Sunday, September 27, 2009

Halfway up the hill...

This week is Aaron's 25th birthday, as in halfway to fifty, quarter of a life gone just like that. To celebrate this momentous occasion we decided to have a party (although in our terms party is more like, have a few people over, serve them some diet coke, kick them out at 10:00pm when we get tired). I figured I could do a little better than that for this birthday or at least serve some delicious food since I heard somewhere that your tastebuds decay with age so its only a matter of time before Aaron won't be able to taste anything at all...

I rounded up a menu of soups, cornbread and desserts and invited some friends and we had a wonderful gathering of friends to celebrate the end of Aaron's youth. Some of his med school friends even dressed up in suits for the occasion.

Here is the dinner lineup:

Carrot Ginger Soup
Matzo Ball Soup
Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili
Cornbread (x3!)

For dessert, I may have gone just a tiny bit overboard. There may have been a few moments last week when I thought to myself, is three kinds of cake too much? but then rationalized in my head why every 25th birthday party needs  AT LEAST three kinds of cake (I mean, what if someone doesn't like one kind of cake and also doesn't like one of the icings on another cake, they need a third option). Plus, I have all these recipes I've been wanting to try and as the semester wears on I have less and less time to bake. I also wanted to recreate my gingersnap ice cream from a few weeks ago because it was a huge success the first time around.

Here is the dessert lineup:
Lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing (Aaron's request)
Carrot cake cupcakes with maple cream cheese icing
Yellow cake with chocolate icing
Gingersnap ice cream

To compensate for the fact that my eyes were clearly bigger than my stomach, I decided to make mini cupcakes and abbreviate the cake recipe to fit 6-inch pans rather than 9-inch pans. As a result, I had about 24 mini carrot cake cupcakes, 24 mini lemon cupcakes and a three-tier 6-inch yellow cake. (Plus two batches of ginger ice cream, but who is counting?). Personally, I was really happy with the mini cupcakes because they are bite-size and great for a party.

All in all, it was a gigantic success. There were some things that turned out better than others (the cornbread was not my favorite recipe ever) and people seemed to like some things better than others (the carrot cake cupcakes went FAST), but nothing was a total disaster.

Of the recipes, I think my favorite were the carrot cake and the carrot ginger soup (theme, anyone?) so I will share those here. The carrot ginger soup is an old recipe that I cut out of the Omaha World Herald a couple of years ago so I don't even have an attribution, but the carrot cake is from good ol' smittenkitchen (it never steers me wrong). Any of the recipes online recipes have hyperlinks above.

Carrot Ginger Soup

8 servings
1 leek
2 T. unsalted butter
2 pounds carrots
1 sweet potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 T. ginger root, grated
½ t. curry powder or nutmeg
5 cups vegetable stock or chicken
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup soy milk

Cook rice first. In small saucepan bring 1 ¼ c. water to boil. Add ½ c. of dry, white rice. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until graints are tenfder and water is mostly brown. Trim off the tough green end of the leek, then slice leek lengthwise and rinse out. Slice leek halves into ¼ inch slices. Trim carrots, wash, and slice diagonally. Peely sweet potato and cut in 1 inch cubes. Melt butter in the soup pot and sauté the leek until translucent, but not brown. Add carrots and sweet potatos and toss for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, stock, and rice. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Puree the soup in a food processors or with a hand held whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add soy milk or cream when serving.

Carrot Cake Mini Cupcakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sugar
  2/3 cups canola oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated peeled carrots
1/2 cups well chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F
Line 24 mini cupcake pans with liners.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in a separate large bowl until mixed. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until well blended. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in carrots and walnuts if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.
Bake cupcakes 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool in the pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Add more maple syrup if needed, to taste. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm telling you that guy is really spoiled!!Everyting looks so good. I think the black bean sweet potato soup looks tasty. That cake is beautiful!