Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies
When my husband was in the Navy, I often volunteered to cook for our unmarried or otherwise unattached friends. I have mentioned this before; that I used to use them as guinea pigs in the early days of my cooking career, completely taking advantage of their willingness to eat just about anything while I tested my way through experimental dishes and recipes. During deployment, food on a nuclear submarine is very….well…I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you. Know that it is less than perfect. Any home cooking was much appreciated and the guys actually made a very diverse test group, since those young men came from every walk of life and from every part of the country. Sailors from the big city, the south, midwestern farms, tropical islands-everywhere. I cooked food from the north and a good friend and fellow Navy wife contributed southern expertise. And we fed them. My favorite way to show that I love and care. Food.
That is why these sweet little cookies make me grin. Not because they are wicked good (they are) or because the thought of eating one right now makes me want to weep with joy (it does) or the fact that anything filled with some type of cream is on my ‘for sure’ list (it is). But because the very first time I ever made them was for a bunch of sailors off the USS-Topeka. I had ripped the recipe out of an issue of Bon Appetit and taped it into a notebook filled with other recipes that I had saved, scribbled down from friends, or pilfered from the magazines in the dentist office waiting room. My San Diego kitchen was rather minuscule, but that didn’t deter me from trying new recipes, no matter how complicated or advanced they seemed. I assumed this recipe was a bit of both and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it was just cookies and frosting. Easy peasy.
The recipe has since moved to my computer, but I clearly remember adding a special note in the margin of that old notebook. **Sailor Approved** That first time I made them we all oohed and aahed over how good they were. But again, that isn’t what makes them special. It was the fact that when we were all thousands of miles from home, missing our families and aching for something familiar, these cookies made the house smell like home. It smelled like a crisp fall day in the north woods even though it was actually 85 and sunny on the coast of the south Pacific. These sweet little treats were part of the conversations, laughter, teasing, and warm hugs of that day. The memories of those men are very dear and while we are all now scattered to the far corners of the world, I hope just like for me, certain things trigger fond memories of our times together.
And who knows? Maybe carrot cake will forever make them think of a tiny apartment in San Diego filled with good friends and good food, too.
Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
I have two favorite things about this recipe. One: That the filling is just cream cheese and honey. Genius. And totally something I would do. And two: They are freezable. Make them once and enjoy repeatedly. Hello time saver!
1 1/8 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 stick (1/2 c) butter, softened
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c grated carrot, about one large or two medium
3/4 c walnuts, chopped
1/2 c raisins
1-8 oz pkg cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
Preheat the oven to 375.
In small bowl, mix the first four dry ingredients and set aside. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. By hand, gently mix in the carrots, raisins, and walnuts. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls onto a sprayed or parchment lined sheet pan. Give them a bit of room to spread a bit between cookies. Use two sheet pans or bake cookies in two batches. Bake 12-14 minutes until just springy to the touch. The cinnamon makes it hard to see if they are browned enough but if you can tell, they should be lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the pan until firmed up enough to move with a spatula to a rack to cool completely. My kitchen always seems to be warm so for me this took a good 3 or 4 minutes for them to set up enough without destroying them when moved! While cookies are baking, blend the cream cheese and honey together. Once cookies have completely cooled, spread a heavy tablespoon on half the cookies and top with a second cookie. Enjoy, or wrap individually in cellophane and freeze in a gallon zip top bag. These make excellent after school snacks!!