Sunday, July 06, 2008

GF Carrot Cupcakes, With or Without Carrot

My dearest friend Regenia, one of my gluten-free girls, hoofed it off to Thailand and India last fall with her man David Spencer. There was a whole lot of uncertainty around their returning to the States and our little corner of it, so when I dropped them off at the airport it was with much excitement for them and a little sadness for me. I was going to miss my friend and her boyfriend who kept me laughing.

About six weeks ago, I got an email from them that said they were coming back! My other gluten-free girl, Annmarie, and I conspired to throw them a "hey you came back!" party. Annmarie asked me to make the GF, sugar-free carrot cupcakes that were such a hit last year for Allie's party. And so I did.

July 6, 2008
Name of cupcakes: GF Carrot Cupcakes, With or Without Carrot
Occasion: Regenia and David Spencer came back!
Constituents: Gluten-free, sugar-free carrot-pecan-coconut cupcakes, carrot optional, and sugar-free cream cheese frosting

GF Coconut-Pecan-Carrot Cupcakes

I have posted this recipe before, but I changed it up with great improvement so I am reposting it. If you like your carrot cake/cupcakes spicy and bursting with layers of flavor, this one will be your new favorite. If you are trying to stay away from cane sugar, this cake is for you. If you are trying to cut down on your fat intake, this recipe is for you. And obviously, if you have celiac or are gluten-sensitive, this cake is for you.

If you eat wheat, butter, and bleached white cane sugar this cake is still for you. I guarantee that you will never notice the difference.

Oh yes, and if you are carrot intolerant, this carrot cake recipe is for you, too.

Gluten Free Coconut-Pecan Carrot Cupcakes

based on a recipe from Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi Nancy O'Hara

makes about 36 cupcakes

  • one cup gluten-free flour mix
  • 1 3/4 cup brown rice flour (I was going to use sorghum flour here but the grain moths got to it) (but if you try it with sorghum, let me know how it turns out)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (the freshly ground the better)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup light agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, grade B
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 3 1/2 cups packed grated carrot
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted

Now pay attention to the ingredients, kids. There's a lot of prep time in them. You've got to grate carrots, chop and toast pecans, toast coconut. You've got to zest the orange, let the eggs come up to room temperature. There's a lot to get in place here. And be sure to keep those grated carrots in plain view.
Assemble all your dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together to aerate and mix well. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, blend the applesauce with your sweeteners. Mix well. Add the eggs and beat until frothy. Add the vanilla and orange zest and blend together for a minute or so.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well to aerate the batter. If you are using a stand mixer, beat at medium speed for a minute or two. If you are using a hand mixer beat on high.

Using your favorite wooden spoon or silicone spatula/spoonula, mix in the coconut and pecans. If you are making carrot cupcakes with carrot, add the carrot now too.

Or, if you want to be like me, forget to add the carrot to your carrot cupcakes until you've scraped the batter into all the cupcake cups and have slid the first 12 into the oven to bake. Then, as you are cleaning up, you'll notice a very full bowl of grated carrot on the counter and think to yourself, "did I really forget the carrot?


Your batter will be thick and a little sticky. Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and smooth out the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Fill each cup about 3/4 full if you would like a nice high cupcake. These guys don't rise much.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes; remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely before storing airtight.

In my case, I scraped the batter out of the remaining cupcake cups and back into the bowl. And then finally, I added in about 1.75 cups of grated carrot and mixed well.

My friends were hanging out on the couch and we all laughed that I forgot the carrot in the carrot cupcakes. That's like forgetting the chocolate in a chocolate cake!

The first batch of carrot cupcakes, the without-carrot batch, came out of the oven looking pretty silly. I only have one cupcake tin so I usually line up a bunch of foil cupcake liners on a cookie sheet and use that for one of the batches. In this case it was the without-carrot batch, and I didn't take the time to smooth out the batter so the little guys baked up looking like little rocks! I was very amused. They were cute, in a very silly way.

GF Coconut-Pecan-Carrot Cupcakes

But they taste good, even without carrot!

The cream cheese frosting is a hybrid of the one in the Three Bowls book and the one I pilfered from the internet many years ago.
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, sugar-free

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 boxes cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • light agave syrup, to taste

Beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and orange zest and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides.

If you prefer your frosting thick and dense, mix in the agave syrup by hand. Sweeten to taste.

If you prefer a light, airy frosting, beat in the agave syrup with your mixer. Sweeten to taste.

Use immediately, or store in refrigerator until ready to use. Let frosting come up to room temperature (about 30 min) and rebeat until desired consistency is reached before using.

(Post Party Report)
The cupcakes were a big hit with all the partygoers. People allowed themselves to indulge in these little cupcakes since they weren't so terribly unhealthy, which made me feel good. We left the cream cheese frosting on the side, for those who like to avoid dairy, but pretty much everyone frosted their cupcakes. Some even went back for just a spoonful of frosting!

Welcome back to Oregon, Regenia and Spencer! No matter where the winds take you, may you always be surrounded by people who love and feed you in every way.

GF Coconut-Pecan-Carrot Cupcakes


  1. I choked with laughter when I realized you had left out the carrots! You are too funny.
    Isn't it nice when you set your friends free and they return back to you? Ahhh.
    I am glad you have developed a carrot free carrot cake. Carrot haters around the world will salute you.

  2. Yes, I do love it when my friends come back! Right now all 3 of my travel-loving friends have come back to Portland to roost, however temporarily. I am in hog heaven.

    The carrot cupcakes without carrot were quite tasty, and I am glad that carrot intolerant people around the globe now have a carrot-free carrot cake recipe to enjoy.

  3. ECL,
    The cupcakes look adorable--even the ones without the frosting look cute. But I have to admit that even the cuteness is not making me add brown rice flour (or sorghum flour) and xanthan gum to my grocery list. Maybe if I ever try gluten-free recipes, I'll become a believer, but I guess I'm still a gluten agnostic.

  4. BBC, I assure you, you would never know the difference with these cupcakes. But if you insist, the original recipe called for 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and 3/4 cup of toasted wheat germ. I've omitted the wheat germ before and not had a problem.
    There's a lot of very bad gluten free baked "goods" out there--you gotta be careful.

  5. Holy crap! I just made them and they're AWESOME!!! (I substituted the syrups for 3/4 tsp. Stevia and 6-7 packkets of erythritol to be sugar free:) My husband kept checking the frosting;)I started baking (once weekly) 2 weeks ago as a treat to look forward to under the conditions it be gluten/ sugar free ( I'm a professional dancer and, needing to stay trim, I always saved the sweets for times with family and friends). I regret never learning how to bake "alternatively" before now! I'll definitly be returning here again for recipes. (I love your blog on you and your friends' birthdays/ cakes:)

  6. Hi Knix, I'm glad you liked them! Keep us posted on your bakeapades :)

  7. your cupcakes looks delicious!