Did you know the month of May is National Military Appreciation Month? And Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May, this year on May 21, 2011. I didn’t know about either. In 1949, Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, created Armed Forces Day to replace the separate days of observance for the armed forces which were newly unified under the Department of Defense. General Earle G. Wheeler, Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, is quoted in 1967 as saying “Armed Forces Day, above all, honors the dedicated individuals who wear the uniforms of their country. Each serviceman, wherever he may be, whatever his task, contributes directly and importantly to the defense of the nation. The task of each one is the task of all the Armed Forces: to protect the freedoms which underlie the greatness of America.” We all know about Memorial Day, which honors and pays tribute to those who lost their lives in military service, observed on the last Monday in May.
Both of my parents were in the Navy and my father retired after a 20-year career. His duty took us to numerous cities in the U.S. (yes, we moved every two years) and even to Morocco, Africa in the 1970’s. That was probably where my love of food was kindled, with new and unique flavors that we didn’t have in the States. I also experienced the sometimes scary reality of being in an unsettled foreign country – we were there during an attempted coup to overthrow the government. Watching a line of military tanks go through the city and sensing my parent’s fear told me that it was a serious time, even though I was too young to understand the impact of what was happening around me. In retrospect, all the experiences of being in a military family made me very adaptable and resilient as an adult. My nephew, Mark (married to my sister’s daughter Elyse), is currently serving in the Navy as a Fire Controlman, or FC. We live in different times now and I have a tremendous respect for all the service men and women who have dedicated their lives so we can enjoy the liberties we have in this country. So you ask, why cupcakes for National Military Appreciation Month? First of all, everyone loves cupcakes and they always make people smile. It’s one of those food pleasures that take you away from your worries for just a bit – they are pure fun and happiness in my book. My food soul gets warmed when I eat a cupcake.
And second, cupcakes are what we made for dessert at Elyse’s wedding shower last year. She and Mark were married last June and he has been deployed most of the time since then. I had the crazy idea of making all the food for her shower – don’t tell anyone, but after I offered to plan the menu and make the food I was worried that I had over-committed myself. The shower was only for about 25 people but I had to plan it from out-of-town and then pull it off a few days after I arrived in Phoenix. My Mom and sister probably thought I was a slave master because I had daily task lists for each of us, with no room for missing any food prep duties. We served some scrumptious appetizers, gourmet sandwiches, homemade potato chips, quiches, spinach salad and Elyse’s favorite type of cupcake, carrot cupcakes.
As you know, baking is not my forte because I prefer the more creative and imprecise aspects of cooking. For the wedding shower cupcakes, we used the recipe from one of my favorite TV chefs, Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa; I have to say I agree with most of the reader reviews that the recipe is a tough one to pull off. The cupcakes tasted great but were greasy, fell in the middle and needed lots of frosting to cover up the uneven tops. Speaking of icing, the night before the shower we had just finished a big batch of frosting for 40-some cupcakes when a wine glass was knocked over and shattered near the frosting! We were all so tired and just sighed – we couldn’t take any chances of having glass fragments in the frosting. So the morning of the shower we stopped by the store for more ingredients and re-made the frosting. It all went off without a hitch and everyone left the shower happy. For this post, I decided to use the recipe from TheJoyofBaking.com and it was easy-peasy to make with excellent results. It calls for grated apple (used Pink Lady) which is different twist. The apples add moistness and density to the cupcakes. The only changes I made (not reflected in recipe below) were ½ cup less raisins, 1 extra tablespoon pecans, the convection setting on my oven and turning the muffin pans halfway through the cooking process. I also found the best cupcake papers at my local grocery store that are foil-lined and don’t get greasy like the regular paper ones.
Now whenever I eat cupcakes, especially carrot cupcakes, I smile and silently thank all the men and women serving in the armed forces who protect our country. And we can’t forget the family members who stay behind to take care of the family and households while loved ones are deployed. So to all of them, I send a heartfelt thanks for their service, sacrifices and for keeping our country safe. Here is a picture of Elyse and Mark on their wedding day.
Peace to all. Eat well and share the love!
Yield: 20 muffins
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white
1 cup (240 ml) safflower, corn, or canola oil
2 cups (210 grams) finely grated raw carrots
1 cup grated apple (approximately 2 large)
1/2 cup (55 grams) pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup (100 grams) raisins or currants
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups (330 grams) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Carrot Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place paper liners in 20 muffin cups.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. In another large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, and oil until slightly thickened. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula fold in the grated carrots, grated apple, chopped nuts, and raisins. Evenly divide the batter between the 20 muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Frosting: In the bowl of your electric, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until very smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until fully incorporated and smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Pipe or with a knife or small metal spatula spread the cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake. Cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time.
Makes 20 cupcakes.