Easy to transport and share, these carrot cupcakes get much of their moisture from a super-fine flour made of ground almonds, which is available in the baking section of most grocery stores. Because this is also gluten-free, the eggs and sugar get beaten together until almost tripled in volume, which gives added lift. Spiced with cinnamon, feel free to add a touch of ground nutmeg or ginger as well. Delicious as is, but for a sweeter, more finished presentation, serve topped with frosting. Browning the butter until nutty and deep amber adds depth of flavor to a classic cream cheese mixture. Garnish with toasted nuts, candied carrot shavings or spring flowers. — Kim Sunée
Almond carrot cupcakes
Makes 18 to 20 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 cups almond flour, preferably super-fine from blanched whole almonds
1 cup gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces grated carrots (about 3 cups)
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup toasted, finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil (or almond or coconut oil)
For the brown butter cream cheese frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese softened to room temp
About 1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup sour cream or thick plain yogurt
Zest and about 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice (optional)
Vanilla or almond extract
Pinch of salt
Garnishes: dried rose petals; carrot shavings; toasted and chopped Marcona almonds or pecans or walnuts; toasted coconut
• Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners. For ease of baking, gather and prep ingredients, including trimming and grating carrots. Toast nuts and coconut; set aside.
• Whisk together in a medium bowl almond flour, gluten-free flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda.
• Beat eggs and brown sugar — use 1 cup brown sugar for a less sweet version — together using an electric beater or in the bowl of a stand mixer until tripled in volume. Note: Unlike many recipes, beating the eggs thoroughly is important for gluten-free recipes. Beat in vanilla or almond. Toss carrots, coconut, walnuts or pecans and oil in a bowl; set aside. Reduce mixer to low and add 1/2 of flour mixture to eggs; beat until blended. Add half of carrot mixture and beat well. Repeat with remaining flour and carrot mixture, beating well after each addition. Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake 17 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until lightly browned, and cake springs back when touched lightly. And a tester inserted comes out — mostly — clean.
• Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack.
For the frosting:
• Melt butter in a small metal saucepan, preferably not dark so you can see the color of the butter at the bottom of the pot as it turns to a deep amber brown, over medium heat. Watch carefully as butter foams and goes from white to light brown and starts to smell nutty; keep an eye on butter, carefully swirling pan and checking bottom. You’ll see light brown freckles along the sides and bottom of pan. As soon as it changes to a deep amber color, about 5 to 7 minutes, remove from heat and cool in fridge until it solidifies, about an hour. Place in bowl of stand mixer or bowl you’ll be using to make the frosting and place in fridge until butter starts to solidify, about 35 to 45 minutes,
* Beat softened cream cheese and cooled brown butter together in a large bowl, scraping down sides as needed with a spatula, until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar. Beat on medium until blended, Add sour cream, orange zest and juice (if using), vanilla extract and salt. Beat until light and airy, about 2 minutes more. Chill about 15 minutes if too loose to spread. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost and garnish, as desired. Cakes can be made and frosted one day in advance; cover with cake dome and chill in fridge. Bring to cool room temp before serving.