Spring isn't just about spending time outdoors and grilling out.

While April showers may bring May flowers, the month also brings some obscure – and oddly specific – food holidays.

This month's celebrations include National Chinese Almond Cookie Day, National Cheese Fondue Day, National Glazed Spiral Ham Day and National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day.

Today, however, offers the sweet treats that come with National Caramel Day and National Raisin & Spice Day.

Salted caramel cupcakes with butter cream frosting

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

• 4 ounces cream cheese, softened

• 1 1/4 cups sugar

• 3/4 cup dark brown sugar

• 1 tablespoon canola oil

• 4 eggs

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 cup buttermilk

Frosting ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

• 3 ounces cream cheese, softened

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 pound confectioners’ sugar

• 4 tablespoons milk, divided

• 15 caramels

• Sea salt

Directions

Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners.

Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar and oil for three to four minutes until it’s light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and mix until it’s well combined.

Beginning and ending with flour, alternate between adding the flour and buttermilk, mixing between each addition.

Pour the batter evenly between the muffin cups.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting, use an electric mixture to beat together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla for three to four minutes, until it’s light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons of milk. Beat the mixture until it’s well combined and smooth.

Cover the mixture and refrigerate.

Melt the caramels with the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Once the candies are melted, set the caramel aside to cool until it’s soft but still pliable.

Mix the caramel into the frosting until it’s well combined.

When the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost them and top with a bit of sea salt.

Caramel bars

Ingredients

• 32 caramels

• 5 tablespoons heavy cream

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 cup rolled oats

• 3/4 cup brown sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 cup butter, melted

• 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

• 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions

Over low heat, melt together the caramels and heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the melted butter until it’s well blended.

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and reserve the rest.

Bake the crust for eight minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the crust and sprinkle it with the chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and then crumble the remaining crust mixture over everything.

Place the caramel bars in the oven and bake for an additional 12 minutes or until the top is lightly toasted.

Cut the bars into squares and serve while it’s still warm.

Raisin spice bars

Ingredients

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

• 1 cup raisins

• 3 large eggs

• 1 cup sour cream

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

Frosting ingredients

• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

• 3 cups powdered sugar

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, raisins and walnuts in a mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs in a separate mixing bowl. Add the sugar and sour cream, then beat again.

Combine the flour and eggs mixtures.

Pour the batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bake the batter at 375 degrees for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely.

To make the frosting, blend the butter and sugar. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon peel, vanilla and milk.

Beat the mixture until it becomes smooth and spreadable.

Frost the raisin spice bars and then serve.

​Like Kelly Dickey on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KellyD_THB, or call 640-4805.

Kelly is the features reporter for The Herald Bulletin. She writes about art, churches, music, theatre and interesting people throughout Madison County.

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