Spring = bunnies
Bunnies = carrots.
And carrots =
Oh, the deep-gold, moist, flavorful cake! The rich, sumptuous cream cheese icing!
The time it takes to bake a layer cake, turn it out, cool, frost, slice, and serve...
The solution? Carrot cake muffins, a less-sweet carrot cake clone oozing baked-in, barely sweetened cream cheese filling.
You get the carrot cake experience, with slightly less sugar and fat. Or a lot less, depending on your favorite carrot cake recipe.
These muffins are handy to transport; simple to serve.
And easy to love.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a standard 12-well muffin pan.
Or line the pan with paper muffin cups, and grease the cups. More on this later.
Let's start with the filling. Place one unwrapped, 8-ounce package cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on low power for 40 seconds.
Stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a few drops of Fiori di Sicilia flavor. The Fiori is optional, but adds wonderful, subtle flavor to the filling.
Stir until smooth. Set the filling aside while you make the muffin batter.
Whisk together the following:
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
Place the following in a measuring cup or small bowl:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Whisk until well combined.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Add 1 cup grated carrots, lightly packed; about 2 medium-large carrots.
Stir to combine.
Note the word "stir;" beating isn't necessary, and will toughen your muffins.
OK, time to experiment. To paper, or not to paper... that is the question. Will papers affect how the muffins bake? Will it make them easier to get out of the pan? And, is it necessary to grease the papers? We shall see.
Drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here) into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom.
Dollop on a heaping tablespoon of filling; a level tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
Whoops! A little off center. That's what I get for trying to do this left-handed while using my right hand to take the photo. Where's that third arm when you need it??
There, those are better.
Cover with enough batter to fill the muffin cups quite full. The batter will come to within about 1/4" to 3/8" of the top of each muffin cup.
There, all nice and tidy.
Except for one thing: I had about 1/3 cup of batter left over.
DARN! What to do? Reformulate the recipe to yield 1/3 cup less? Overfill the cups and see what happens?
Neither of the above. Life is imperfect; so is this recipe. I ended up baking the extra batter in a silicone cup set next to the muffin tin.
A scattering of coarse white sparkling sugar across the top is never amiss when you're making muffins. The sugar adds crunch, glitter, and flavor.
Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes. Notice the extra batter in its silicone cup.
When they're done, a toothpick inserted into the cake part of one (not into the cream cheese filling) will come out clean. The tops of the muffins will feel firm to the touch.
Remember our paper/no paper experiment? The muffins on the left are in papers; on the right, no papers. Clearly the no-paper muffins rise more quickly. Which makes sense; there's no paper insulating them from the oven's heat.
By the end of the bake, though, the papered muffins had caught up, height-wise. So far, then – it's a tie.
Remove the muffins from the oven, and immediately tilt them in their cups; a fork works well here.
I found it easier to tilt the papered muffins; they didn't stick at all. The muffins without papers needed to cool a bit longer before they'd release from the pan. And, as they cooled, they were steaming a bit; which made their bottoms a bit tough.
Score one for papers.
Shall we break one open now, or wait for them to cool?
The center is molten. It's actually a decadent experience, licking the melting, sweet cream cheese off your fingers.
But, if you're not the finger-lickin’ type, wait 30 minutes or so for the muffins to cool a bit; the filling will stiffen up.
Oh, let's finish our muffin papers experiment. Should the papers be greased, or not?
Definitely greased; the greased papers released the muffins without any sticking at all, while the ungreased papers tended to cling a bit, taking off a layer of crumbs as you removed them.
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