The weekends have been nice around the beach lately so we’ve been taking our dog down there to play. There always seem to be an abundance of nice, big, unbroken shells at Dog Beach (probably because you don’t see many little kiddos running around with their pails full) so I’ve been picking up the pretty ones and saving them for a craft. As most seashell decorations tend to not be my favorite, I wanted to create something that brought in my love of nature-inspired, textural elements.
I’m a collector of all notions crafty – when I head to a thrift store, discount store or garage sale (or even when someone does their spring cleaning and discards perfectly good items that could be repurposed!), I’ll take home things that I might not have an immediate need for and save them until inspiration strikes. Such is the case with this twig wreath, which I found discarded on top of someone’s trash. It originally had ugly, fake flowers not-so-delicately hot-glued on it which were easily removed to reveal a clean and natural base. The lotus seed pods were found at a thrift store mixed in a bag with preserved leaves for $2 (but you can find them at any Michael’s) and my reindeer moss is leftover from some Christmas projects. I wanted another textural component, so used my trusty 40% Michael’s coupon to purchase these interesting dyed and dried mushrooms.
While I think the addition of succulents would be gorgeous, I wanted something dried so that I could hang it, then store it away with the seasons. So grab a hot glue gun, get inspired by your findings and leftovers, and get creative!
When I think of springtime treats, lemon desserts and carrot cake are the first things that come to mind. So why not combine the two to give you the best of both worlds? Since I prefer the individuality of cupcakes, especially when I am making treats for different groups of people, I used this delicious-looking and rave-reviewed recipe for carrot cake and adjusted the time down for cupcakes. To top them off, I used the lemon cream cheese frosting recipe from my archives, adapting it so that is presentable and sufficiently stiff (cold cream cheese is the key!). The results were scrumptious! The cake is incredibly moist and delicious and the lemon zest really ties it all together. Just don’t make yourself sick licking the frosting off the beater!
Carrot Cake Cupcakes (makes 24):
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup canola oil
- 4 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin pans with your favorite springtime liners.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt.
- In another bowl, stir together the carrots (use a food processor for fast shredding!), chopped nuts, coconut and raisins.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.
- Gently mix in the chunky ingredients. Use ice cream scoop to portion into cupcake liners, filling until about 2/3 full (any more full and they will spill over!).
- Bake for 20-24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then gently run a knife around the sides of the cupcakes to transfer them to cooling racks.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (makes enough for 24 cupcakes):
- 16 ounces cream cheese, cold
- 10 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4.5 c powdered sugar, sifted
- zest of 2 lemons, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and zest until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat.
- To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes. If you want a garnish, a toasted walnut half would be cute.