There are two kinds of people: the ones who love carrot cake and the ones who don’t. I’m decidedly the former, as evidenced by posting two carrot recipes in a row. To those of the latter persuasion, let me say this: sorry, not sorry.
Where last week’s carrot cake was vegan and gluten-free, this week’s muffins are quite the opposite. Made with a carrot-flecked batter and filled with a little well of sweetened cream cheese, these Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins are a delightful addition to your Easter repertoire.
If these look familiar, it’s because they are…kind of. They’re inspired by some cream cheese-filled muffins Starbucks used to have (and maybe still does) that looked cute, but didn’t taste very good. These muffins, however, look cute *and* taste great. I should know—it took eight batches to get them just right!
Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins are simple to make, but require some special assembly. Once you’ve whisked up the carrot muffin batter, put 3 tablespoons in each well of a standard muffin pan. Next, pipe some sweetened cream cheese into the center of each well of batter. It’s about a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese per muffin, but since that’s impossible to measure while piping, I have a little trick. The wells are about 3/4 full before the cream cheese, so when I pipe it in, I watch for the batter to juuuuust reach the top of the well. It’s the perfect amount every time.
These muffins bake up in just about 20 minutes, getting some lift from a 425F start, then baking to perfection at 375F. The cream cheese will rise to the upper third of the muffins and expand a bit, which is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned. If you’d like a well that goes further into your muffins, bake them at 350F for 20 minutes. You should know, though, that if you go for the lower temperature, you’ll have flatter muffins.
That said, they’re delicious both ways. There’s no wrong way to get your carrot cake on, after all.
Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins
makes 12 muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups shredded carrots, not packed (about 3 medium carrots)
1 8-ounce brick full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, or grease well. Set aside.
Make the carrot batter. In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil and water. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Whisk in dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Set aside.
Fold shredded carrots into the dry ingredients. Add liquid in two installments, stirring to combine. Batter will be thick. Let batter sit 5 minutes while you prepare the cream cheese.
In a small-medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until it’s fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar until combined. Load mixture into a piping bag, twist to close and snip off a corner.
Assemble muffins. Put 3 tablespoons of the carrot batter into each well of the prepared muffin tin. They will be about 2/3-3/4 full. Tap pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Pipe cream cheese into the center of each well until the batter reaches the top of each well (or within 1/8-inch of the top). Wet your finger and smooth down any peaks on the cream cheese to prevent burning. Tap pan 5 times on the counter again to help the cream cheese settle.
Bake muffins 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 375F for another 15-16 minutes. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in the non-cream cheese section comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.
Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or at room temperature for up to 2 days.