I’ve been thinking lately how Easter feels like a mash-up of Christmas and Halloween. We’ve got the mysterious figure who sneaks into the house—my daughters think it’s really Santa in a bunny suit. Then there are the overflowing pastel baskets, bursting with chocolate bunnies and an endless supply of candy.
Come dessert time, the last thing I want to do is serve another sugar-loaded sweet. This year I decided to make carrot cupcakes, figuring I could convince the kids they’re the Easter Bunny’s favorite too. Most carrot cake recipes are too dense and oily for my taste, but that was an easy enough fix once I swapped in light coconut milk for part of the oil. A neutral oil, like vegetable or sunflower is generally used, but the olive oil sitting on my counter wanted in on the action. I had a hunch it would work nicely with the nuttiness of the whole wheat pastry flour too. As for the sugar rush, there’s not a speck of refined sugar in this recipe. The cupcakes get a naturally sweet boost with pure maple syrup from the farmers’ market, which added an extra bit of moistness too.
Since I was on a dairy-free roll, I decided to stick with that theme for the icing. In the past, I’d been hesitant to use shortening in frosting, though it’s an inexpensive trick many bakeries rely on. In the interest of keeping an open mind, I bought some non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening in the health food store. A quick whirl in my stand mixer with some confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract yielded an irresistibly fluffy frosting. A thin swipe was all these cupcakes needed to show the Easter Bunny who’s really the boss around here.
Dairy-Free Carrot Cupcakes
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) fine sea salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) lite coconut milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) pure maple syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
1 1/2 cups (130 grams) shredded carrots
1 cup (110 grams) pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (62 grams) sweetened dried cranberries
For the frosting:
1 cup (154 grams) non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum
1/2 cup (59 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.
- In a deep bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate bowl or deep measuring cup, use a fork to beat together the coconut milk, syrup, oil, egg and juice. Pour over the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until just combined and there are no visible traces of flour. Gently stir in the carrots, pecans and cranberries. Evenly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a metal skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven when done and set the tray on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- To make the frosting, add the shortening, sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start on low speed until the sugar is mixed in, then increase mixer to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Spoon an even amount of frosting onto each cupcake, then use an off-set spatula or butter knife to spread frosting to the edges.
I am a huge fan of carrot cake and Easter is the perfect time for it. This looks delicious! I also love coconut cake for Easter celebrations. - Sarena Shasteen