My Oma was German through and through. Born and raised in Germany, she survived Berlin in the 1940s with her young son, my dad, in tow. After the war, while working for the Red Cross as a translator, she met and married the man who would become her husband, my father’s adoptive father, and the reason she immigrated to the United States during the Cold War. To say she was a stubborn, independent woman would be a vast understatement. The woman had spunk.
One of my favorite things about visiting my Oma was her cooking. She was quite talented in the kitchen, producing food from “the homeland” like it was as easy as pie. Her red cabbage was the perfect combination of savory and sweet and her potato salad remains one of my favorite dishes to take to a summer potluck. She taught me the value of a great loaf of bread, especially when homemade and accompanied with cheese and a good piece of smoked sausage. In fact, this was usually our “snack” when I came to visit: dark rye bread with slices of aged Cheddar cheese and thin pieces of meat.
Oma’s carrot cake is by far my favorite of her recipes. We would make the cake together from when I was quite young, and it was the first layer cake that I made on my own (well, nearly so). I’ve adapted her recipe just a little bit as these days I prefer to make it into cupcakes and I’ve added a bit more cinnamon and vanilla. I tend to have frosting left over (perhaps I need to be more generous in my dressing of the cupcakes), but a bit of leftover cream cheese frosting really isn’t hard to get rid of (at least around here).
Oma’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from my Oma’s recipe
2 c flour
2 c sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
3 c finely shredded carrots
1 c cooking oil
1 t vanilla
4 large eggs
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 8 oz package of Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
4 c powdered sugar
2 t vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. Line cupcake pans with liners.
Mix dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) together in a large bowl. Add shredded carrots and stir until well combined.
Mix remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl. When well combined, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling 2/3 of the way full (more than that and they will overflow the pan). Bake for 25-28 minutes, until very slightly browned on top.
Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
While muffins are cooling, cream the Neufchâtel cheese and butter together in a mixer. When well combined, turn down the mixer speed and gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Continue mixing until smooth.
When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them with your cream cheese frosting. I use a regular dinner knife when frosting, but a spatula also works well. Also, try dipping your knife/spatula in water to make the frosting smooth.
Alternative: if you are not serving these cupcakes the same day, delay making the frosting until the day you are serving them and freeze the cupcakes once they are completely cool. Remove cupcakes from freezer 2-3 hours before serving and frost while they are still cold.
Makes 24-28 cupcakes.