If you think you don't like carrot cake, just give these gluten free carrot cupcakes a try! The addition of dried fruits, as well as the blend of spices, makes these flavorful cupcakes extra special 🙂
I've always loved carrot cake, and when I stumbled across this carrot cake recipe on Instagram by one of my most favorite pastry chefs, Zoe Francois, I just HAD to make it!! Zoe has such a bubbly personality and it comes through in her baking. Everything she makes is so unique, flavorful, and beautiful and she makes it all look so easy! I've taken a few of her classes on Bluprint, which were all wonderful. You should check them out!
What's So Great About These Cupcakes?
I love several things about these gluten free carrot cupcakes, but what I love the most is the addition of chopped dried cherries (yes, cherries, NOT raisins for all you raisin haters), and chopped dried apricots! I have never seen these two dried fruits in a carrot cake (or really any other cake) and they just happen to be my two FAVORITE dried fruits! There is also shredded coconut in the batter, and the carrots are finely shredded. If hand shredding, use the small hole side of a box grater. OR, like Zoe says, run them first through the shredding disk of your food processor and then switch to the chopping blade and finely chop the carrots. It really does make a difference somehow (I think it makes the cakes more moist).
Zoe uses a cream cheese frosting for her carrot cake, but I'm not hugely fond of cream cheese frosting. I chose Italian meringue buttercream, one of my favorites. It's similar to Swiss meringue buttercream, but instead of whisking the sugar and egg whites over a double boiler, the egg whites are whisked in a stand mixer while a sugar syrup is boiled on the stove and slowly poured into the egg whites.
What I like most about this method is it requires less active time. No standing over a hot stove whisking away. Start the sugar and water boiling, place a candy thermometer in the pot and don't stir a thing. Just let it come to the proper temperature. Meanwhile, begin whipping the egg whites in the mixer. When the sugar syrup comes to temp, slowly and carefully pour it into the beating egg whites, aiming right along the side of the bowl where the egg whites meet the edge. Don't let the syrup hit the whisk or it will go flying everywhere and that's not good!
Allow the meringue to continue to whip away until stiff peaks are formed, but most importantly until the sides of the bowl are cool to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Then add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. There will come a point where the mixture might look curdled. Just forge ahead! It'll smooth out as it continues to whip and more butter is added.
Hop right on the bunny trail and make these gluten free carrot cupcakes. They're too good to pass up and they'd make a wonderful Easter treat!
Gluten Free Carrot Cupcakes
- 1 pound finely grated carrots
- 1 ¼ cups (270 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (225 g) tightly packed brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups (300 ml) vegetable or canola oil
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups plus 2 tbsp (300 g) gluten free flour blend
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh if desired)
- zest of one orange
- 1 ¼ cups (145 g) sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots and cherries)
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (233 g) granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks or 340 g) butter, slightly cooler than room temperature with another stick more on reserve
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
FOR THE CAKE:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel and finely shred carrots (either using the small holes on a box grater or using the grater disk first in a food processor and then switching to the chopping blade to chop finely). Add chopped apricots and cherries to shredded carrots in medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the carrot/fruit mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the coconut.
- Divide the batter into cupcake liners and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.
- Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:
- Add sugar to small saucepan. To keep sugar crystals from forming along sides, carefully pour water along sides of saucepan so that sugar no longer touches sides. Over medium low heat, without stirring, begin heating mixture until it starts to boil. Clip on candy thermometer and continue to cook until syrup reaches 235 degrees.
- At this time, begin whipping egg whites at medium high speed in mixing bowl. Egg whites should reach stiff peaks at the same time the syrup reaches 245 degrees. If they are not there yet, remove syrup from heat and hold until egg whites are at stiff peak stage.
- Slowly and carefully pour sugar syrup down the side of the bowl where the whites touch the side, being careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk attachment. Continue to whip the meringue until the sides of the bowl are cool to the touch (this could take 5-10 minutes).
- Begin adding the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Mixture will look curdled about half way through adding the butter, but just continue to slowly add the butter. When mixture comes together into a smooth and creamy buttercream, stop adding the butter. Sometimes it takes only 3 sticks, but sometimes, depending on the ambient temperature of the room, it could take up to 4 sticks.
- Spread or pipe buttercream onto cupcakes. If there is any left over, refrigerate for about one week or freeze for 3 months.
Adapted from Zoe Bakes' Ultimate Carrot Cake recipe.
Italian Buttercream recipe adapted from Gesine Bullock-Prado's Fantastical Cakes.