Like carrot cake
Carrot cake is one of the foods on my “definitely not keen” list. It seems to me to be less of a treat to be eaten for dessert and more of a cruel joke. It’s not that I object to vegetables in cakes per se. I have eaten a chocolate courgette cake once and it was intriguing, but not in a “hmmm, wow, that’s, er, intriguing” way, more in a “huh, courgette in a cake, intriguing” way. I can see the merits of putting carrot in a cake. But it’s always such a disappointment. To my mind large shreds of carrot should equate to crunch, and instead all you get is a little “eh”. Then there’s the raisins and nuts people insist on putting in carrot cake, that take the moist yet at the same time slightly crumbly texture, and add nobbles and bobbles to it, hard chunks and soft lumps. Top it all off with an icing that is overly sweet yet at the same time with a hint of sour because it’s made with cheese, and carrot cake is definitely not one of my favourite things.
Imagine my horror then when my favourite cake critic this weekend told me that these pumpkin cupcakes were “like carrot cake”. Oh the shame, what had I created? Taking a step back from my own negative views on carrot cake though and I could tell where this comment had come from. The cupcakes were nice and moist, even after sitting out, going in the fridge, sitting out some more, and being thrown around in a car for a good few hours. They had that slight denseness that comes from putting vegetables into cakes, nothing overly heavy but a pleasing weight to them. Then there was the flavour – the cinnamon with undertones of nutmeg and ginger, a generally warm, autumnal spice mix that creeps into so many foods round this time of year. Yes, I could see where comparisons could be made. Like carrot cake? You’ll love these. But if like me, you’re not a carrot cake fan, don’t give up on these yet. They don’t have raisins, nuts, or any of that extra guff that doesn’t do anything for vegetable cakes. Furthermore, my lazy cooking style led me to a remarkable discovery. I made these with dark brown muscovado sugar which I refused to sieve before using. Whilst most of the sugar beat fairly uniformly into the butter, there were small lumps of it left in the mixture which I couldn’t squash out. When baked in the oven these balls of sugar melted and streaked the cakes with beautiful dark brown swirls of treacle. Being made of such a dark sugar these weren’t overly sweet either, but added a lovely sticky dimension to these cupcakes. Delightful. I strongly recommend you ditch the sieve when making these…
I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the icing in place of the maple syrup but still found the topping overly sweet. Maybe I just don’t get on with cream cheese frostings, or perhaps warm, spicy cakes shouldn’t have a topping at all. I think next time I would just sprinkle a light dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon over the top of them instead.
1/2 cup (115g) butter, room temperature
1 cup (150g) dark muscovado sugar
2 cups (275g) gf flour blend
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Couple of grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (260g) pumpkin puree
100g cream cheese
25g butter, room temperature
50g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 170 C.
2. In a small jug mix the milk with the lemon juice and vanilla extract and set aside to curdle.
3. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Don’t worry if some of the dark sugar clumps don’t beat out; they will make for lovely marbling in the finished product. Beat the eggs into the mixture.
4. Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Alternating the flour and milk pour these into the butter and sugar, a little at a time, mixing between each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, stir until it is evenly mixed in, then scoop the batter into mini cupcake tins. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in their tin for 5 minutes before popping them out and cooling completely on a rack.
5. For the frosting mix together the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a small bowl until smooth. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.
Makes about 30 mini cupcakes. These keep nicely in the fridge as they are so moist for at least 3 days.