A colleague of mine went above and beyond helping me with a few things at work recently, so I asked her what her favorite ingredients in baking are. Since the answer was carrots and cinnamon, I made these carrot cake mini muffins with ginger cream cheese frosting for her as a thank you. The muffins themselves are spiced and moist, and the tangy cream cheese frosting pushes them over the edge – let’s just say the batch I brought into the office didn’t last long!
Thanks to the original recipe from BBC Good Food (how I love that site), I learned in this process that “mixed spice” is a readily available ingredient in the UK. I had no idea what it was, so I had to find a separate recipe for how to make it myself. Kind of similar to pumpkin spice, as it turns out! I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, so I used what I had and it still turned out delicious. There’s a lesson there – don’t sweat it if you don’t have every single ingredient a recipe calls for, it usually turns out ok if you wing it or use what you do have as a substitute. The stakes are pretty low – if it doesn’t turn out well, you don’t have to eat it, and you’ve probably learned a thing or two for your next experiment.
That reminds me, actually, of an article I ran across from Nigella Lawson recently – Homecooking Can Be a Feminist Act – a great read that I highly recommend. Home cooking often doesn’t get the respect it should, but as she says, “the spontaneity of the home cook is gloriously anarchic.” It’s not highly regarded, as she pointed out, in part because it’s something that mostly women do. I often reflect on the fact that visitors to this blog probably make all kinds of assumptions about me based on the fact that I’m a woman who bakes. Those assumptions likely have little to nothing to do with who I actually am in “real life.”
What really stuck with me was this: “There was a time when denigrating cooking and insisting on how hopeless you were at it were ways of establishing distance from the role of domestic drudge. And yet I have always felt that to disparage an activity because it has been traditionally female is itself anti-feminist.” I’m a professional with a demanding full-time career, I believe in gender equality, and I love cooking and baking. Luckily for me, so do you, or you wouldn’t be here.
Yield: 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins Total Time: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
For the muffins
- 100g powdered sugar
- 100g wholemeal self-raising flour (to make your own, combine 1 cup of flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
- 100g self-raising flour (same as above, if yours is all-purpose)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp mixed spice (recipe to make your own here. I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, so I used only cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, and cloves.)
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 eggs
- 150ml vegetable oil
- 200g carrots, grated finely
For the frosting
- 100g butter, softened
- 300g cream cheese
- 100g powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- Heat oven to 350F/180C/160C fan/gas 4 and coat a 12-hole muffin tin or 24-hole mini-muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, flours, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, and orange zest. Whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients and the grated carrot. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin and bake for 20-22 minutes for full-sized muffins, 15-18 minutes for mini-muffins, or until a skewer poked in comes out clean. Cool for about 20 minutes on a wire rack before frosting.
- While the muffins are cooling, beat the butter in a standing mixer with the paddle until really soft, then beat in the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and ginger. Use a palette or butter knife to swirl the frosting on top of the muffins. Enjoy!
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