I can count the number of the times I’ve tried to bake desserts that skew more towards healthy than sinful and my experiences have mostly led me to believe that when you want a sweet, you just need to go for it. There was one incident where Pintest led me to believe it was a good idea to bake cookies with chickpeas…that was an epic fail. I couldn’t even stomach chickpeas for weeks after that scarring incident, much less the cookies themselves.
Lately, I have been interested in experimenting with baking with almond flour. Not because I have any plans on going gluten-free but I have been reducing (not eliminating…there is a distinction) my intake of processed foods, wheat, sugar, dairy, etc. I shared with y’all several weeks ago that I’m just trying to eat a little cleaner overall while still enjoying the occasional pizza, bowl of ice cream, etc.
So…that brings us to these cupcakes. I bookmarked this gluten-free, refined sugar-free, grain-free carrot cake recipe from Mama Pea last May and I just got up the courage to try it this this week.
I took Mama Pea’s recipe and after some research decided to make a few tweaks as well as third the recipe and make mini-cupcakes instead of a cake. I read that almond flour doesn’t rise the way normal flour does so I thought this might be a bit more palatable as bites instead of a slice of dense cake. I also wanted to add some nuts, raisins and coconut to the recipe because I love those things in my carrot cake.
This recipe uses maple syrup to sweeten the batter instead of sugar. I love the flavor of maple syrup and I think it compliments all the flavors that you get with carrot cake so it was a welcome swap for me. Another interesting thing about this recipe is that it calls for steamed shredded carrots instead of raw. I had never tried this in a carrot cake and I think it really helped keep the cake moist (especially with the use of the coarser almond flour) as well as improved the texture since you didn’t have stringy carrot bites.
I have to say I was pretty thrilled with how these turned out. I want to make it clear that this is not your typical carrot cake but a really delicious, a little less sweet and heartier take on it. The cake is pretty dense but it really works in the mini form with a dollop of cream cheese icing (also sweetened with maple syrup). The addition of the walnuts, golden raisins and coconut really put these over the top. I would definitely take these out to share…even to those who aren’t typically into this style of eating/baking.
I also want to note that I think these would also be great without the frosting as a little energy bite kind of thing. Although I will always say give me that frosting! 😉
Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from Peas & Thank You)
FOR THE CUPCAKES
1/3 pound carrots, peeled and cut into chunks + 3 tablespoons water
1 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons maple syrup (taste your batter and add a little more if you need)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 organic eggs or egg-replacer equivalent
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnut or pecans
1/4 cup shredded coconut
FOR THE FROSTING
1/3 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE CUPCAKES
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a mini cupcake pan with 12 liners.
Steam carrots in a microwave-safe bowl with the 3 tablespoons of water for about 5-7 minutes, checking every few minutes to see if they are ready. Place carrots and cooking water in a food processor and puree.
Combine almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a bowl. Stir together maple syrup, coconut oil, egg or egg replacer and vanilla in another bowl.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and then fold in carrots, raisins, nuts and coconut. Divide batter among muffin tins and bake 16-20 minutes or until set in center. Remove to wire rack to cool.
FOR THE FROSTING
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a handheld paddle mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, maple syrup and vanilla until incorporated and fluffy.
Yield: 12 mini cupcakes