Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
The other day, I got inspired by a post I saw on Pinterest about frosting cupcakes. It didn’t look all that difficult so I thought I’d try my hand at some baking. Besides, who doesn’t like cupcakes. I ordered an inexpensive cupcake decorating kit on Amazon and received it the next day. I found a couple of nice cupcake pans for under $20 and bought some paper cup liners, so I was all set. I also found that they make cup liners out of stiffer paper or silicone that doesn’t require a cupcake pan, just a cookie sheet. That’s most of the special stuff, but here’s what else you’ll need:
7 cup or larger food processor with metal blade and coarse shredding disc
Stand or hand mixer
Rubber or silicone Spatula
Measuring cups and spoons
Next I had to find a good recipe that could be adapted to cupcakes for something I really like: carrot cake. None of the recipes I found had all the ingredients I thought should be in a good carrot cake so I combined a couple of recipes and added my own touches to come up with one. Also, a food processor is essential to emulsify the oil into the eggs; almost like making mayonaise. Otherwise, all the oil settles and you end up with a dense oily layer at the bottom of the cupcake.
Makes 24 regular-sized cupcakes
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (do NOT use cake flour or self-rising flour)
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
1¼ tsp. baking powder (make sure it’s fresh for maximum rise)
¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut (optional)
1 pound of carrots, scrubbed clean and ends trimmed
1½ cups of granulated sugar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
5 large eggs or 4 jumbo eggs
1½ cups of canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup golden raisins (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Separate the cupcake paper liners and line the pans. If you only have one 12 cup pan, you can bake in batches and refrigerate the batter while the first batch bakes. To improve the release of the cupcake from the paper liners, put a short blast of cooking spray into each liner.
Thoroughly combine the first 7 dry ingredients, 8 if you’re adding the coconut, with a whisk. Set aside.
Using a coarse shredding disc in the food processor, shred the carrots. This works best if you cut the carrots in half and place them on end inside the feed tube so that short little shreds are made. Place the shredded carrots in a bowl.
Rinse and dry the food processor and install the metal blade. Add both sugars and eggs and process for 30 seconds until the egg mixture is frothy. With the machine still running, add the oil through the feed tube in a slow and steady stream. Process for another 30 seconds or until the mixture has a uniform color.
Scrape the oil, sugar and egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the carrots and optionally, the raisins and walnuts. Stir until everything is thoroughly mixed and no flour can be seen. Using a small ladle, spoon the mixture into the cups, filling them almost 2/3 full. Baking will produce a little bit of a flared top that has more area for frosting.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Add 5 more minutes of baking time if you added both raisins and walnuts. Remove from the oven and place the pans on a wire cooling rack. After 10 – 15 minutes, carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and place directly on the cooling rack. Start preparing the frosting. Allow the cupcakes to completely cool before frosting, usually 1 – 2 hours.
Cream Cheese Frosting
All the frosting recipes I found were made for a regular carrot cake and seemed too runny and certainly not thick enough to pipe through a pastry bag. Again, I had to modify to make a thicker frosting. Be aware that because this frosting has butter and cream cheese, the frosted cupcakes should be refrigerated.
Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes
3½ cups confectioners’ sugar
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, still cool
8 oz. package of cream cheese, still cool
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. lemon zest
gel coloring, if desired
While this could be done in the food processor, I find a mixer produces better results. In a large cold mixing bowl, add the butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Mix until ingredients are thoroughly blended, about 5 minutes.
If color is desired, add it now. To make the light orange color in the photo, I used 3 peppercorn-sized drops of yellow and 1 drop of red. You can add more if a deeper color is desired. Blend until the color is uniform.
Add the sugar 1 cup at a time and continue mixing until smooth and peaks hold their shape. Chill the frosting for about half an hour.
Fill a 12 or 16 oz. pastry bag with ½ cup of frosting at a time and using a Wilton 1M or 22 star tip, frost the tops of the cupcakes. Start from an edge, pipe along the outside edge and then move inward, end the swirl in the center and pull up to create a peak. You can keep them covered in the refrigerator for up to a week…if they last that long.
These are really tasty and since they have carrots in them, I can rationalize that they’re even kinda healthy. I find these sweet treats pair nicely with a Pedro Ximenez Sherry’s raisiny sweetness. Enjoy.