Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post
These muffins have a cupcake vibe, bringing you the craveable flavors of carrot cake in a better-for-you way, with a modest amount of sugar and healthier oil instead of butter. Applesauce added to the batter provides a naturally sweet boost and makes the muffins extra moist, and their delightful little dollops of frosting are sweetened with a touch of maple syrup.
Storage Notes: The muffins will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days.
1/3 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus more for brushing the pan
1/2 cup (60 grams) pecan or walnut pieces
1 3/4 cups (222 grams) whole grain pastry flour, or 1 cup (125 grams) regular whole-wheat flour and 3/4 cup (94 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (165 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 grams) unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (220 grams) coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup (60 grams) whipped cream cheese
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Brush the wells of a muffin tin with oil. Spread the nuts on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven, about 3 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then finely chop.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce and the vanilla, then stir in the carrots. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two or three batches, mixing each addition until just combined. Stir in the nuts until just incorporated.
Scoop the batter into the muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the muffins in their tin to a wire rack to cool completely, then remove the muffins from the tin.
While the muffins are cooling, in a small bowl combine the cream cheese and maple syrup, beating until smooth. Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a small plastic bag, pushing the mixture into one corner of the bag. Snip about 1/2 inch off the corner off the bag to create a piping bag and squeeze a dollop of frosting onto each muffin.
Makes 12 servings
Per serving: Calories 247; Total Fat 12g; (Sat Fat 2g); Protein 4g; Carb 31g; Fiber 4g; Cholesterol 34mg; Sodium 204mg; Total Sugar 16g