Carrot cake doesn't really make sense to me. Like, who thought shredding carrots and mixing them into cake batter would taste good? Sure, they're a little "sweet", or maybe just so when compared to a radish or zucchini or asparagus or something. But still. Carrots... in a cake... with raisins and walnuts. Weird.
That isn't to say that carrot cake isn't most people's dessert of choice come spring time, right? Even my dad - a man with a selective sweet tooth - lovvvvves it. Because I'm pretty much always looking out for ways I can make Dad's favorites a little more nutritious, and because it's spring time, here are some high-above-average, almost-paleo, refined-sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free carrot cake cupcakes and the story of how they came about.
Experimenting with alternate flours is, to me, a challenge I seek out with every baking opportunity. My favorite alternate to whole-wheat is oat because it's absorbance is practically the same, which means I need to modify only the binding agent and not the moisture, unlike when baking with almond or coconut flour. Oat flour, however, is not paleo and as much as I wish that the paleo diet were as obsolete as my elementary school wardrobe, it's not. Many people prefer grain-free options (whether because they follow the paleo diet or for another reason). I'm not here to judge your dietary choices, just here to ensure that, whatever those choices may be, are delicious.
That was a long-winded way of saying that I really hate coconut flour. I hate the taste (even though I love coconut flavors elsewhere). I hate the texture. I really hate the way it bakes. So I turn to almond flour. I've done so before when testing out grain-free cookie recipes, an experiment that revealed to me almond flour's minimal absorbance ability, which basically means that my cookies were far too gooey and oily. Failed recipes scar me a little bit, I must admit, so since then, I've been hesitant to bake with almond flour. But I will not back down, guys. I will not, even if a bag of almond flour costs three times as much as a bag of oat flour or whole wheat flour or even coconut flour *gasp*.
This will be worth it. This will be worth it. This will be worth it. I reminded myself as I slowly dropped the bag into my grocery basket.
And worth it, it is.
Okay, these aren't totally grain-free and that's because neither am I, so I couldn't help but not care when my baking scars encouraged me to add just a little scoop oat flour because, thinking scientifically here, what's going to absorb the moisture from the carrots and the eggs and the almond milk? Duh. I like oats and oat flour, but if you don't or if you have an alternative method that you know works, go for it. Get it. Shmang it.
Also, contrary to what the experts instruct, I didn't and almost never wait for my baked goods to cool completely when they come out of the oven. Five minutes or so seems to be just enough to be able to oh-so-gently nudge these muffins out of the tin without any injuries. Just. Be. Careful... or patient. Before you frost them, though, definitely make sure they're completely cool otherwise what should be an elegant topping will become an unattractive dripping of white... whiteness. Gross.
Speaking of frosting, this coconut whipped cream is easier than probably any other dairy-free swap nowadays. Refrigerate the full-fat (must be full-fat) coconut milk overnight and scoop off the thick white cream and discard or find another use for the remaining liquid in the can. Whip the cream with honey or maple syrup and a little vanilla until it's light and fluffy as your favorite frosting. Told you it's easy!
Now, hop to it.
Makes 12 muffins
For the muffins:
2 1/2 cup almond flour
1/3 cup oat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup crushed walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots
2/3 cup almond milk
1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 tbsp. nut butter
butter or oil, for greasing the muffin tin
For the coconut cream frosting:
1 can coconut milk, full-fat, chilled overnight or 8 hours
2 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
handful of crushed walnuts
cinnamon, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin with butter or oil. Place a large mixing bowl in the freezer for the coconut cream frosting.
In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs, almond milk, ACV, sugar, and nut butter on high until frothy. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients - the flours, baking soda, spices, carrots, walnuts, and raisins. Slowly pour the wet into the dry and stir until combined.
Portion the batter into the muffin tin, filling each about 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake for 17-18 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool before taking them out of the muffin tin.
Make the coconut cream frosting by scooping the thick coconut cream off the top of the can, leaving the water at the bottom and saving for another use, if you wish. Place the cream in the chilled large mixing bowl along with the honey and vanilla and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Frost each muffin with about 2-3 tablespoons of the coconut cream frosting and use a rounded knife or spoon to create the elegant swirls. Top each with a crushed walnut and a sprinle of cinnamon.
Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. I haven't tried freezing them, but if you do, I would recommend leaving the frosting off until you are ready to eat.