I’m ready for spring, are you? I live in the high desert right on the eastern side of the Sierras which means unpredictable weather, sometimes in the form of snow throughout springtime. Great for skiing but terrible for those of us that just want winter to be over already. We woke up this morning to bright sunshine on a blanket of snow (with more of the cold stuff to come in the forecast later today), so I’m just willing it to be spring in my heart with these springy carrot cupcakes.
I switched up my usual carrot cupcake recipe with the addition of crème fraîche in both the batter and frosting and I subbed the usual mixed spices for a singular note of bright cardamom. I love a carrot cake with a bit of citrus, so there’s some orange zest hidden in there as well which is a perfect match with the cardamom. The results are a moist and lightly spiced cupcake with hints of orange and vanilla in the batter iced generously with vanilla-bean flecked crème fraîche frosting in place of the traditional cream cheese. I rolled the edges of the iced cupcakes in some toasted coconut and crushed walnuts (both of which would be excellent additions in the batter) for some naturally festive flair.
You can usually find crème fraîche near the specialty cheeses in many grocery stores (I find it near the mascarpone cheese). I used Vermont Creamery brand, their Madagascar Vanilla Bean is a particular favorite.If you can’t find the vanilla bean crème fraîche called for in the frosting, substitute plain crème fraîche and add the seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla pod. If you can’t find crème fraîche, you can substitute it 1:1 with sour cream.
Cardamom comes as a whole spice in little pods that need to be cracked open to extract the seeds. The seeds should be ground in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. You can also find it pre-ground in the spice aisle. If you aren’t sure that you like cardamom, it’s a prominent spice in chai tea (it’s the spice that I think makes chai stand out).
This recipe makes exactly 12 cupcakes, you can easily double the recipe to make more.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour (6.6oz/186g)
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup sugar (5.8oz/165g)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- ½ cup crème fraîche (2oz/57g)
- ¼ cup neutral oil (I used canola)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 cup grated carrots (4oz/113g)
- Orange-Vanilla Crème Fraîche Frosting
- ½ cup soft unsalted butter (4oz/113g)
- 3 cups confectioners sugar (
- ½ cup vanilla bean crème fraîche (I use Vermont Creamery brand) (4oz/113g)
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or butter or spray with baking spray).
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. In a separate bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, crème fraîche, oil, vanilla, and orange zest together until combined. Fold in the carrots. Fold the wet mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups and bake in the preheated oven for 23-25 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back to the touch. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.
- To make the frosting, beat the butter until creamy. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add half of the crème fraîche along with another cup of the powdered sugar and beat for an additional minute. Repeat with the remaining crème fraîche and powdered sugar, along with the orange zest and salt. Beat the mixture for 3 minutes or until the frosting is smooth. If the frosting appears separated, continue to beat until smooth. Pipe or spread the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Decorate with toasted coconut, chopped nuts, or sprinkles if you like.