Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ruff(le)'s Up, Doc? (Carrot Cupcakes with Ruffled Frosting and Marzipan Carrots)

A few months back, P's cousin K asked me if I'd be willing to bake the cupcakes for her wedding (!!). This was the first time I'd been asked to contribute to someone's Big Day, and I was really touched by the request. And agreed right away, of course! K had her sights set on carrot cake from the start, which worked great for me. I loves me a client who knows what she wants =D. K's wedding doesn't actually take place until next October, but is it really ever too early to test run delicious carrot cupcakes? (Hint: the answer is "no!")

The weird thing about this carrot cupcake recipe is that I converted it into an all-apple recipe the first time I made it (that's just what I happened to need at the time). And I tell you what, the apple-fied version was so darn good that I couldn't resist re-converting it back to experience it in its full beta-carotene glory ^_^.

Carrot Cupcakes with Marzipan-Parsley Carrot Toppers
I also couldn't resist just a few tweaks here and there (swapping out some oil for the more flavorful melted coconut oil/butter, amping the spices up a touch, and so on...). What came out of the oven was to my mind the perfect basic carrot cupcake: delightfully moist but with no oily mouthfeel, packed with flavor from a balanced medley of spices, and boasting a subtle nuttiness and crunch from the toasted walnuts. Feel free to adapt this to your personal carrot-cake preferences! Like your carrot cake to have more nuts, no nuts, other nuts, coconut flakes, raisins, chocolate chips, whatever else? Go for it!

The only popular add-in that I'd expect any trouble from is pineapple chunks, since they'd add significant moisture to the batter. But I'm on a quest here, folks...I won't rest until I've found the perfect carrot cupcake for K's wedding day! And on the chance that the very best carrot cake contains pineapple, I'll be trying a recipe with pineapple in it next. Right now I'm eying this one, but please don't hesitate to speak up if you wanna share one better!

Carrot Cupcakes with Marzipan Carrots and Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Sunset Magazine
Makes 12 to 13 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Lightly squeeze excess juice out of the grated carrots and apple before measuring. This frosting only has a subtle cream cheese flavor, so if you like a stronger tangier cream cheese frosting with your carrot cake, you should use this recipe instead OR if you're feeling adventurous, you gotta go for the goat cheese cream cheese frosting that accompanied the original recipe. Carrot greens and parsley are edible but not really tasty with this cupcake, so I recommend telling your taste-tasters not to eat the leafy part of the "carrots."

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp baking powder
Scant 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves [use only a pinch if freshly ground]
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp coconut oil OR unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp unsulphured molasses
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp mayonnaise [NOT fat-free] (optional)
1 1/4 rounded cups packed coarsely grated carrots (about 3 to 4 medium)
1/4 cup packed coarsely grated apple (about 1/2 medium)
1/4 to 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, optional
Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Recipe below)
Marzipan Carrots (Recipe below)(optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the top of a standard muffin tin lightly with butter, then line with 12 paper liners and set aside. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, pepper, and salt together into a large bowl. Whisk to ensure they are combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the oil, melted coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, eggs, and mayonnaise. Add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until almost combined. Stir the carrots, apple, and walnuts into the batter.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full with batter. If there is batter remaining, use it to fill standalone baking cups about 1/2 full or line a second pan with more regular cupcake liners and fill those. Bake until a toothpick or thin knife inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean, about 18 to 22 minutes. Let cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely before frosting. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes (I used Specialty Ruffle Tip #070 to achieve the ruffled effect seen in the photo); enjoy!

Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool room temperature and cut into medium chunks
10 Tbsp full-fat cream cheese, cool room temperature and cut into medium chunks

Combine the sugar and egg whites in the clean stand mixer bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water making sure the bottom does not actually touch the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (I just whisked by hand and cooked it until the sugar was completely dissolved and the top became foamy). Be careful not to curdle the egg whites, remove from heat if this starts happening.

Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment for at least 7 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-esque peaks and the bowl is completely cool (very important - the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise). Add in vanilla and mix until incorporated.

With mixer on medium-low, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (about 10 seconds between each addition). Now add cream cheese 1 chunk at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, at least 3 minutes (this may take up to 15 minutes, so be patient!). (You'll hear a distinct slapping sound and visibly see the buttercream go from soupy to a cohesive, pipeable consistency.) Use immediately.

Marzipan Carrots
Slightly adapted from Munchkin Munchies and Recipe Girl (step-by-step photos)

About 1 oz. marzipan (found on the baking aisle in most grocery stores)
Orange gel or powder food coloring
Powdered sugar, as needed
Paring knife
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for decorating
Real carrot greens, dill, OR parsley leaves (washed and dried)

With a toothpick, add a dash of food coloring to the marzipan and knead with fingers to combine, continue until desired shade is achieved. If marzipan gets too sticky to work with, knead in powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it's no longer sticky to the touch.

Shape marzipan into 12 balls about 1/2-inch wide each, and place on a clean work surface. Use your index finger to elongate and roll out one end of each ball against the palm of your other hand until you've formed a carrot shape (about 1 1/4 inches long total).

Dip a paring knife into cocoa powder. Make tiny indentations in each carrot with cocoa-dusted knife to evoke the vegetable's texture. Carrots can be kept at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to one week.

When ready to serve, use a toothpick to make holes at the top of each "carrot," then insert carrot, dill, or parsley greens into the holes.


  1. Beautiful. (yes, I said it again)

    i *like* carrot cake with pineapples!! most people do, i think? :)
    G'luck with all this work!!

  2. Wow...the frosting reminds me of my fav. pink frock with lots of similar frills I used to wear..well..almost 35 years back :) And what an honor to bake for an occasions as big as a wedding! Lovely cup cakes, oh..and that cutie carrot too.

  3. thank you for the recipe, i love it, book marked right away :)
    * your carrots are the most perfect handmade carrot i have ever known, very cute and looks real one, my fav!

  4. I've never thought of cream cheese SMBC. I think this would be great for my friends who don't fancy the traditional cream cheese frosting.

    Two things I'd suggest:
    1. Normally when you want to use pineapple in any cakes, replace equal part of the oil with it (1/3 oil here, maybe replace half of the oil with the pureed pineapple). I did this in my carrot cake without incident.
    2. For the leafy part of the marzipan carrots, you can use finely grated lime zest to make it more palatable. Not as realistically leafy I admit, but at least the whole thing can be eaten deliciously!

  5. Those marzipan carrots look purrrfect. I wish I could help but you know I know nothing about carrot cupcake baking!! Just that I can only imagine how exciting baking for a wedding must be! I recently baked cupcakes for a friends's daughter's first birthday and I was over the cloud. And when I saw kids were actually loving it, it was a great feeling :-)

  6. So pretty! I love the ruffles.



  7. They look awesome and I'm digging the addition of coconut oil, that stuff tastes great,
    Take care...

  8. I've missed looking at your gorgeous posts! I love the look of these cupcakes..the ruffles are a really pretty piping technique. I'm surprised to see mayo in your ingredient list..but that's why they must be so moist. Delicious.

  9. My favorite cake/ cupcake flavor. My recipe has no yolks but egg whites. It's fairly adaptable in that you can add coconut or pineapple in it if you wish.

  10. u truly are the cupcake queen! the ruffles and your carrot marzipans are so cute!! :)

  11. One of my friends did pass me a carrot cake recipe and I've been meaning to try it for so long-duh. But you'll do great, I know. The frosting and those cute tiny carrots on this one is awesome! xx

  12. The ruffles are gorgeous, Xiaolu! You've always been one who is meticulous and skillful!

  13. Oh my god those marzipan carrots are SO cute!!!!!!! They really do look like miniatures of the real thing! I am sure the bride is going to be ecstatic with your work because it's so beautiful.

  14. This is so beautiful and elegant. I just can't stop admiring it :)

  15. Most perfect carrot cupcakes in the world. I repeat it.

  16. These cupcakes are so adorable and beautiful! Love the Bugs Bunny title too :D

  17. Thanks so much, everyone! You're too kind =D!

  18. Wow! those cupcakes are so cute. Loved the frilly frosting and cute carrots.All the best!

  19. hey xiaolu! these are so adorable! the ruffles & carrots are perfect!!! carrot cake is my favorite & i will always stick by my mom's recipe as being THE very very best! anyways, thanks so much for sharing & inspiring me :)

  20. This is about the most precisely written recipe post I have seen. You have a tremendous amount of detail here that insures that the reader can re-create these cupcakes, not only in taste but in presentation as well. Terrific post-glad I stopped by.

  21. Seriously, these are the cutest things I've ever seen. Honestly, SO STINKIN CUTE!!!

  22. so pretty! love carrot cake muffins

  23. These are just beautiful! Love those ruffles and the little carrots you made with marzipan are darling. Brings back childhood memories...if I got to go to a bakery for a special treat, I ALWAYS picked the carrot cake because I was obsessed with the little carrot. I thought it was so cute that I always ate it very last. :)

  24. those marzipan carrots look so perfect! LOVE the ruffle frosting too!!! :)

  25. the only carrot cake I've ever made was Dorie's and honestly, I wasn't super impressed. I definitely want to try this though because carrot cake is my favorite!

  26. Thanks, all!

    Joanne - well that's disappointing that Dorie's cake didn't deliver. good to know -- thanks!

  27. I love these cupcakes! They're so cute and carrot cake is one of my all time favs, but I like how you used an apple version!!

  28. How simply adorable, with the perfect flavor combination. Love this!

  29. I love these little carrots - they look so realistic! You're such a talented baker :-)

  30. Yumm carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is an excellent choice for a wedding. :) I love the ruffled icing, so cute, and of course the carrot! My favourite carrot cake is this one: It has coconut, pineapple, walnuts and dates.

  31. I volunteer to be your official taste tester on your quest for the perfect carrot cake! Loved how those carrots turned out! So beautifully styled.

  32. Carrot Cupcakes... my favorite of them all!

  33. Whoa... so cute! The carrot looks so real!!! Gotta pin this!

  34. Love the ruffles and the carrots! So darling!

    If you haven't tried it already, the carrot cake recipe in The Silver Palate is killer, though a little different. It calls for coconut and crushed pineapple, not unusual, but it uses cooked, pureed carrots instead of freshly grated carrots. My mom is a carrot cake aficionado (aficionada?) and spent 25+ years looking for the perfect carrot cake. After finding this recipe a few years ago, she concluded her search.

  35. Thanks, everyone!

    Amanda - I am definitely gonna try out the cooked carrot method and am already working on an adapted version of the Silver Palate recipe (which I found online) =D. Thanks!

  36. Cute-Cute-Cute! I love those carrot cupcakes :)

    HUGS <3

  37. These are lovely! I really like the ruffled icing. So pretty! Carrot cake is my favorite cake. Can't wait to try your recipe!

  38. I feel carrot and apple is a great combination for a cake, the apple compliments the carrot taste. your little carrots on top are soo cute!

  39. SO cute! I love the idea of using apples in the recipe to switch it up - it would be delicious but NEVER crossed my mind - and it IS the ruffles and the carrot that charm here!
    I would have LOVED to have seen a photo step by stop on the marzipan carrot.

  40. They're so darn cute! These are the most adorable carrot cupcakes I have ever seen. Yum yum yum!

  41. These are just too darn cute !! Would almost be a shame to eat them they look so good but I'll bet they taste great. I love the addition of crushed pineapple in my carrot cake as well. Adds sweetness without the additional sugar as well as adding moisture.

  42. Thanks you guys! I definitely will try a pineapple version next, Carolyn :).

  43. i love the ruffles! that's a frosting technique i've never seen and automatically want to replicate. :)

  44. I LOVE these cupcakes, Xiaolu! The ruffled frosting and marzipan carrots are just gorgeous!!

  45. Thanks, everyone! Happy holidays!

  46. I've never liked carrot cake until I tried Deb's recipe at Smitten Kitchen. It made a believer out of me! I used regular cream cheese frosting but next time I think I will try cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
    Try it and let us know what you think :)


  47. Hey Xiaolu, your Cupcake is a Recipe Guessing Game on Knapkins. Think your friends can win?

    Show your foodie love and vote here

  48. These are so sweet-looking and I just love the presentation!

  49. WOW! How do you that with the icing???

    1. I used a Specialty Ruffle Tip #070 that's made specifically for piping ruffles. It's available on Amazon (see link above). Hope that helps!


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu