I’ve always been partial to carrots. They are a happy vegetable, they like getting along with others.
Carrots’ inherent sweetness means we can cut down on sugar if using them in a sweet setting. Since they have plenty of fiber and bulk, they can assist in thickening, as with many soups. They are an ideal addition in curries and dishes with complex sweet/savory components.
Carrot cake is a favorite of many, but it’s notoriously high fat content can be a major deterrent. We know carrots are rich in fiber, beta carotene, Vitamins A, K and C, as well as potassium, iron and other minerals. So why ruin a good thing?
Here’s a solution with built-in advantages. To emphasize their healthy attributes, our miniature carrot cakes cut back considerably on the oil factor when we substitute yogurt instead. Friendly chai spices of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon jump in and extend an undercurrent of warm richness.
Although these muffins require nothing more, in the spirit of carrot cake, we have replaced the traditional cream cheese-butter based frosting with a lighter version. Instead, Neufchatel cheese stands in—the tasty low-fat cream cheese alternative—whipped until light with zingy marmalade, since orange is another natural carrot companion.
Enjoy these sweet cakes anytime of the day: warm from the oven, slathered with Marmalade Cream, or cooled and finished with a decorative swirl on top. Good luck keeping these from the Easter bunny!
Carrot Chai Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-½ teaspoon chai spice, or ½ teaspoon each cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt, regular or low-fat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup cream cheese, or low-fat Neuchatel cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons marmalade
- Preheat oven to 375°. Line 12 cup muffin pan with liners.
- In a large bowl, thoroughly combine flour through salt and whisk to remove any lumps. Add the raisins and toss to coat with flour.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg briefly, then incorporate the oil. Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla; when combined, stir in the finely grated carrots.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gently blend in the egg-carrot mixture. Don’t overmix.
- Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a pick inserted comes out clean. Cool on rack 5-10 minutes and remove from pan.
- For the Marmalade Cream: With a fork, beat the cream cheese to lighten. Stir in the marmalade to taste. Cover and chill until needed. Swirl a dollop on top of cooled muffins or serve it separately. Yield: 12 muffins