It doesn’t seem right to have Easter without a recipe for carrots. 🙂 Luckily, I have this great recipe for carrot cake cupcakes that is so moist and so tender and so yummy that even people who don’t like carrots won’t be able to resist eating one. Or two. And of course I top them with cream cheese frosting! That’s the only way to go.
It had been a while since I had made a carrot cake, so I needed to think about exactly what I wanted from these cupcakes.
- First of all, I wanted the carrots to be fully incorporated in the batter. This meant they needed to be very, finely minced. I did try to shred them, but cupcakes should be a little more refined. A quick whirr in the food processor later and I had the texture I wanted.
- Second, I wanted them to be moist and tangy and tender. Brown sugar and sour cream took care of those needs.
- And last, I wanted the flavor of butter in the mix. That one was easy – use butter instead of oil, and by creaming the butter with the sugar, I could also make the cupcakes lighter, so bonus.
I also tried a reverse-creaming method to make these. (I believe in full service testing! 🙂 )
Reverse-creaming is when you put the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix the butter into them and then add the eggs and other liquids. You don’t get the aeration of creaming, but you also don’t have to worry so much about gluten formation. And I almost went with it for the finale recipe. It was really good and so tender! However, since this was my first time, I decided to wait until I have a few disasters under my belt so can tell y’all what not to do. Yeah, when I say ‘don’t do that’ in one of my recipes, it’s because I did that. I’m sure I’ll have a reverse-creaming recipe up here in the future, since it’s definitely on my list of things to practice.
Once my cupcakes were perfect and awesome, it was time to refine the frosting recipe. This part was pretty easy. I wanted a strong cream cheese flavor, a little butter so it wouldn’t be too thick, and just enough sugar to be frosting without being too, too sweet. I started with a 1:1 ratio of butter and cream cheese and just kept adding cream cheese until I was happy and then added sugar a bit at a time until the balance was just right. A quick zesting of an orange over the frosted cupcakes and I had the final touch I needed.
Oooh, before I go, I should mention something!
The instructions for softening the butter are for grain-fed butters, which is the standard butter that most US cooks are going to use. However, if you want to use a grass-fed butter, such as my favorite KerryGold, they are naturally softer. For that type of butter, get everything else ready before you take out the butter, because the few minutes you are going to take to slice it up into chunks is all it will need to be soft enough for creaming. If you have a super cold fridge, it may take a smidgen longer, but not much.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 10 tbsp (5 oz) unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups (7 oz) finely minced carrots
- 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 2 tsp orange zest optional
Preheat oven to 350F. Take out a standard sized muffin tin and fill each well with a liner or grease them with butter.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a mixer on medium, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the down the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again and add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix for 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the carrots. Then add the flour mixture and mix until just combined with a few white streaks remaining. Give the batter a stir with your spatula and divide it among the twelve wells of the muffin tin.
Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until the cupcakes are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Let them rest for 2-3 minutes, then carefully take them out of the muffin tin and let them cool on a cooling rack. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Once the cupcakes are cool, it's time to make the frosting. Whip the cream cheese and butter on high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix in. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix on low until combined, then increase the speed to high and beat together until smooth.
To decorate the cupcakes, either spread or pipe frosting onto them and then sprinkle the tops with a little orange zest.
To finely mince the carrots, peel them and roughly chop them. Then put them in a food processor with the metal blade and process until no large pieces remain, about 1 minute.
If you want to really pile on the frosting as I show in the pictures, double the frosting recipe. The amount I call for in the recipe provides a moderate amount of frosting per cupcake.
The butter should be soft, but not too warm. If you are scientifically minded, 60F is the temperature you want. Or you can press on the butter - it should give but still be cool. Also, to soften butter quickly, cut it into 1/2" chunks and it should be soft enough in 10-15 minutes.
For the eggs, if you didn't take them out ahead of time, no worries! Just put them in the some warm water for about 10 minutes.