Birthday {carrot} Cupcakes

CAKE RECIPE: 2 cups all purpose flour (might be less with the humidity) • 2 tsp baking powder • 1 tsp baking soda • 1 tsp salt • 2 tsp cinnamon • 1 cup {light, fruity olive} oil • 2 cups sugar {or a lot less - I always halve the sugar called for in recipes} • 4 eggs • 3 cups grated carrots • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts • 1 cup diced pineapple • 1 cup raisons {walnuts, pineapple, and raisins are all optional}

ICING RECIPE: 1 8oz package of cream cheese • 3 tbs {olive} oil • 1.4 tsp salt • 3 1/2 cups icing sugar {I used about 1 1/2 cups}

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 325 degrees • grease 2 9” pans if making a cake, or place 13 wrappers in muffin trays • Sift together dry ingredients • Add sugar to the oil gradually • Beat eggs until very light • Gradually add to oil/sugar and keep beating until smooth and fluffy • Stir in the dry ingredients slowly until all combined • Add carrots and nuts, etc and mix in • Bake for 60-65 minutes for cake and about 40 for muffins - or until golden and knife comes out clean • Cool before icing.

This recipe was handwritten and stuck into my family cookbook so long ago that no one can remember where it came from, but I'm convinced it makes the best carrot cake I've ever had. I can't count the number of timesI've insisted my mother bake one for my birthday, and this weekend it was Mr. Spring's turn to have one lovingly made in his honour. As we celebrated his big day with a Sunday brunch, I decided to go with muffins over a big cake, and made the cream cheese icing less sweet to suit a morning palate. Treats like this are especially lovely because people so genuinely appreciate being offered something home-made. And you don't have to tell anyone how easy they are to whip up!

Catherine Roberts