In my early years at IMAX, I had many a heated debate with several coworkers about whether pineapple was a key ingredient in carrot cake. I pretty much don’t order or eat a piece of carrot cake unless I know it has pineapple in it. There is something about the pineapple that just adds moisture along with a little something special, and I think most bakers look to raisins to do this. I LOVE cooked raisins, but I just don’t think they belong in carrot cake!
The IMAX Annual Thanksgiving pot luck is usually my opportunity to try out a new recipe on my office
guinea pigs colleagues, so I thought I’d try to make a carrot cake cupcake. Obviously after all the pineapple talk, I wasn’t about to try a recipe that didn’t have pineapple in it. Paula Deen’s self-proclaimed Best-Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes sounded promising. I loved the cake so much that I made these several times – for the aforementioned potluck, the 2013 Annual Kawasaki Family Christmas Party, Kevin’s friends Christmas party, and once for Christmas lunch with Kev’s family. The cupcakes were well-received across the board, but I think it was best with a bit of toasted coconut on top. A lot of cupcakes make great minis but I don’t know if I loved these as minis (I tried that, too). The batter is a bit chunky, so the dough doesn’t cook consistently in each cupcake.
As much as I loved Paula’s cupcake recipe, I also didn’t love the cream cheese frosting recipe. It just seemed a bit bland and liquid-y for my preference. I changed it up a bit, adding more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit and some extra butter to add some creaminess.
Here is the recipe as adapted from Paula Deen’s (original recipe here):
CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS (Paula’s version):
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple, well drained
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Small pinch of ground cloves
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 3 cups grated carrots (or more!), grate with a food processor to make your life easier
FROSTING INGREDIENTS (my version):
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 4 C powdered sugar, sifted
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Fresh coconut, shaved and toasted for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars, pineapple and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
- Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and small pinch of ground cloves.
- Stir in carrots.
- Fold in pecans.
- Pour into muffin tin lined with beautiful paper or foil liners.
- Fill each liner 3/4 full.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 min.
- Let cupcakes cool completely. While cooling, prepare frosting.
- In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
- Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Pile the frosting high on the cooled cupcakes and garnish with the toasted coconut if desired.
Thanks, Paula Deen!