Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Carrot Cupcakes + Goji Berries

Carrot cupcakes are the most requested cupcake flavor in my house for birthdays.  And surely, it was on top of B's birthday wish list for her recent birthday party, along with dark chocolate cupcakes.

 I have a lot of carrot cake recipes... some made tropical with grated coconut and pineapples, others made sweeter with the addition of raisins and choco chips, still others are studded with walnuts.  But for this cupcake variety, I made it unadulterated... this one is all about the carrots - finely grated carrots.  It is simplicity at its best.  

The only thing I added were goji berries, a staple in my pantry for making Chinese tonic soups.  My thoughtful and generous mother-in-law, who frequently sends over Chinese herbs and condiments, is a believer in the nutritional benefits of this small and red superfood.  
In recent years, the goji berry has gained popularity in Western health food stores.  But this nutritionally-rich and naturally sweet fruit has long been used in Chinese cuisine to make congee, tonic soups and herbal teas.
Fresh, sweet carrots and bright, pretty goji berries make for a wonderful combination... a delicious, moist, fluffy cupcake combined with a superfood ingredient.
Allow the dried goji berries to sit in warm water just a couple of minutes to soften, until they are nice and plump. 
Look at how the bright goji berries pop-out wonderfully in the batter.

Carrot Cupcake Recipe
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1/2 cup dried goji berries (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line cupcake molds with papers.  I sued 3 ozs paper liners.
  3. Hydrate goji berries in warm water for 10-15 mintues, or until soft and plump.
  4. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots and goji berries, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.
  5. Bake cupcakes 18-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing.
Cream Cheese  Frosting
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.
  2. Divide equally into three small bowls and add food color, adding different amount of the food color if you want to make an ombre effect.  
The different soft shades of gradient pink make for a lovely display...

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jen laceda said...

My Tessa loves goji berries! She'll go "bananas" (pun intended-hehe) for these cupcakes! I like your pink ombre icing shades! Also, just to take it one step further into healthiness, instead of regular food colouring, we like to use beet juice (makes pink) to colour naturally. Annatto seeds (yellow / orange) and purple potatoes (blue) are great natural substitutions for food colouring also :) Just boil them and extract the coloured water! Easy peasy!

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