Confession time. I don’t like carrot cake. It’s just not my thing. Which is a shame because any baker worth her weight in cream cheese frosting has a great carrot cake recipe up her sleeve.
Knowing that my baking repertoire was lacking, I began my search for a carrot cake recipe. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the whole enterprise until I ran across a recipe for candied carrot curls.
What? A candied vegetable? Weird! But totally intriguing. These I had to make.
While they took some patience (long and low bake time on the back end), they were easy, really fun and made a unique and kind of sexy garnish for my carrot cake cupcakes.
As a note on the actual carrot cake recipe, it must be a good one because they were a hit at our annual townhouse association picnic. Well, full disclosure: the group was deep into a serious batch of moscow mules by the time dessert was served so they probably would have liked anything that point.
Carrot Cupcakes with Candied Carrot Curls
makes 12 cupcakes
for the candied carrot curls
- 1 large or two medium carrots (try to find fat ones)
- 1 C water
- 1 C sugar
- Peel carrot(s). Discard outer peelings.
- Peel layers from carrot lengthwise on one side with a peeler until you begin to get wide strips. Peel wide strips until you get about 15. Set aside.
- Bring water and sugar to boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add wide carrot strips and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Strain through a sieve into a bowl. Discard syrup and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Position rack in middle of oven.
- Line a baking sheet with nonstick liner or parchment.
- Arrange carrot slices flat in 1 layer on sheet.
- Bake until dry but still flexible, about 30 minutes. Leave oven on.
- Wind carrot strips, one at a time around the handle of a wooden spoon in a loose spiral. Then, slip off each curl and return, seam sides down to lined baking sheet.
- Return curls to oven to dry until crisp, about 60 minutes.
- Cool completely.
For the cupcakes
- 4 medium carrots
- 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 3/4 C grape seed oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 C packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line muffin cups with paper liners (I like to double line mine).
- Coarsely grate enough carrots to measure 2 cups using large teardrop holes of a box grater or food processor.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl, set aside.
- Whisk together oil, eggs, brown sugar, grated carrots, and vanilla in a large bowl, then stir in flour mixture until just combined.
- Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack, about 1 hour more.
note: the original recipe calls for a really great looking icing. I opted to use a frosting. Click for the original icing recipe.
- 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened (you can use full fat but this recipe is so rich that I prefer to use the lightened version)
- 2 C sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Using a standing mixer or electric hand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese.
- Add-in half of the confectioner’s sugar and, with the speed on low, mix-in. Ad the other half and mix-in on low until just combined.
- Add-in vanilla. Increase speed to medium and beat until combined and fluffy.
- Frost cupcakes as desired, topping with candied carrot curls.
- Note: if your kitchen is hot and the frosting is overly soft, pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes before frosting cupcakes.