Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting & Walnut Praline

Adapted via Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
♦ 2 cups all purpose flour
♦ 2 tsp baking soda
♦ 1 tsp salt
♦ 2 tsp ground cinnamon
♦ 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
♦ 1 tsp ground ginger
♦ 2 cups sugar
♦ 1 1/4 cups canola oil
♦ 4 large eggs
♦ 3 cups grated peeled carrots

For the Frosting:
♦ Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
♦ 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
♦ 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
♦ 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the Walnut Praline:
♦ 1 cup sugar
♦ 1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
♦ cinnamon

Prepare the praline: Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a non-stick mat or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the cinnamon. Let cool completely.

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F.Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots – divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Make the frosting: In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes (can also use a hand mixer – will take a little longer). Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

Frost the cupcakes, and garnish with a piece of the walnut praline – store chilled until ready to serve.

To read more about these cupcakes and my musical pairing, click HERE.

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