk
1 cup of sour cream
1/4 c
up lemon juice (fresh)
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 - 3/4 cup of grated cheese
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (ground is fine - use 1 tsp)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp bouillion powder (low salt)
pepper or pepper sauce to taste

2 - 3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 rib of celery, chopped fine
5 cups of mushrooms (I used cremini and button but mixed is great) slic
2 - 3 cups of Kale (any leafy green will do) chopped small
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
salt to taste

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make Bechamel:

Heat butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add in the flour and whisk well together until the mixture is smooth. Graduall
y add in the warmed milk and little at a time until all the milk has been added.
Keep at med. to low heat, whisking regularly. As the sauce thickens add in the nutmeg, salt, mustard powder and bouillion powder. Once sauce is adequately thickened (5 min. or so) add in the sour cream, lemon juice, pepper or pepper sauce, parmesan and grated cheddar. Whisk until mixed and cheese is incorporated. Set aside.

In something large enough to contain the vegetables, saute the onion, celery and mushrooms until they are just wilted (about 4 - 5 minutes). Add in the kale and garlic and continue to saute until the greens are bright and wilted (I know I said there were no other bright colours - Sorry!)

Combine the drained pasta and the vegetables in a large baking dish. Mix well. Pour the bechamel sauce over everything and mix well, making sure that the sauce has gotten through to the bottom of the baking dish. Top with some more grated parmesan cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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