Delicious grain-free, dairy-free carrot cake with a sweet cashew frosting.
For the printable recipe click here.
If you saw my Chocolate Avocado Cake post, you may have read about my goal of giving a paleo makeover to as many of the desserts on my friend Janice's 42 Classic Southern Desserts list as I can tackle.
Next up: Carrot Cake Cupcakes!
Carrot cake certainly is a favorite in the South.
I remember I was four and a half when my mom got a carrot cake for my brother's first birthday party. As a child thoroughly addicted to sweets, I was eager to sneak a piece of what I assumed to be chocolate cake.
"Why does the icing look like a carrot on top?" I wanted to know.
"Because it's carrot cake," my mom informed me.
"Carrot cake?" I balked. "Like there's carrots in it? GROSS!"
I spent the rest of the night crying in my room, due in part to the ridiculous black velvet pant-and-vest-suit my mom dressed me in for the party (I looked like a tiny, gothic matador) and in part due to the ridiculous veggie-flavored cake I refused to try.
Twenty-something years later, my wedding guests raved over my deliciously unconventional wedding cake, a three-tiered carrot cake with cream cheese filling, my very favorite cake. I guess at some point I came around to the concept.
Cupcakes are a convenient, single-serve option, the perfect treat for parties or Easter gatherings.
Janice's recipe deliciously doctors up cake mix for an easy take on these sweet springtime treats.
The Five Monsters version employs a mixture of almond flour, cassava flour, potato starch, and just a tiny bit of coconut flour to create a perfectly fluffy and tender texture the paleo way. You definitely don't have to be on a paleo diet to enjoy these moist and spicy cupcakes. While these tasty paleo cupcakes are completely grain, dairy, and gluten free, they are every bit as yummy as the real thing.
Instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting, these paleo carrot cake cupcakes opt for a similarly sweet and tangy cashew-based frosting, somewhat akin to a spreadable marzipan.
The cake is sweetened with the paleo-favorite coconut sugar, while the frosting is sweetened with organic powdered sugar. Both get a boost from unsweetened pineapple juice.
About a quarter of the frosting is reserved, divided, and colored with natural tints to create cute carrot designs atop the cupcakes. I used McCormick powdered colors "berry" and "sunflower" to create the orange, and 365 green liquid color for the green.
Even though it is not classically paleo, I am cool with using the organic powdered sugar in this application because the brand I use is processed in a manner I feel comfortable with. However, if you want something a little lighter in refined sugar or sugar in general, simply omit the frosting and consider these paleo carrot cake muffins instead of cupcakes.
As far as the carrots go, for best texture I like to shred mine with the shredder disk of my food processor and then switch to the processor blade and pulse several times to chop more finely. If your food processor has shredder blades or a grating attachment with multiple degrees of fineness, you could go with the finest setting. Alternatively, you could process them with the regular processor blade until very finely chopped, or you could grate the carrots by hand with a semi-fine box grater. The way I do it produces the size and texture I prefer most for avoiding a mouthful of thickly shredded carrots in the final product.
Here's what you'll need:
For the Cupcakes:
¾ cup coconut oil
¾ cup coconut sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice, room temperature
5 oz grated carrots
1 cup almond flour (or almond meal)
¾ cup cassava flour
½ cup potato starch
1 T coconut flour
1 T ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup toasted, chopped pecans
For the frosting:
2 cups unsalted cashews
3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
4 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch sea salt
3 T water
Natural orange and green food dyes
Here's what you'll do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line 16 standard-size muffin cups with cupcake liners. If you only have one 12-cup muffin tin, you can wait until the first 12 cupcakes have cooled a bit and then cook the remaining batter. You could also over-fill the muffin cups, but the cupcakes will spill over and not be as attractive.
Beat together the coconut oil and coconut sugar till somewhat light and fluffy. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well between each addition. With the mixer on low, slowly stream in the pineapple juice, pausing to scrape down the bottom and sides as needed. It’s ok if the mixture looks broken and curdled. Add the grated carrots and beat on medium speed till well incorporated.
In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. With the mixer off, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low till well-combined, scraping down the sides as needed.
Use a large (3-T) cookie scoop to scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the cupcakes comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool completely before frosting.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: Add the cashews and pineapple juice to a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Boil uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool 20 minutes off the heat before proceeding to the next step.
Drain the cashews and transfer them to a food processor along with the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Process till almost smooth. Add the coconut oil, powdered sugar, and salt and process till smooth, pausing to scrape down the bottom and sides occasionally. Remove the shoot insert from the lid of the processor, and with the processor on, slowly stream in the water, processing till completely smooth.
Evenly frost the cupcakes, reserving about 1/4 of the frosting for decorating. Transfer about ¼ of the remaining frosting to a separate bowl and stir in several drops of natural green food dye. Transfer the colored frosting to a small piping bag.
To the remaining frosting in the food processor, add enough natural orange food dye to achieve the desired color, blending till uniform. Transfer to another small piping bag.
Use the colored frostings to pipe small carrots onto the tops of each paleo carrot cake cupcake. Tip: try piping a practice carrot on a napkin first to make sure you’ve got the hang of it!
Store these carrot cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days, or in the fridge or freezer for longer. Any remaining frosting can be stored in the fridge as well.
For the printable recipe click here.
If you like the idea of paleo carrot cake cupcakes or healthy carrot cake muffins, check out these other yummy paleo recipes!