Chinese Five Spice Cupcakes

Shortly after shouting out thanks for “the words that always arrive to fill the page,” writing blog posts has been extremely tough going. I have no idea what I am going to write until I actually sit down to post. This bothers me.

I like to have an idea of my main topic prior to sitting down to write. I have an extreme dislike of staring at a blank page as I find it does nothing but stare right back. The only thing left to do when this occurs is to stop thinking and start doing.

I begin spewing words across the page in hopes one or two will lead to an idea worth sharing. Today, I noticed my overwhelmingly desire both to get things done ahead of time and know how things will turn out is an ongoing problem.

I thought back to my first quarter of graduate school. Small groups of students were chatting throughout the classroom. I do not recall what we were supposed to be doing, but we were talking about how we were adapting to grad school.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes

For me, the adjustment was not all that severe. I’d spent the past four years in Columbus, so aside from moving off campus, I did not need to familiarize myself with much. So instead of wondering about campus – like many of my classmates who completed their undergrad degrees at other schools – I worried about getting stuff done.

I was carrying on about how I had not yet, on Monday, written a paper that was due on Thursday. A classmate, Roberta, did her best to look at me like I wasn’t out of my mind as she said, “It sounds like you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself.” Really? You mean feeling stressed over something days ahead in the future is counter-productive? Come on, really?

Here’s the deal.  Not everyone is motivated in the same way, but I once read that worrying is like praying for something bad to happen. As much as I crave a schedule, once I took Roberta’s advice to heart, I began to realize how peaceful taking one day a time could be. And when I actually began work as a hospice social worker, literally dealing with the forces of life and death that paid no mind to schedules, I was forced to go with the flow.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes

Living each day at a time has taken nearly a decade of practice. It is not always easy to stay in the present moment when I think about how perfect my life will be when I when reach so-and-so milestone. It is easy to get back to the present moment by remembering I do not want to lose my life to the “if onlys”. If only I were thinner…if only I were wealthier…if only I had ordered dessert. 😉

What these gems have to do with carrot cake cupcakes baked with Chinese Five Spice and  topped with ginger cream cheese frosting, I cannot say. Perhaps because I have been thinking about their future existence in my kitchen since I sampled one at Savory Spice Shop a few weeks ago. The moment I popped one of these babies in my mouth, I knew I’d be baking them soon.

In addition to Chinese Five Spice, the carrot cupcakes are baked with crushed pineapple. Delicious on their own, once they are topped with the ginger cream cheese frosting, they are out of this world. I know, I know, it’s July and it’s hot everywhere, but these cupcakes are worth turning on the oven. Then you can eat them with ice cream. Enjoy!

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes


Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Frosting
Serves: 13
  • For the cupcakes
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (3 to 4 medium sized carrots)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup crushed pineapple
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • For the frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: crystalized ginger for garnish
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, Chinese Five Spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the carrots, sugar, vegetable oil, crushed pineapple, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl, and beat until just combined.
  4. Fill each well of a muffin pan lined with paper liners about ¾ full with batter.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  7. To make the frosting, place the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and ground ginger in a mixing bowl and beat until combined.
  8. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  9. If desired, garnish the cupcakes with crystalized ginger.

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