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Recipe for tropical carrot and pineapple cupcakes

Something light and bright for your kitchen.
Tropical carrot and pineapple cupcakes. [LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI | Special to the TImes]

Carrots contain lots of natural sugar and have been used in sweet cakes and puddings since medieval times, when sweeteners were scarce and expensive.

Recipes for carrot cake can be found in recipe books dating back as far as the 1800s. George Washington served carrot cake at his state dinners and banquets and considered this cake a rich dessert to be shared by all.

The popularity of carrot cake was probably revived in the United Kingdom because of sugar rationing during World War II. When the carrot cake hopped over to America midcentury, it made dessert history, catching on in restaurants and cafeterias in the 1960s.

When first introduced, it was mostly a novelty. But Americans loved this cake so much, it became a favorite in our dessert repertoire — especially in the 1970s, when health-conscious hippies thought the inclusion of lots of carrots in the cake meant it was healthy.

There are many versions of carrot cake. The add-ins and spices are the choice of the baker, and often include nuts, raisins, coconut or even dried or fresh fruit. Who can resist this moist, rich cake filled with carrots and decadent spices? Or the sweet and creamy cream cheese frosting? Not me.

These carrot cupcakes contain the full spectrum of flavors. You can make the cake batter by hand or use an electric hand mixer. Have all your ingredients ready to add to the batter. Use a small food processor to grate the carrots. Drain the crushed pineapple and reserve some of the juice for the frosting.

Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. She has won and placed in contests across America. This column features recipes that have been entered in those contests and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at lorrainestevenski@gmail.com.

Tropical Carrot and Pineapple Cupcakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

½ cup canned crushed pineapple from an 8-ounce can (drain and reserve juice for the frosting)

½ cup applesauce

2 cups finely shredded carrots

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, light or regular, softened

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, or more if needed

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Reserved juice from crushed pineapple, add as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 regular muffin cups or 12 jumbo muffin cups with cupcake papers and spray lightly with canola cooking spray. (This helps the cake release from the cupcake liner easily.)

Make the batter: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Set aside.

In another large mixing bowl, mix together the pineapple, applesauce and carrots. Set aside.

With an electric hand mixer on medium speed, beat both sugars, eggs, canola oil, orange zest and vanilla until smooth and thick, about 1 minute.

Continuing on medium speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix just until blended, about 1 minute.

Continuing on medium speed, add the carrot mixture and mix just until blended, about 1 minute.

Scoop the batter almost to the top of each muffin cup. Bake until golden brown, nicely risen and a tester comes out clean. Bake regular cupcakes about 20 to 25 minutes; for jumbo cupcakes, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely before frosting. (It’s best to store it in the refrigerator and frost chilled.)

Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese, butter and confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add more sugar as needed. Add just enough pineapple juice, a teaspoon at a time, for a spreadable consistency.

Frost each cupcake either with a small offset spatula or a piping bag to get the design of your choice. The frosting can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to frost the cupcakes. The frosted cupcakes must be stored in the refrigerator and taste best when served cool.

Makes 12 jumbo cupcakes or 24 regular cupcakes.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski

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