Nothin Could be Finer than a Carolina Cupcake!

I thought I would cook up something sweet for the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen this week.   These cupcake goodies aren't Duke Blue, and that is good since they lost to Arizona or even Carolina blue for that matter, but they are called Tar Heel Cupcakes in honor of my great state.  For those of you who are not familiar with North Carolina, our state has the nickname of the Tar Heel State.  There are several legends on how North Carolina became known as the Tar Heel State, all relating to tar and its by-products produced in massive amounts from the teeming pine forests covering the state.  My alma-mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,  uses the nickname for athletics. 

This Tar Heel Cupcake recipe can be found in the Raleigh Junior League's "You're Invited" cookbook which was first published in 1998.   It's a great cookbook, and I have many favorite recipes  from this book.  There are very few of these books left to purchase if any at all, however, The Junior League has now published a second cookbook which I can't wait to get in my collection called  "You're Invited Back."

I was using "You're Invited" last week for several meals, and I spotted this cupcake recipe.  I don't make that many desserts, probably because of my laziness for sifting,  but the recipe looked easy enough to do with my son.  I also thought the recipe's name could spark a lot of conversation with him about our state's history plus we could eat these sweet delights while cheering on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. 

I thought the cupcakes were good.  They are different, and not your traditional cupcake with icing, but the chocolate mixed with cream cheese wowed me.   The recipe makes about sixteen cupcakes.  Isn't that a coincidence with the tourney's sweet sixteen?  I probably filled a couple too full because the recipe says it will make about eighteen.   My husband and son preferred the cupcakes plain and without the almond sugar topping on top.  I think the next time we bake these, we'll leave the almond/sugar mixture out.

Tar Heel Cupcakes

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1 cup (about 6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees
*Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and egg.  Mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside
*Combine almonds and 2 Tablespoons sugar.  Set aside.
*Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, 1 cup sugar and cocoa.  Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes with mixer at medium speed.
*Fill paper-lined muffin cups 1/2 full with batter.  Top each cupcake with 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle almond-sugar mixture evenly over cream cheese mixture.
*Bake in center of oven for 30 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is light golden brown.
*Cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Now that Duke is out of the big NCAA dance, it's now up to the North Carolina Tar Heels to make our state proud.  Go Tar Heels!

Until next time, I'm going to grab a cup of tea, and eat a Carolina cupcake!

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