How many of these do you think you can eat?
I feel like carrot cake is the underdog when it comes to desserts because chocolate usually reigns supreme. Maybe it’s because there’s a vegetable in something that’s dessert? Whatever the case, I’m a fan of carrot cake. I love the plump raisins, slightly tart cream cheese frosting, and the beautiful orange color. You may be surprised though: carrot cake carries its fair share of calories, sugar, and fat (probably just as much, if not more, than some chocolate based desserts). So I was on the lookout for a healthier recipe; I had been reading so much about replacing things like butter with applesauce, and sour creams with yogurts, that when I found this recipe, I knew it was the one!
Originally, the plan was to make regular-sized carrot cupcakes. But I misplaced my regular cupcake pan and all I could find was my recently purchased mini muffin tin. Hmm…bite sized carrot cupcakes? This was sounding good to me.
Isn’t my board so pretty? It was a present from some dear friends.
- ¾th cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼th teaspoon salt
- A pinch of nutmeg
- A pinch of ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾th cup light brown sugar
- ¼th cup canola oil (this is one of the healthiest oils out there!)
- 2 eggs
- 2 carrots peeled and shredded (almost 2 cups)
- ½cup natural applesauce (this adds moisture and takes the place of butter)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼th cup chopped walnuts
- 8 oz Neufchatel cream cheese (this kind of cheese has less fat than normal cream cheese)
- ¾th cup powdered sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- A handful of raisins, in hot water (to make them plump!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift all your dry ingredients (the flours, soda, spices, and salt) into a bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla, until well combined- about 2 minutes. I used a handheld mixer.
- Add in the carrots and applesauce and whisk for another 30 seconds.
- Set your handheld mixer aside and grab a spatula. Add in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, stirring in the flours into the wet ingredients just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Stir in the walnuts. Batter's done! Taste it- it's delicious. If you're using the mini tin, take a large spoon and pour in 1 spoon of the batter into each muffin space. I know you're supposed to fill it ½ way up, but honestly, I filled some up to ¾ths of the way and the muffins were still fine!
- Pop these babies into the oven (for 15 minutes if you're making the mini muffins and about 20 min if you're using the regular muffin size) and now let's make the frosting. It's super simple: just cream the cheese, lemon zest, and powdered sugar together with your handheld mixer on high speed until it's all combined and smooth.
- Check on the cupcakes: they will be done when the fork comes out clean. Be sure to cool the cupcakes before you frost them.
- To decorate your cupcakes: If you're like me, you like pretty food. But you know, either way you decorate these cupcakes- it will all be delicious. If you're interested in the swirly cupcake tops, you will need this tip and this bag- both of which can be easily found at Michael's. I fell in love with Wilton tools when I took some cake decorating courses at Michaels over 5 years ago. Make sure you wash the tip in warm, soapy water before using. Then, take the tip, and place it into the bag. You want to cut it the bag slightly above where the pointy triangles end. Basically, don't make the hole too big otherwise the tip will fall right through.
- Scoop the icing into the piping bag and fill it halfway through. Squeeze the icing all the way down so some of the icing flows through the tip. Practice a swirl on a plate if you've never done this before: you're essentially going to make circle, moving your entire hand in a small circular motion. There's very little wrist motion. As you're completing the circle, reduce the pressure you're applying to the bag. This will ensure a smooth and even finish. Don't worry if there's a little hole in the middle (the raisin will go there!). When you're done practicing, take a cupcake and start on the outer edge and work your way slightly in to fill the top.
- To finish, take your soaking raisins and try them on a paper towel. Place one raisin on the top of each muffin.
- NOW you can eat them. I ate 4 on the day I made these and 3 the next (read: no self control). I had to giveaway the rest to keep myself from eating more. My great excuse: hey, at least there's no butter in them!