For most of my life I’ve not been a big fan of carrot cake. I think it was all the cream cheese frosting, although I’m not a huge fan of the carrot either. For the first several years of my marriage, I refused to make carrot cake or any kind of baked good with cream cheese in it. I just want to set the record straight here – I was an idiot! Thankfully, as I’ve grown older and more accomplished in my cooking and baking skills I’ve developed a deep appreciation for cream cheese and carrots. Both are most useful in making baked goods creamy and moist.
A couple of months ago, my sister-in-law and her family were coming for a visit and I was trying to prep ahead most of the meals we were going to be eating, simply because I wanted to spend my time socializing and not working. I am not a huge breakfast fan, so for me it’s always the hardest meal to make. And as I scoured my huge assortment of cookbooks, I found a recipe for carrot cake cupcakes in one of my Ina Garten cookbooks. I love her by the way – she’s my cooking hero. I had never made a carrot cake, but the recipe sounded perfect for a light and tasty breakfast treat, so I whipped up a batch. It’s safe to say, they were a sensation. Everyone loved them, including me.
These cupcakes are just super moist and flavorful, and the cream cheese frosting is out of this world good. And one of the benefits of making them cupcake size is portion control! I’m such a thinker, aren’t I?! If you like carrot cake, I think you’ll be super happy with this recipe, and if you’re one of those folks who’s on the fence I encourage you to put on your brave pants and give them a shot. They’re super simple to make and they taste like they’ve come from a professionally bakery.
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups oil (I use canola)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than a pound)
1 cup golden raisins or chopped dates
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add in half of the dry mixture and mix until well blended. Combine the remaining dry ingredients with the carrots, raisins, and nuts so the flour coats evenly, then add into the rest of the batter and mix until just combined. (This step will prevent the carrots, raisins, and nuts from falling to the bottom of the batter and will allow them to mix into the batter evenly.)
4. Line muffin tin with paper liners and scoop batter in – filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat back to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until a toothpick tests clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Autumn Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
Ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice – to taste, OR 1 – 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 pound powdered sugar
For the frosting, in a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and spices. Add the powdered sugar all at once and continue beating until smooth. Taste for spice seasoning and adjust to your liking. Frost cupcakes generously.