I grew up thinking that there was only one way to make carrot cake — with baby food.
You can imagine my horror when — at my chocolate-loathing friend’s birthday party — I discovered that carrot cake is actually made with real carrots. And sometimes (gasp) pineapple.
It seemed so wrong — too chunky and heavy compared to the smooth, delicate crumb of my mother’s carrot cake. I wanted to spit it out and scream, “There’s something in the cake!!!”
Instead, I sat there quietly thinking that my friend and her parents were absolutely insane.
Since that initial shocking exposure, I’ve become much more accepting of carrot cakes made with real carrots (as long as there’s no pineapple involved). In fact, one of my favorite bakery treats in Los Angeles is an exorbitantly lumpy, walnut-speckled version of carrot cake that’s stacked high with cream cheese frosting (always my favorite part).
Even so, whenever I am making my own carrot cake or carrot cake cupcakes at home, I always revert back to my mother’s more simplistic recipe. I love that I don’t have to grate any carrots, I love that it’s not too sweet, and I love that the baby food keeps the cake from drying out too quickly.
While I stick closely to my mother’s original recipe for the cupcake portion, I do take liberties when it comes to the frosting. I like something a bit smoother and softer for these tender cakes — something that will ooze over the edges a bit, coating each bite with a sweet and sour tang.
So I do something that some might consider absolutely insane.
I put Breakstone’s/Knudsen Sour Cream in the frosting.
The fluffy folds of Breakstone’s/Knudsen sour cream give the frosting a sultry smooth texture that is a far better match for the cupcakes than a stiffer cream cheese version. It melts into the crevices of the cake like butter saturating a stack of hot pancakes. It’s sweet, but not cloying like so many frostings — the sour cream keeps the sugar and white chocolate elements in check.
When I first revealed my secret weapon to my mother she was as horrified as I was at that birthday party long ago.
“Sour cream in frosting?” she asked. “It’s not a potato, Diana!” (My mother loves potatoes.)
But when she tasted it, her eyes arched up in surprise.
“There’s something in the frosting…” She said, pausing to take another bite. “And I think I like it better this way.”
Carrot Cupcakes with White Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
makes 12 cupcakes
Carrot Cupcakes Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
6 ounces baby carrot food (for 6-months and up, not for newborns)
White Chocolate Sour cream frosting (see below)
Carrot Cupcake Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together until light in texture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, and carrot food until well-integrated. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Distribute the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin (taking them out too soon can distort the shape!) before removing them with a knife and setting them on a wire rack to cool completely.
White Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from San Francisco A La Carte
Sour Cream Frosting Ingredients:
¼ cup butter
2 ounces white chocolate
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup Brealston’e/Knudsen sour cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sour Cream Frosting Directions:
Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler over barely simmering water. Remove from heat and cool slightly before adding a 1/2 cup of sour cream, the powdered sugar and the vanilla. Beat with an electric beat until smooth.
Add the last ½ cup of sour cream using a wire whisk until just incorporated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours so it has time to firm up.
When ready to serve, spoon a tablespoon over frosting over each cupcake. It’s okay if it drizzles over the edges — that’s how we like our carrot baby food cupcakes.