Can root vegetables can star in dessert? For the cooking class I taught recently for the London Community Resource Centre, I was a bit stumped initially when was thinking about how to showcase root veg in the sweet portion of the menu. And then I realized that they’re more common than I first thought. Case in point, think about sweet potato pie, ginger cookies and the ever-popular carrot cake.
Yes, the ubiquitous carrot cake. There are a zillion versions out there, but I wanted mine to include another root vegetable. I’m a fan of ginger in desserts, enjoying the contrast of its heat against sweetness, so carrot and ginger it was!
I decided to tweak and adapt this recipe, which I found on the gorgeous cakery blog, Sweeapolita. If your idea of a good time is browsing through posts about beautifully crafted, delicious sounding cakes (or better yet, making them), you must check it out! Sweetapolitia’s recipe includes orange zest and juice, which I quite enjoyed in the first batch I made, but I decided to leave them out of the final version to showcase the carrot and ginger flavours. One of the things I really like about this recipe is how it uses ginger in two forms — dried ground and crystallized — for a double punch of gingery warmth and texture.
Instead of cake, I decided on cupcakes in a smaller size than I usually make them, as a tasting for class participants. More and more I make cupcakes instead of actual cakes these days. They’re easier to serve, bring miniaturized panache to the table and it’s also easy to dispatch leftovers home with friends (believe me, as a food blogger who bakes, it’s in my own best interests to give food away).
I opted for a classic cream cheese frosting, but kept to the gingery theme by stirring in bits of crystallized ginger.
Put it all together in a classy black and white cupcake liner, and you have a moist, flavourful treat that’s not too sweet and delivers a gingery punch. Participants at the class were very enthusiastic about them, and they practically flew off the serving platter. I confess, I managed to smuggle one home for the Culinary Enthusiast, and he seemed awfully glad that I did.
Ginger Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from the blog Sweetapolita.com (Sweetapolita got her recipe from the LCBO Food & Drink Magazine, Spring 2011). This shows how recipes get around and evolve!
The original recipe was for an orange ginger carrot cake with a white chocolate frosting. I excluded the orange from my version to better showcase the ginger and carrot flavours, made cupcakes instead of cake and topped them with a ginger cream cheese frosting.
Note that I shredded the carrots quite finely (using a microplane grater); since cupcakes bake much more quickly than a cake I wanted to ensure they would soften.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with 18 medium paper liners. Makes 18 medium-sized cupcakes.
Ginger Carrot Cupcakes
- ½ cup butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tbsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 3 good-sized carrots)
- ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger
- 1/3 cup milk
Stir together all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter, then add the sugar and mix for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour, followed by ½ of the milk and repeat until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then stir in the chopped crystallized ginger, then the carrots.
Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full, distributing the batter evenly. Bake on the middle rack of the over for 22 to 24 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a toothpick; it will come out clean when the cupcakes are done.
Cool in the cupcake pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes and leave them on the rack until cool.
As if these cupcakes aren’t good enough, do embellish them with the frosting below for that final touch of flair.
Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1-1/2 cups icing sugar
- 1 tbsp minced crystallized ginger (or more to taste)
Cream the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and well incorporated. Slowly beat in the icing sugar and then stir in the ginger.
You can apply the frosting with a knife or offset spatula, swirling it on, or use a piping bag and the large tip of your choice to pipe it on decoratively.