Well curl my carrot

Confession time.  I don’t like carrot cake.  It’s just not my thing.  Which is a shame because any baker worth her weight in cream cheese frosting has a great carrot cake recipe up her sleeve.

Knowing that my baking repertoire was lacking, I began my search for a carrot cake recipe.  I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the whole enterprise until I ran across a recipe for candied carrot curls.

What?  A candied vegetable?  Weird!  But totally intriguing.   These I had to make.

While they took some patience (long and low bake time on the back end), they were easy, really fun and made a unique and kind of sexy garnish for my carrot cake cupcakes.

As a note on the actual carrot cake recipe, it must be a good one because they were a hit at our annual townhouse association picnic. Well, full disclosure:  the group was deep into a serious batch of moscow mules by the time dessert was served so they probably would have liked anything that point.

Carrot Cupcakes with Candied Carrot Curls

Source: Epicurious

makes 12 cupcakes

for the candied carrot curls


  • 1 large or two medium carrots (try to find fat ones)
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C sugar


  1. Peel carrot(s).  Discard outer peelings.
  2. Peel layers from carrot lengthwise on one side with a peeler until you begin to get wide strips.  Peel wide strips until you get about 15.  Set aside.
  3. Bring water and sugar to boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved.  Add wide carrot strips and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes.
  4. Strain through a sieve into a bowl.  Discard syrup and let stand for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Position rack in middle of oven.
  6. Line a baking sheet with nonstick liner or parchment.
  7. Arrange carrot slices flat in 1 layer on sheet.
  8. Bake until dry but still flexible, about 30 minutes.  Leave oven on.
  9. Wind carrot strips, one at a time around the handle of a wooden spoon in a loose spiral.  Then, slip off each curl and return, seam sides down to lined baking sheet.
  10. Return curls to oven to dry until crisp, about 60 minutes.
  11. Cool completely.

For the cupcakes


  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 C grape seed oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line muffin cups with paper liners (I like to double line mine).
  2. Coarsely grate enough carrots to measure 2 cups using large teardrop holes of a box grater or food processor.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl, set aside.
  4. Whisk together oil, eggs, brown sugar, grated carrots, and vanilla in a large bowl, then stir in flour mixture until just combined.
  5. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack, about 1 hour more.

For frosting

note: the original recipe calls for a really great looking icing.  I opted to use a frosting.  Click for the original icing recipe.


  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened (you can use full fat but this recipe is so rich that I prefer to use the lightened version)
  • 2 C sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Using a standing mixer or electric hand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese.
  2. Add-in half of the confectioner’s sugar and, with the speed on low, mix-in.  Ad the other half and mix-in on low until just combined.
  3. Add-in vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat until combined and fluffy.
  4. Frost cupcakes as desired, topping with candied carrot curls.
  5. Note:  if your kitchen is hot and the frosting is overly soft, pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes before frosting cupcakes.

Julio’s Hot Carrots

As TD will agree, my love for the hot carrot borders on embarrassing.  A staple of the Southern California taco stand, I often force him into causing a distraction so that I can heap these spicy little gems directly onto whatever I’ve ordered, completely bi-passing the appropriate little dishes provided.  Who am I kidding, whatever  I’ve ordered is just a beard to deliver the hot carrots.

Also embarrassing?  It’s taken me this long to realize I could make my own at home.

In researching recipes I discovered that what I thought was a requisite member of any good salsa bar may just be regional.  Most recipes I found suggest that the hot carrot originated in a Mexican restaurant in San Diego called Julio’s.  Julio’s is no longer open and sadly, I don’t remember ever going there while growing up.  But, his legacy is strong and far-reaching.

Sadly, not the first Kitchen God photo bomb this blog has seen.

I thought this would be a fun fourth of July recipe because somewhere along the way I found an Alton Brown creation called Firecracker Carrots.  Sadly, his recipe uses baby carrots.  The blasphemy.

Will I stop raiding the spicy carrot bowl at our local taco shop?  Have you met me?  But, at least in my house, hot carrots have been elevated from a sometimes food to an all-the-time food.

If you like this, you might like these

Pico de Gallo 


Foster the People…in an attempt to will a new album into existence.

San Diego Style Hot Carrots

source:  this recipe is a little like salsa, I mixed and matched ingredient lists until I got a blend I liked


  • 2 lbs carrots
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 7 ounce can pickled jalapenos (with juice)
  • 2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TBS oregano
  • 1 TBS kosher salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 TBS oil (I used olive)


  • Clean and peel carrots.  Slice on the diagonal to about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Add carrots to a large saucepan and bring to boil in about 24 ounces water.  Once water hits a steady boil, set timer for 5 minutes.  Promptly drain carrots in a collander.
  • While water is heating, thinly slice onion.
  • In a large bowl, combined onion, jalapenos and juice, vinegar, spices, bay leaves and oil.
  • Add blanched carrots to bowl.  Mix until all ingredients are well distributed.
  • Cover bowl and let mixture cool for three hours.
  • Hot carrots can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.  They won’t last that long, I promise.