21 – Carrot Gold

This updated classic spice cake features cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger to play off the natural sweetness of carrots. Each cupcake is  plump with cream cheese frosting and topped with cinnamon-roasted pecans

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Carrot cake is a classic confection, and everyone has their preferred recipe: some involve raisins or pecans or pineapple, and the spices used in the cake can vary wildly as well.

My recipe is set apart by its spice mixture: cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger are the backdrop against which sweet orange carrots are set.  I could add raisins or orange zest to the cupcakes, but I wanted them to stand on the sweet flavor of the eponymous carrots.

Cream Cheese frosting is a prerequisite, and I enjoy adorning the cupcakes with chopped candied pecans to add a nutty crunch while keeping distance from that cousin of carrot cake, the fruitcake.


Cinnamon Roasted Pecans yield: 1 cup roasted pecans

  • 1 cup pecans, halved
  • 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Toss chopped pecans with butter to evenly coat. Toss with sugar mixture. Spread evenly over parchment. Bake until slightly darkened in color and fragrant, about 15 minutes.

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21-Carrot Cupcakes yield: a frustratingly uneven 21 cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 six-ounce container vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup darkbrown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 medium carrots, 8 ounces or about 2 cups finely shredded

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin tins with 21 cupcake liners. Set aside.

Grate the carrots on the smallest teeth of your box grater. The result should measure 8 ounces in weight or about 2 cups of very loosely packed grated carrot. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.

In another large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, butter, and both sugars to combine. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet and whisk to combine. With a silicone spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the grated carrots. Divide the batter among the muffin tins, about 1/4 cup per cupcake. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in their pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.IMG_20160530_141727


Cream Cheese Frosting yield: about 4 cups of frosting*

  • 12 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 12oz cream cheese

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until lightened in color, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the vanilla and salt to combine. Add in all of the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until combined, then increase speed to medium and cream for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.

With the mixer on medium, gradually add in the cream cheese. I use a butter knife and cut it in about 2oz at a time. Cream together for an additional 30 secs. You can frost cupcakes immediately or store the frosting in the refrigerator for later use.

*This is the same cream cheese frosting I use in most of my other recipes with the amounts adjusted, so as a recipe it multiplies and divides very easily in a 4:4:1 ratio – 4 tbsp of butter, 4oz cream cheese, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar.

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2 thoughts on “21 – Carrot Gold

  1. Carrot is one of my all time favorite cake flavors. I love that you added cardamom and I’m sure these pecans make for an extra special cupcake!

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