I sang Disney’s Pocahontas “Colors of the Wind” the entire time I baked these carrot cake cupcakes.
Pocahontas came out when I was 9, and my expert critical opinion was that—even if Pocahontas can canoe down rivers, talk to trees, and be besties with a raccoon—she would never be as cool as Belle, the obviously superior Disney princess. Flash forward 18 years: I still believe Belle is the superior Disney princess, still know all the words to “Colors of the Wind” (why?), and for reasons only the universe can fathom, felt unstoppably compelled to sing it aloud whist baking Loaded Carrot Cake Cupcakes.
Perhaps my song sprang from a deep-connection with nature. Perhaps Pocahontas was begging my subconscious to give her a second chance. Perhaps “Colors of the Wind” perfectly encapsulated my bright array of ingredients.
Whatever the reason, I nearly named these “Colors of the Wind Carrot Cake Cupcakes.” Then, I read that name out loud. Plus, I couldn’t betray my homegirl Belle. Loaded Carrot Cake Cupcakes it is!
Folks, these are not your mother’s carrot cake cupcakes (and if they are, your mother and I should hang out). I promised “loaded,” and these babies deliver.
I set out to make a healthier carrot cake cupcake, so I knew I’d need plenty of shredded carrots for moisture and natural sweetness, but carrots alone were not enough for the tender, flavor-packed cupcake of my dreams.
Enter crushed pineapple: a winner for extra moisture, natural sweetness, and all around deliciousness. And what’s pineapple without shredded coconut, my latest-greatest obsession ever since baking this whiz-bang banana coconut cake? Yep, we’re adding it.
Next, since this is a carrot cake cupcake after all, we definitely need toasted walnuts and some cinnamon. I omitted raisins (just wasn’t feeling it), but if those plump nuggets are gospel to your carrot cake religion, by all means follow your faith and toss them in too.
To bring these baked beauties to carrot cake perfection, I’m keeping it classic with my favorite tangy cream cheese frosting, then adding even more shredded coconut on top. If you’re craving some extra crunch, feel free to toast the coconut first, though the fantastic texture of the cake will stand on its own without this extra step.
Though Loaded Carrot Cake Cupcakes include some less-traditional ingredients, they stay true to everything you crave about carrot cake that prompts you to bake it first place: natural carrot sweetness, warm spice, and outrageous melt-in-your-mouth moisture. The pineapple enhances the cupcakes’ sweetness and moisture without taking over, and the coconut adds subtle texture.
Loaded Carrot Cake Cupcakes might not be your mother’s carrot cake, but I bet you your mother would love every tender, carrot-pineapple-coconut-lovin’-bite. A raccoon told me so. Now, go bake yourself a big batch of Loaded Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Singing is encouraged, and I hope their flavor inspires a little free spirited kitchen boogie.
Loaded Carrot Cake Cupcakes
For the Cake:
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 2 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 3 cups shredded carrots (about 2 large or 3 small-medium)
- 1 cup crushed pineapple drained
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup walnuts toasted and roughly chopped
- ¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut you will need 1 and ½ cups total if preparing coconut cream cheese frosting below
For the Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 recipe Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (toasting the coconut is optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin(s) with paper liners or lightly coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat together the egg, egg whites, brown sugar, and canola oil. Add the carrots and beat for 1 minute. Add the pineapple and ¾ shredded coconut and beat until incorporated. With a wooden spoon, stir in half of the flour mixture, just until incorporated. Stir in buttermilk. Add the remaining flour mixture, continuing to stir in by hand, just until combined. Gently fold in walnuts.
- Fill prepared tins ¾ of the way with batter. Bake 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Gently remove cupcakes from tin and let cool on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, prepare the Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting, leaving the coconut untoasted (if desired). Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes, then top with remaining ¾ shredded coconut. Serve and enjoy!
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