Carrot & walnut muffins

Updated April 2016: re-baked and re-photographed

These muffins, flirting shamelessly into cupcake territory (no bad thing!), are a very moist and delicious, with subtle cinnamon tones adding a comforting spice note . Essentially they are a muffin-take on the classic carrot cake. They are also very simple to make.

I have taken a recipe given to me by Whitworths (a lovely recipe in its own right) and have adapted it somewhat by:

  • altering the sugar
  • adding ground ginger
  • using a little melted white chocolate in the topping
  • decorating with pieces of candied orange peel
  • going for a gluten-free muffin

The walnuts have a lovely depth of flavour, with just the right level of bitterness you want from a walnut, and they bake brilliantly in these muffins. The sultanas are very juicy and naturally sweet, retaining their lovely squidgyness during the bake. A far cry from dried out, chewy sultanas! If you have not yet tried the Whitworths range of dried fruit and nuts for baking, treat yourself: you won’t look back.

The topping is also excellent used to fill and decorate any cake: it makes a lovely change used with a Victoria Sandwich sponge, along with a little orange curd in the middle.

A gluten-free alternative:

These work excellently with standard plain flour, but I love the lightness of a gluten-free version. I made a second batch of these as a gluten-free version, replacing the plain flour with gluten-free plain flour. They taste easily as good and stand up proudly with their gluten-non-free cousins!

Carrot & walnut muffins: makes 12

For the muffins:

  • 90g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • the juice of 1 medium orange (the zest is used in the topping)
  • 2 medium eggs, at room temperature
  • 175g dark soft brown sugar
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 200g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 150g carrots, finely grated
  • 100g sultanas

For the topping:

  • 250g full-fat soft cream cheese
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 70g icing sugar
  • 50g melted white chocolate, cooled
  • the finely grated zest of the orange
  • 15g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • candied orange peel (see below)

(1) Preheat the oven to 160C(fan)/180C(non-fan)/gas mark 4 and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cases.

(2) Beat the eggs, brown sugar and oil together in a large bowl and add 4 tablespoons of the orange juice.

(3) Sieve the flour, baking powder and cinnamon onto the egg mixture and fold gently to incorporate evenly. Stir in the carrots, sultanas and the 85g walnuts. You will have a thick batter.

(4) Spoon into the paper cases, going to just over half full and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes until well risen. Leave to cool completely in the tins.

(5) Make the topping: beat together the topping ingredients, apart from the walnuts, until very smooth. Swirl a generous spoonful on top of the cooled muffins with the back of a teaspoon and sprinkle over the remaining walnuts. NB: you can pipe the topping on top if you prefer, in which case just pop it into the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up first.

Candied orange peel

For caramelised orange peel, slice the peel into thin strips and pop in a small pan with about 80 ml water and 100ml caster sugar. Bring slowly to the boil, allowing the sugar to dissolve without stirring. With the heat low, simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes.

These orange strips will be lovely just as they are now but you can make them more of a caramel by turning the heat up for about 10 further minutes until the sugar syrup just starts to turn golden brown and caramelise, watching it carefully.

Carefully remove the orange strips and place on greaseproof or silicone baking sheets to cool.

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