I am always on the lookout for new cupcake recipes. It is good to have a variety of flavors in your repertoire, especially if the cupcakes are for adults. While children are happy with a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting, adults usually prefer something a little more sophisticated. My carrot ginger cupcakes use fresh carrots and ginger essential oil (or ground ginger) to create the perfect mashup between a spice cake and a cupcake.
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Peter Rabbit Birthday Party
My great-nephew recently had his first birthday party. I was asked to make cupcakes for the guests, which were mostly adults. The theme was Peter Rabbit, so I wanted to come up with a flavor that would go with that theme. Naturally, my mind went to carrot cake. I had never made carrot cake in cupcake form. I didn’t know if it would work with shreds of carrots in that small of a cake. So I went down the rabbit hole of Pinterest (pun intended) to find recipes, and ultimately devised this recipe for carrot ginger cupcakes.
My Secret Weapon: Ginger Essential Oil
I also happen to love how ginger gives a pop of flavor to carrot dishes. It was time to experiment by adding some ginger essential oil. I use the Young Living Vitality line of oils in my cooking, as these are deemed safe for consumption. (Not every brand of essential oil is safe to eat, so read the label carefully if you are considering another brand.) A 5 mL bottle of Vitality oil has about 85-100 drops in it. If you use my recipe to make 24 cupcakes plus the ginger buttercream, you will only be using about a tenth of this bottle altogether. If you are interested in purchasing Young Living Ginger Vitality Oil and would like to become a member so that you can get the 24% wholesale discounted price, click here. (Disclosure: This is my Young Living Distributor link.)
If you do not have ginger essential oil, you can also use ground ginger. This can be found in the spice aisle of the grocery store. I would not recommend crystallized ginger for the buttercream, especially if you are using a piping bag. The chunks would clog the piping tip of the decorating bag.
Putting the Shredder Attachment to Good Use
Whenever I make a recipe that calls for shredding potatoes, carrots, zucchini, etc. I have used my trusty box grater. But I always feel like I am wasting food. I can’t really grate the entire vegetable without also risking injury to my fingers as they get close to the little shredding blades. So for a while, I have been eyeing the KitchenAid Slicer/Shredder Attachment that fits into my stand mixer. I use my stand mixer pretty much weekly for baking. The attachments are great for using the mixer in savory recipes as well.
The slicer/shredder attaches to the hub on the front of the mixer. It comes with three blades: one for slicing, one for coarse shredding, and one for medium shredding. At first, I thought that maybe the medium shredder might not be fine enough for cupcakes. But it turns out the size of the shreds it makes is just right for this recipe. To use the attachment, turn the mixer on speed 4. Feed the carrots in through the tube, pushing them down with the clear pushing tube. The shredded carrots then spill out into a bowl that you put in front of the mixer.
The blade cleans easily. You can safely put your hand inside the cylindrical drum since the sharp part is on the exterior of the drum. I found it easy to hand wash the drum, but it is also dishwasher safe.
When I went to clean the white plastic housing, my heart sunk. The carrots had stained the interior of it orange. I tried dishwashing liquid, a leave-on dishwashing spray, and lots of elbow grease, but the stain barely faded. As a last-ditch effort, I googled how to get carrot stains out of the shredder attachment. Someone suggested using vegetable oil. I was doubtful it would work as I dabbed some oil onto a paper towel.
Well, one quick wipe with the paper towel, and the stain was completely gone! It was amazing how well this trick works!
Paper Baking Cups
I typically use Reynolds’ foil baking liners for cupcakes. This Peter Rabbit-themed party had a light blue and light green color scheme. So we decided to use pastel blue with white polka dots baking cups from Paper Eskimo. The cups have a slightly smaller diameter than foil baking liners. I had thought this would mean that they would not have to bake as long as usual. But it turns out they took the same amount of time as a typical cupcake liner. They are more grease-proof than typical pleated paper liners.
The recipe below makes 24 cupcakes, but if you only want to make a dozen, simply halve each ingredient. I use my Wilton mega standard size cupcake pan with 24 wells, but their smaller cupcake pan with 12 wells is made with the same nonstick finish that makes cleaning up drips a breeze.
Taste Testing the Carrot Ginger Cupcakes
Even though I love ginger, I did not want it to be too overpowering in the cupcakes. So I made a mini-batch of a half dozen cupcakes. I had intended to put only one drop of ginger in the batter but accidentally put in two drops. I was worried that the cupcakes would end up too spicy. But as I took them out of the oven, the wonderful aroma of spice cake filled my kitchen. To get an objective opinion, I brought a cupcake without icing over to my neighbor. She told me that she does not really like carrot cake, but was willing to try it out. She declared the recipe a winner after just one bite! I pronounced her a carrot cake convert.
The overall flavor profile reminds me of pumpkin bread since that also usually is made with cinnamon and nutmeg. But the texture is lighter and fluffier than that of pumpkin bread. I can definitely see making these in the fall as an alternative to pumpkin when everyone is at the point where they have reached their “pumpkin spice” limit for the season.
Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting vs. Buttercream
Emboldened by the success of this carrot ginger cupcake recipe, I decided to also use a bit of the ginger essential oil in the frosting. My original plan was to make cream cheese icing since that is what is traditionally used on carrot cake. I am not a fan of cream cheese. But I know that many other people prefer cream cheese frosting to buttercream.
The weather forecast for the day of the birthday party was for temperatures in the mid-80s and humidity. I live 45 minutes from the venue. My concern was between the length of the car ride plus the fact that the cupcakes would be sitting out on the sweets table for several hours, albeit in air conditioning, that the cream cheese would go bad. From what I have researched, cream cheese frosting can only be out of the refrigerator for a maximum of two hours. Longer than that, and there would be a risk of food poisoning. Hmm, not a chance I was willing to take!
So buttercream frosting it is. I always use the Wilton buttercream recipe. It uses equal parts butter and shortening, creating a stabilized frosting that may be stored at room temperature. During warmer months, it definitely needs to be in air conditioning. This is especially important if you are piping the frosting into any type of design. Otherwise, if it gets too warm, the frosting will get too soft and lose its definition.
I used Land O Lakes Extra Creamy Salted Butter in this ginger buttercream. Ordinarily, I would use the Land O Lakes Extra Creamy Unsalted Butter, but the grocery store only had the salted version. This butter is tricky to find, as only certain stores carry it. If you click on these links, you can search to see if any stores in your area carry it.
I lucked out and came across a half-price sale last week, so I stocked up and put the extra boxes in the freezer. This butter definitely gives your baked goods a better flavor. Since it is so smooth, it makes an excellent buttercream frosting.
Buttercream frosting can be kept at room temperature for up to two days. Therefore, it is a better bet when you have limited space in the fridge. It is also good for when you will be displaying the cupcakes for several hours at room temperature.
If you are not using a piping bag to decorate the cupcakes, you can halve the recipe for the ginger buttercream frosting. Just apply a layer of frosting with an offset spatula or butter knife.
How to Decorate a Cupcake
Doing a fancy swirl on top of a cupcake is much easier than it looks. My two “go-to” tips for cupcakes are the Wilton 1M or 2D piping tips. You can get them both in this set. Snip off about an inch from the point of a piping bag and insert the piping tip. Fill the piping bag with the prepared frosting. I like the WeBake 16 inch disposable bags since they have a textured surface that makes them easier to grip. Make sure to leave at least two inches of room at the top so you can twist the bag shut.
Use your dominant hand to hold the twisted end of the piping bag shut and gently squeeze the frosting. Use your non-dominant hand to “steer” the piping tip. One method is to start at the outer edge of the cupcake. Then work your way towards the center in a spiral. When you get to the center, build up the frosting to a peak, then release the pressure. Or, you can start in the center of the cupcake and work in a spiral to the outer edge. This creates a rose design, without a peak in the center.
For more information about how to decorate cupcakes, watch the video below.
Transporting the Carrot Ginger Cupcakes
I frosted the carrot ginger cupcakes the night before the party and kept them in my air-conditioned dining room overnight. They survived the air-conditioned car ride without a problem in my Wilton cupcake carrier. Unfortunately, Wilton no longer makes the one I have.
What makes transporting baked goods even easier is the ingenious Stupid Car Tray. Yes, that is really the name of this nifty device that levels out the seats in your car. It is a plastic tray with two feet on one end. It hooks into a seatbelt to attach it to the seat. Or you can buy a separate anchor that pushes into the crevice of the seat. (If you use my coupon code: TBM886 at checkout, you will get 16% off!)
I have two Stupid Car Trays: one for the front passenger seat and one for the back seat. I bought one anchor just to see the difference. The anchor is attached to a buckle, so you can easily detach the tray from the seat when not in use. If you don’t have the anchor, you need to first latch the seatbelt shut. Then wrap the shortest strap from the back of the tray around the seatbelt.
The tray comes with velcro straps that wrap around your cake carrier to hold it securely in place on the tray. The carrier did not budge at all during the 45-minute drive on the expressway full of potholes, and up steep hills. I highly recommend this device for anyone who transports food in their vehicle.
Royal Icing Carrots
Since I was also bringing my lemon chamomile cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing to the party, I wanted a way for guests to tell the difference between the flavors. I picked up tiny royal icing carrots from a local cake decorating store, The Chocolate Duck. I put one into the buttercream on each of the carrot ginger cupcakes.
These carrot ginger cupcakes with ginger buttercream were part of the Sweets Table at the Peter Rabbit-themed birthday party. The table also featured lemon chamomile cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, and a variety of other garden-themed treats. It was an adorable display for an adorable little boy!
Let me know in the comments below if you have used ginger essential oil in baking.
Carrot Ginger Cupcakes with Ginger Buttercream Frosting
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
- Shredder attachment or grater
- Standard cupcake pan
- Cupcake baking liners or baking cups
- Cupcake batter scoop (optional)
- Rubber spatula (optional)
- Baking thermometer or toothpicks
- 3 cups grated carrots 48-60 baby carrots or 6-8 full-sized carrots
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups canola oil
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 8 drops ginger essential oil or 1-2 teaspoons ground ginger
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup of butter)
- 1 cup solid shortening
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or clear imitation vanilla extract
- 8 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 1-2 drops ginger essential oil or ½ to 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
Carrot Ginger Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a standard-sized muffin/cupcake pan with 24 paper or foil baking liners.
- Line a bowl with a paper towel. Using a grater or shredder attachment for a stand mixer on speed 4, use the medium shredder blade to grate the carrots into the bowl to make 3 cups. Gather the shredded carrots into the paper towel. Squeeze out and discard the excess liquid.3 cups grated carrots
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, light brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. (If you are using ground ginger instead of ginger essential oil, whisk it in now.)2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Attach the beater blade to the stand mixer. Add the canola oil to the dry ingredients and mix at a low speed just until the oil is incorporated into the dry ingredients.1 ½ cups canola oil
- Add the eggs one at a time and mix on speed 3 for about 30 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.4 large eggs
- Add the vanilla extract, milk, and ginger essential oil (If you are not using ground ginger) and mix at slowest speed, working up to speed 3 until the milk is evenly incorporated.1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, ¼ cup milk, 8 drops ginger essential oil
- Add 3 cups of shredded carrots into the batter, and mix at a medium speed to about 15 seconds until the carrots are evenly mixed.
- Using a medium batter scoop, fill each baking liner ⅔ full with batter. Tap the pan on the counter to eliminate bubbles.
- Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 20 minutes. Use a baking thermometer or toothpick inserted in the center to test for doneness. If the batter still looks wet, continue baking in 1 minutes increments.
- Let cool in the pan until the cupcakes can be handled safely. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Cream together the butter and shortening on medium speed for about 30 seconds using a stand mixer or electric mixer and a large mixing bowl.2 sticks unsalted butter, 1 cup solid shortening
- Add in the vanilla extract and ginger essential oil or ground ginger and mix at medium speed until incorporated.2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 1-2 drops ginger essential oil
- Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat at the slowest speed for a few seconds, then increase to medium speed until the sugar is incorporated. Repeat this with the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition.8 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
- Add the milk at the slowest speed, and then work up to medium speed until the milk is evenly mixed in. Continue beating at medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy.4 tablespoons milk
- If the frosting is too stiff, add it 1 Tablespoon of milk. If the frosting is too thin, add in 1 Tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time until it reaches the desired consisteancy.
- If the frosting is too sweet, add a pinch of salt. and mix in at medium speed for 15 seconds.
- Put a Wilton decorating tip 1M or 2D into a pastry bag. (If using a disposable bag, cut off about ½ an inch off the bag. The opening should be big enough for the open part of the metal tip to be exposed.) Stand the bag into a tall glass and turn down the opening to make a cuff. Use a spatula or large spoon to put the frosting into the bag. Leave at least 2 inches at the top of the bag so that you can twist it shut.
- Hold the tip at a 90°degree angle to the surface of a cooled cupcake. Starting at the outer edge of the cupcake, apply pressure to the bag and move the tip in a spiral, working towards the center of the cupcake. Build up the frosting in the center to the desired height, then release the pressure.