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Carrot Cupcakes with Lemon-Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting

Posted Aug 25 2008 2:51pm

It’s my birthday weekend, which means the oven is on and this post will be short. Just managed to get Nick down to a nap, so I’ve got to type fast; I still have to make myself-semi-presentable for dinner out tonight (whoo-hoo!).

Even though I’m heading out to dinner, I’m making my own cake. When I turned thirty a few years ago, I decided to create a variation on the theme of “life is uncertain, eat dessert first”. Specifically, it is “life is uncertain, bake your own birthday cake”.

I highly recommend this tradition for everyone old enough to bake; it makes birthdays extra special, and planning and making the cake is almost as fun as eating it.

I used to limit my birthday cake option to cheesecake (I’m a huge fan). But if I’m not inviting a crowd over, an entire cheesecake is too much, even for cheesecake-loving me. So I’ve branched out, and this year it’s short and sweet: carrot cake cupcakes. I still get my cream cheese fix, but the yield is not as overwhelming.

It was a little wild getting these in the oven; I had arranged a babysitter for the afternoon, and she cancelled last minute. So Nick was in the middle of the action (on the breakfast nook side). The upside is that, in addition to the cakes getting made, Kevin making me a cappuccino as I baked, and the house now smelling like a stop on the spice route, I discovered that Nick, who has eschewed plain carrots in every form up until now, loves raw shredded carrots. I would have never known in years past that a carrot-eating victory could be such a sweet birthday present.

As you’ll discover in this and future posts (and, come to think of it, a few past posts), I am crazy for cardamom. It has a lush, exotic fragrance that adds an extra-special spark to citrus. So here it is in my lemon frosting; it’s lick-your-fingers good.

The absence of a nutritional analysis for the cupcakes is no accident. I know that they are filled with all sorts of good things (including those perfect carrots). And besides, eating beautiful, healthy food is on my agenda this weekend, but calorie and fat counts are not.

Happy Birthday to Me (and fingers crossed that my evening babysitter won’t cancel)!

Carrot Cupcakes with Lemon-Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting


2 (moderately packed) cups grated carrots

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup canola oil

3 large eggs

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1 8-ounce package 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack set in middle. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.

In a large bowl whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, grated carrots, and vanilla' stir in flour mixture until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.

Bake 20-24 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack, about 1 hour more.

While cupcakes cool, make frosting. In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and cardamom with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth.

Frost each cooled cupcake with the lemon frosting. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Camilla’s Note: Store cupcakes, loosely covered in the refrigerator.
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