Ok, arguably, a muffin shouldn't have frosting on it. As (again, arguably) a breakfast food, one perhaps should forgo the delicious delicious topping that everyone agrees goes naturally with carrot cake, i.e. cream cheese frosting.
I completely disagree.
I know Martha Shulman, who provided this recipe as a healthy alternative to fatty muffins in her series "Recipes for Health" in (where else?) The New York Times, is probably screaming somewhere at my abuse of her new improved healthy muffin recipe, but alas, I'm sorry Martha, this muffin needs frosting.
Of course, you are more than welcome to make the muffin as Martha suggests, frosting-less, but for those secret guilt-ridden frosting-lovers out there (which I proudly count myself among), put the frosting on in copious amounts and don't you dare feel bad about it. After all, it's a healthy muffin.
And on that note, I will say that this carrot cake recipe, muffin or otherwise, is delicious. Despite the whole wheat flour, it tastes every bit as good as a standard carrot cake recipe without the dangers of dryness or mealiness. Huzzah for carrot cake and huzzah for muffins.
Ingredients (recipe for cream cheese frosting follows)
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (Martha recommends pastry flour, I used standard whole wheat flour and did just fine)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raw brown (turbinado) sugar (or light brown sugar, which I used)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup golden raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour, or 2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the upper third of the space. Oil or butter muffin tins.
2. Sift together the whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Using a whisk or a spatula, stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Do not beat; a few lumps are fine, but make sure there is no flour at the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the raisins or pecans and the carrots.
4. Spoon into muffin cups, filling them to just below the top (about 4/5 full). Place in the oven, and bake 25 minutes until lightly browned and well risen. Cover copiously with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows).
Yield: Twelve muffins, depending on the size of the muffin tins.
Cream Cheese Frosting (come on, you know you want to)
(from the Joy of Cooking)
8 oz. cold cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Beat in a medium bowl at low speed the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until just blended.
Add the sugar 1/3 at a time, and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. Stir in ground cinnamon.
If the frosting is too stiff, beat for a few seconds longer but be careful not to overbeat.