Carrot cake, I’ve learned, is a love-it-or-hate-it type of dessert.
Personally, I can’t understand what there is to hate about carrot cake. I suppose it has something to do with the idea of vegetables sneaking into one’s dessert.
I can think of someone who would never be appalled to find carrots in cake form: that’s right, the Easter bunny! Listen – I know I don’t have kids yet, but Easter is still one of my favorite holidays, and I absolutely love the idea of making a carrot cake for the Easter bunny. It’s like baking cookies for Santa. It’s fun. It’s festive. And kids or no kids, it’s sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
I don’t like any raisins or nuts or canned pineapple in my carrot cake – I prefer it to be pure and simple. I went with Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen after going back and forth with Alton Brown’s recipe, as I was worried that Alton’s would come out too dense for cupcakes. I may try it in the future for a layer cake.
One of the common themes or suggestions I discovered while reading various recipes is that the more finer the grate you get on the carrots, the lighter the cake batter is going to be. Now, the easiest way to grate carrots is using the food processor, but it also produces a pretty thick grate. Using a box grater is better, and using a Microplane zester is ideal. I won’t lie to you – it’s also a big pain in the booty. Deb’s recipe calls for three cups, and I had one 16-ounce bag of carrots. By the time I peeled them, and grated them down to the heads and tossed those (careful because you don’t want to grate your fingers as I often do!), I had about three cups. Listen – the way I see it, just tighten that core, and get a mini-workout in as you grate. It’s a good arm workout. You may even break a sweat.
As for the frosting, cream cheese is the obvious choice for carrot cake or cupcakes. Here, we just kicked it up a notch by adding my latest favorite secret ingredient: white chocolate. It adds another level of richness and sweetness that you just can’t get from powdered sugar alone.
If you love carrot cake, you must try this recipe. And if you think you don’t like carrot cake, I triple-dog-dare you to try this recipe. These cupcakes are so moist, so perfect – you won’t even believe vegetables are capable of producing such lushness.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/4 cups canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and finely grated using a Microplane (about 3 cups)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling each about 3/4 full.
Bake cupcakes 18-20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
White Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting
- Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
- 3 1/2 ounces (1 bar) white chocolate, melted and cooled
Beat all ingredients in stand mixer on medium speed until combined and fluffy. Taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if necessary. Chill the frosting for about 10 – 20 minutes until it has set up enough to spread or pipe properly.