Little cupcakes for grown-ups

I know, I’ve been making a lot of dessert lately. If you need to feel better about doing the same, here are four reasons to bake carrot cupcakes:

1. It’ll justify buying those silly little silicon muffin liners, which (by the way) work surprisingly well, especially compared to the disastrous results of their bundt-shaped cousins.

2. You can take frozen cupcakes out of the fridge to augment a brunch, shut a kid up, or satisfy a midnight craving.

3. These cupcakes have carrots. Carrots are vegetables. Vegetables are good for you. Using the transitive properties of baking, cupcakes are therefore good for you. (But okay, one bite of these babies and you’ll know this is a lie.)

4. One serving of cake cleverly contained in a few layers of paper represents much less of a threat to the waistline than an entire cake, whose raw edge I (and probably you) might cut away at repeatedly throughout any given day until I/you realize, with horror, that I/you have eaten an entire cake.

These are cupcakes, so don’t expect a mouthful of hot carrot bread (the emphasis is on the cake). And just so you know, I feel very strongly about carrot cake when it comes to raisins of any color. Raisins do not belong in carrot cake, nor (IMHO) in almost anything. If you put raisins in the batter in this recipe, please don’t tell me about it. But do tell me if you try this using pre-shredded carrots; I shredded my own, but I’m curious how those bags of pre-shredded carrots do in baked goods.

If you don’t have a scale for the cheeses, just estimate – you’ll need a total of one 4-ounce goat cheese log and one 8-ounce package cream cheese.

Carrot-Walnut Cupcakes (in silicon liner)

Recipe for Whole Wheat Carrot-Walnut Cupcakes
Recipe 62 of 365

Here’s a version with slightly more grown-up flavors than the usual carrot cake. The spiced cake is rich and moist, yet made with yogurt and whole wheat to cut back, even if just a little, on the more offensive ingredients in our lives. (I used fat-free yogurt, but lowfat or Greek yogurt or sour cream would also work fine.) Tangy goat cheese in both the centers and the frosting makes for a more interesting, tangy version of carrot cake’s traditional cream cheese topping.

You can omit the filling and the frosting, if you’re looking for something more like a muffin. And for you health nuts, think of adding some wheat bran or ground flax seeds.

TIME: 40 minutes, plus 30 minutes baking time
MAKES: 18 cupcakes

Muffin liners

FOR THE FILLING:
2 ounces plain goat cheese, softened
2 ounces regular cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon each ground: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice
1 tablespoon plain yogurt

FOR THE BATTER:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each ground: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 packed cups shredded carrots (from about 3/4 pound peeled carrots)
1 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish, if desired

FOR THE FROSTING:
2 ounces plain goat cheese, softened
6 ounces regular cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 of the cups in 2 cupcake pans, and set aside.

First, make the filling: place all the filling ingredients in a small bowl and mash together with a fork until completely combined and smooth. Set aside.

Then, make the batter. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and set aside to cool. Place the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend, and set aside. (Be sure to use your hands to smoosh the lumps out of the baking powder.)

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), blend the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until thick and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the yogurt, vanilla, and the cooled butter, and mix again until blended. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture slowly, and mix just until all the flour has been incorporated. Stir the carrots and walnuts in by hand.

Fill each of the muffin cups with a very heaping tablespoon of the batter, which should be about 1/3 of the way up the cups. Nestle 1 level teaspoon of the filling into the center of each cup (on top of the batter), and add another rounded tablespoon of batter to each cupcake, making sure the cheese filling is covered.

Stuffing cupcakes

Bake the cupcakes for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through cooking, or until the tops are just barely beginning to crack. Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer the cupcakes to racks to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: combine the cheeses and the butter in the work bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the sifted sugar, and mix another minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until the frosting is smooth. Spread on cooled cupcakes, sprinkle with additional walnuts for garnish, if desired, and serve.

Store the cupcakes in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze on a plate, then store, frozen, in an airtight container up to 1 month. Bring cupcakes to room temperature before serving.

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Filed under Cakes, dessert, recipe

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