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PPQ: Tropical Carrot Cake Cupcakes

by Shawnda on March 18, 2012

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Brownies,Pineapple,Project Pastry Queen

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Emily of A Gilt Nutmeg selected this week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge: Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting. And like just about every other cake in The Pastry Queen, it’s a gigantic, impressive, and fabulous dessert.

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

I absolutely love this carrot cake – it’s my second favorite recipe. It has the unusual addition of macadamia nuts, crushed pineapple, and cream of coconut in the batter and frosting for a tropical twist.

And with all that moisture, it stays fresh for days. And days. We’re actually not so big fans of coconut but the shredded coconut disappears into the cake and the cream of coconut added to the frosting was barely detectable.

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

I stayed true to the original recipe (which you can find over at Emily’s blog), making half of it, using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, reducing the sugar by 1/3, and using neufchatel for the frosting. And then I dropped the mixer bowl on the kitchen floor and batter went everywhere. Everywhere.

I recommend against doing that. Cleaning carrot cake batter out of kitchen tile grout is actually pretty tough. But I do recommend scooping up the “top layer” of the batter and still getting 6 cupcakes out of the deal!

PPQ desserts just don’t stand a chance in this house :)

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting



Individual Tiramisu


I’m playing catchup with last week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge: Tiramisu with Homemade Ladyfingers, chosen by Sarah of 20 Something Cupcakes.

Homemade ladyfingers are one of those things that deserve to be on everyone’s Baking Bucket List. They’re softer, more tender, and much more flavorful with a healthy dose of vanilla. They would really make a dessert like a Charlotte shine. But when making tiramisu, their job really is “just” to absorb the flavors of the espresso and mascarpone fillings. Here, the store-bought, nearly flavorless cookies do just fine.

But make them one, cross them off your list, and feel super, super accomplished. And then sweep up the half bag of powdered sugar you dropped on the kitchen floor.

And the console yourself with a glass full of tiramisu.

Individual Tiramisu

The recipe got “it’s good, but…” reviews from some of the other PPQ members last week. Having the advantage of listening to those reviews, I mostly abandoned the recipe for the soaking syrup and filling, opting to strip them down for a minimalist approach instead. The full recipe, in all it’s gigantic, boozy (Kahlua! Rum! More Kahlua!), 9×13 glory is over at 20 Something Cupcakes. It’s a doozy!

I stayed true to the recipe for the lady fingers and ended up with 5 dozen cookies (enough for 10 individual servings; I only used ~2 dozen for 4 servings and then froze the rest). The cookies are much softer than their store-bought counterparts so you have to be quick when dunking the cookies. Because I was assembling the cookies vertically, I found it better to only dunk the top half of the cookie, and then let the espresso slowly work its way down the entire cookie while the dessert is chilling in the fridge. This worked better than dunking the entire cookie because most of the espresso from the cookies that line the edge of the glasses ended up at the bottom after day 2 in the fridge while the half-dunked cookies were perfect.

The presentation with of the individual servings, while more work, is much nicer than family-style – you can see the striated layers of mascarpone and espresso-mascarpone through the sides of the cup. And the “individual” servings are actually quite generous – and amazingly, wonderfully rich. Consider sharing them with a friend.

Or not. I won’t judge.

Individual Tiramisu

Individual servings of tiramisu with alternating espresso and mascarpone fillings. And if you want - homemade ladyfingers!


  • For the soaking syrup:
  • 1/2 cup strongly-brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • For the filling:
  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp strongly-brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • For assembly:
  • 4 8-oz clear plastic cups or ramekins
  • 24 ladyfingers, purchased or homemade
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate, grated


  1. In a small bowl, mix espresso and sugar, stirring until the sugar has disolved.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. With your mixer, cream the mascaropone, cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar on medium-high for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. The mixture should feel smooth (not gritty) when rubbed between your fingers.
  4. Remove half of the mascarpone mixture and transfer it to a smaller bowl.
  5. Add 2 Tbsp of espresso and mix well.
  6. Add 2 Tbsp milk to the remaining filling and mix (this is just to thin the filling, the type of milk - whole, skim, etc - does not matter) well.
  7. Trim the ladyfingers so that they come just below the top rim of the cups. Reserve the excess pieces. (The trimmed ends of the cookie are "the bottoms," the rounded uncut ends are "the top.")
  8. Working with one ladyfinger and one serving at a time, quickly dunk the top half of the cookie into the soaking syrup and place in the plastic cup coffee-end (top) up.
  9. Repeat with 3 more lady fingers, arranging them around the cup (if your ladyfingers are thin, you might need to use more than 4).
  10. Place one of the reserved trimmed ends of the cookies into the bottom, followed by a spoonful of the espresso filling, the plain filling, and top with more ladyfinger pieces (when you run out of trimmed pieces, tear additional ladyfingers into small pieces to fit the next layer). Repeat 2 more times to fill the cup.
  11. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the top.
  12. Repeat the process for the remaining servings.
  13. Loosely cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.


Yields: 4 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen



Orange County

Last week, I jetted off to Orange County for a bloggers’ luncheon hosted by White on Rice Couple and KitchenAid. I was on the ground for 23 hours. In that short time, I discussed former-Presidential-candidates/current-Texas-governors with the cashier at Trader Joe’s, hoarded PoundPlus chocolate, chatted with 39 other bloggers, ate way too much of the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever had, and knocked back some seriously addicting Sriracha White Bean Dip. (You need that dip in your life.)

(You’re welcome.)

Trader Joe's

And I hugged Joy the Baker. Twice.

Joy the Baker

But it wasn’t weird, I swear.

Vegas, Baby!

Vegas, Baby!

I did manage to throw together my travel reservations so sloppily that I had barely an hour to inhale an airport lunch and slot machine-away the $3 I had on me in Las Vegas before finding myself in a hotel room in which I’m quite certain that [dramatization ahead] every “dead hooker scene” that has ever been on CSI/The Mentalist/Law & Orders I, II, III, and IV was filmed. I was bolted-in by dark and out the door super early, killing (ha!) time at the emptiest, quietest Chick-fil-A that this suburban mom of a chicken nugget lover has ever seen.

It was kind of nice. And I had such a memorable conversation with the nicest old man, a retired Naval pilot, who beamed with pride as he told me about his 3 children who’d followed in his footsteps as Naval aviators. All over Spicy Chicken Biscuits.


After juicing oranges for mimosas and chatting, we sat down to listen to Todd & Diane do the second thing they do best: talking about capturing life and telling stories through photography. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to their story – and it probably won’t be the last – but it’s still just as inspiring as the first time. They always project such a creative energy, and I (and sometimes Jason) always leave refreshed, renewed, and inspired.

Diane & Joy

I was super excited to get to have a mini-Food Blog Camp reunion and catch-up with Nancy (A Communal Table), Marie (Meandering Eats), Sally (A Food Centric Life), and Todd & Diane.

And I was giddy to get to chat with some blogging and cookbook heroes: Joy the Baker (long-time reader, first-time meeter), Cristina Ferrare (author of one of my favorite cookbooks from last year, Big Bowl of Love), Jenny (Picky Palate), and Naomi (Bakers Royale).

KitchenAid Lunch

After stuffing my suitcase so full of Trader Joe’s goodies that I had to literally sit on it to zip, wouldn’t you know it… my name was drawn out of the jar for some shiny KitchenAid goodies. I picked out a gorgeous red KitchenAid food processor. Because after seeing that beauty in action, I had already decided that I was going to cash-in my St. Patrick’s Day/birthday/Christmas present early this year :)

KitchenAid Food Processor

It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. And I nearly fainted when I saw that it had this fantastical adjustable width slicing control. I seriously cannot wait for it to arrive so I can put it to work.

Thanks to Rachel of KitchenAid and Todd & Diane for the invitation and for hosting such a fun event. Can’t wait ’til next time :)



I chose this week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe, Totally Rummy Pound Cake. It was cake + booze. Surely it would be a winner.

But if I could do it all over again, I’d go back and choose a different recipe. Because it turns out that I’m not as big a fan of rum as you’d think. Or as I’d think… Captain & Diets excluded :) And this cake has a lot – A LOT – of rum in it.

I made half a recipe (thank goodness) and baked it in a small loaf pan. It didn’t really rise much but while it baked, my kitchen smelled a whole lot like Spring Break 1998. I couldn’t bring myself to make the glaze for the cake, which called for even more rum, so I macerated some chopped strawberries with a little sugar and served it on top.

My husband graded it with a half-hearted “It’s okay I guess.” There aren’t many recipes in the book that I haven’t cared for but I guess they can’t all be winners. So now that I’ve totally sold you on the cake…

Totally Rummy Pound Cake

A dense, rummy pound cake studded with Texas pecans.


  • For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with baking spray.
  3. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and bake 5-7 minutes, until browned and fragrant.
  4. Cream butter and sugar on high for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time.
  6. Add the vanilla and rum, mixing until completely combined.
  7. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.
  8. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients to the bowl in three additions, alternating with two additions of the sour cream.
  9. Add half of the pecans to the batter and mix well.
  10. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with remaining pecans.
  11. Bake ~40 minutes, until browned and a skewer in the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached.
  12. Let cool in pan 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool.
  13. To make the glaze, heat the butter, water, lemon juice, and rum in a small pan over medium heat.
  14. Bring mixture to boil and cook for ~1 minute.
  15. Pierce the cake many times with a skewer and brush/pour the glaze of the cake. Let rest 1 hour before serving, overnight preferred.


Yields: 8 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes