A Cupcake By Any Other Name….Would Be a Muffin (Carrot “Cupcake” Muffins)


Last week saw a big day in our house. Little Guy started pre-school. He now spends three mornings at school playing, learning and creating the cutest art you’ve ever seen; and I can no longer give him the late breakfast he likes. On the days he goes to school, my newest challenge is finding a quick easy to eat breakfast packed full of protein and grains that will give him enough energy to not break down into the three year old screamy-weemies before he gets home. He doesn’t really like breakfast so this is a real challenge. The first day I made the fantastic spelt pancakes found in The King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook. If you haven’t discovered this book, you should. It’s just the bees knees! However, I can’t give him pancakes every single morning (can I?). So day two saw oatmeal which was slightly less enthusiastically received. By day three I was down to eggs and whole grain toast which he took one look at, grabbed the toast and pushed the eggs away. Now I have a new strategy. I’m disguising breakfasts as food he loves; namely cupcakes. What toddler can resist a cupcake with frosting.

This brings up an interesting topic though. What is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake? I decided to ask my friends and posted the question on Facebook. The answers varied. It’s no surprise to me that my marvelously talented food stylist and baking expert friend came up with the culinary difference, “A muffin is made by the quick bread method most of the time while a cupcake is made with the cake method.” While this may be the actual difference, most of my friends agreed only that muffins are for breakfast and supposed to be healthy. Pretty much everyone agreed that this is not usually the case, as one friend put it, “One is for breakfast. The other is a muffin.”

Of course, not all cakes, er um, I mean muffins are created equal. It would be very easy to just make a sweet, oil drenched, white flour ridden muffin and get Little Guy to eat it, but the sugar low that would ensue about an hour after I left him at school would make me very unpopular with his teachers. Instead my goal was to make him a healthy, whole grain muffin that provided a balanced breakfast that would keep him fueled for the morning. Morning glory muffins were tempting because they are full of fruits and veggies but there is no way I could get him to eat them. Then we were at the grocery store one day and Little Guy solved my problem. Next to the checkout was a display of carrot cupcakes ; “Those look good he said.” So, carrot cake muffins it was.

I knew I wanted a muffin that was not laden with sugar and one full of whole grains, carrots and one high in protein to keep my little guy moving in school. I sifted through a dozen or so recipes and decided to base my muffin on carrot cake recipes instead of a muffin because I wanted the finished product to taste more like a cupcake than a muffin. I immediately slashed the sugar from an average of 1 ½ to 2 cups down to a combination of 1/3 cup of brown sugar plus 3 tablespoons of molasses – for a total just under ½ cup (not including the cream cheese topping). I also switched out the white flour for whole wheat flour and slashed the fat down to a mere ¼ cup of oil. In place of cream cheese icing I used a small amount of lightly sweetened reduced fat cream cheese and a sprinkle of pecans. Enjoy!

Carrot Cupcake Muffins with Cream Cheese and PecansClick here for a printer friendly version of this recipe
makes 12 muffins

The cream cheese topping is not necessary for the enjoyment of these muffins, but does make them oh-so-good. If you do use the topping be sure to keep the muffins in the refrigerator.

2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cup grated or ground carrot (see note), about 5 carrots

Cream Cheese Topping

4 oz light cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 12 muffin tins with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Beat eggs in the bowl of a standing mixer, slowly add vegetable oil then vanilla, brown sugar, molasses, and applesauce. Beat until slightly foamy.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl at least once. Fold in carrots.

Divide mixture evenly between the muffin tins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven to cool.

For topping:

Mix cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Spread about 1/2 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture onto the top of each cooled muffin. Sprinkle the chopped pecans on the top of the muffins. The muffins will keep in refrigerator for several days and can be frozen, although the cream cheese topping may crack.

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10 thoughts on “A Cupcake By Any Other Name….Would Be a Muffin (Carrot “Cupcake” Muffins)

  1. +3 for this post. 1 for the excellent recipe, 1 for quoting me and 1 for using the phrase “bee’s knees”. This post is the cat’s pajamas!

    • I wouldn’t remove the carrot totally, but you could certainly up the spices really easily. I put the carrots in the food processor to grind them up. They then cook into the cupcakes and Little Guy doesn’t even know they are there.

  2. I tried these today and they are really good and what i really like is the healthier choices for the ingredients. I did add coconut (i really like that in my carrot cake) Also I make carrot juice for my son so i can use the carrot pulp in things like this which is really nice!

  3. Pingback: Carrot Cupcake Muffins with Cream Cheese and Pecans | Recipes Home

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