Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 4: Zucchini Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

For no good reason, I am sensitive to the smell of raw garlic.  Possibly I have vampire in my family tree?  I love garlic flavor, and I use it with impunity.  But the smell of raw garlic makes my stomach turn.

Last night, I loaded up all the dishes from dinner and reached into the bag of dishwasher tablets just to come up empty.  Since we no longer live in a bustling metropolis, I had to leave them and plan on grabbing detergent today over my lunch.  This morning I woke up, and all I could smell was garlicky garlic with garlic.  That braised zucchini and leeks clinging to the dirty dishes in my dishwasher had made my house smell like an evil spirit's nightmare (at least to my sensitive nose - no complaints from Matt).

Our 180 degree lifestyle change has taught me many lessons in innovation, and I was highly motivated.  Gritting my teeth, and keeping one eye on the clock, I Googled "DIY dishwasher detergent."  I didn't have time to sort through the plethora of DIY mom blogs, but several clicks showed that all the instructions were about the same.  I mixed together my salt, Borax and washing soda, poured vinegar into the rinse cycle and crossed my fingers.  Keeping in the spirit of Pinterest, I even poured the remaining detergent in a mason jar (there was one sitting out on my counter, and my philosophy tends to be, "why put it away when you can stick something in it?").

The jury is still out on the results.  Now that I've had more time to research, I'd like to make some changes (add citric acid and a little dish soap).  But the fact remains that this morning, right after feeding the chickens, ducks and turkeys, I made dishwasher detergent.  Made it.  From scratch.  We're going completely Country over here, people.

Today's zucchini recipe comes from Taste of Home - which in a lot of ways was the original food blog but in magazine form because it was before food blogs existed.  Most lunchtimes, my sister and I would each grab a copy of Taste of Home and flip through the glossy pages while we ate.  I loved that magazine.  They had beautiful photos of food and personal anecdotes both touching and humorous.  Each recipe had a promising picture and a story.  And isn't that what is at the crux of food blogs?

These cupcakes were the contest winner in the August/September 1997 issue.  If I remember correctly, Taste of Home was often having contests featuring squash or other summer produce.  They must have been dealing with a problem similar to mine.

I have never forgotten the picture of those caramel colored cupcakes with the thick frosting.  When I decided to do this zucchini challenge, I knew the time had come - sixteen years later! - to finally make those cupcakes.

They have changed my perspective on zucchini baked goods.  Sure, they're high in sugar and butter and they are not even remotely good for you.  Maybe that's the beauty of it.  They aren't trying to be healthy, nor are they trying to mask the zucchini.  They are just using the zucchini another way.

Not being a huge fan of carrot cake, I found these to be a tasty second-cousin to that other vegetable on the dessert buffet.  They are moist and spicy with flecks of green zucchini and topped with a warm, silky caramel frosting (I'm running out of words for describing food - but this recipe deserves all the best the thesaurus has to offer).

The frosting  does not need to be messed with, but I'm curious to know how these little darlings would taste with cream cheese deliciousness on top.  If anyone tries it, please report back (I'm looking at you, Jennifer)!

Zucchini Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting
adapted from Taste of Home

3 eggs
1-1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup shredded zucchini, with peel

Caramel frosting:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk (I used whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I scraped 1/2 vanilla bean because I had one)
1-1/2 to 2 cups confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl beat: sugar, oil, orange juice and vanilla.  In another bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, allspice, cloves, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix.  Stir in grated zucchini.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners(I got my liners at Publix and think they're really cute!) Fill each cup about 2/3 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  They'll be a really pretty golden brown color at this point.

For the frosting: in a saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar and milk to a boil over medium high heat.  Lower heat, cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir constantly.  Burnt sugar is not fun to clean up.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla.  When it is cool enough to touch, gradually stir in confectioner's sugar until the mixture reaches frosting consistency.

You should know what to do with the frosting and cupcake after that.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! They've come a long way since their days in the laundry room.

  2. Look at you, girl! You're like a pioneer woman! Very resourceful with making your own dishwashing detergent. And I think I have chicken envy! I love love love your chickens. When we move out to the country, I'm determined we're going to get chickens too! I know they are work, but are they a lot of work? :) I think you might need to do some farm animal blogs too, because along with the chickens and ducks, I'm seeing part of a cow.
    These cupcakes look really good. I'm pinning this one too. Thanks!

    1. Well you know that being a pioneer was always a big of a dream of mine. :) I don't think the chickens are a lot of work at all. But then, mine haven't started laying yet, and we've had great support from our bird-expert neighbors. For now I find caring for them relaxing (except for when one was, er, hawk prey. That was not relaxing). I will keep you updated. And that spotted leg is actually a sheep in cow's clothing. There will not be cows. Dairy goats, maybe. Thanks for pinning!

  3. These look delicious, Elizabeth! Caramel icing is one of my favorites. I pinned it too.

    1. The frosting reminded me a little of a praline. Yum! Thanks for pinning!


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