Gluten Free Vegan Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Gluten Free Vegan Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Carrot cake tends to be a crowd pleaser. Chocolate and vanilla can be divisive, red velvet is chocolate cake for basic bitches, but carrot cake is like Switzerland. Everyone, whether you’re a health nut or a sweet-a-holic can enjoy a slice of carrot cake. And there is something about a carrot cupcake that just tastes so much better…. maybe its the size?
There is controversy regarding the addition of pineapple, raisins or nuts (I personally like all three, but I know most people have strong aversions to it), thus to keep the peace, this recipe does not include those ingredients. If you want to add them, I would suggest ¼-⅓ cup of each. Since this journey is chronological, I am sticking to a carrot cupcakes version of this recipe to ease you into baking like we did at Dolled Up. Carrot cupcakes are easier from a technique perspective, and you should practice piping icing before you level up to the stacked carrot cake.
HOT TAKE: cupcakes are OVERRATED.
(listen to this reflection in the video above!)
If you were lucky enough to have gone to the bakery, you knew we never had cupcakes available, only full size cakes. I could have easily increased our revenue if we started offering cupcakes. Not to mention, cupcakes are the one baked good that has the largest profit margins next to muffins. A week wouldn’t pass without at least one custom cupcake inquiry, yet every damn time, I would tell our team to REFUSE.
There were so many bakeries in town that made cupcakes: vegan, gluten free or vegan and gluten free. I can’t deny, many of them sucked, and that’s exactly why we didn’t make cupcakes. The ratio of icing to cake was never satisfying, they’re hard to eat, and frankly, nothing beats the aesthetic of a beautifully decorated cake. Dolled Up Desserts was supposed to make you feel special, and cakes are SPECIAL and RARE when you have allergies. Cupcakes are a dime a dozen.
However, I get why people make cupcakes. I used to be one of them.
Here’s a little secret: the first time I made a layer cake was when I had already launched Dolled Up for two months, and I had a request from someone on instagram for carrot cake. Let’s just say, I had A LOT to learn in order to make cakes a profitable and a recommendation worthy item.
My first wedding gig (sorta). I made mini cupcakes last minute for a family friend’s wedding. Lavender, raspberry, and vanilla with home made sprinkles.
Pina Colada cupcakes for a Toronto Vintage Society Tiki event hosted that summer of 2016. I tried to be creative within the limited skills I had.
Carrot cupcakes I made in 2014 before the bakery. My piping skills were TOTALLY destined for a career in cake making….
Thus, mini cupcakes were a super inexpensive way for me to make inclusive cake.
We did a lot of vegan food festivals in that first summer. My logic was, people at food festivals want to eat a lot of different foods. They are overwhelmed with options, and have a limited supply of cash. They might be intrigued by what you have to offer, but the cost and size could be too big of a commitment. So, why not make it easy and offer a mini version. Not only does it free up their cash to buy them several different options from your booth, but from a profit margin standpoint, our mini cupcakes could be sold at $2.50 per cupcake. 4 mini cupcakes make a regular cupcake, which we could sell for $5 max. The math checked out.
That first summer of operating, mini cupcakes were always on the menu. My second pop up event, Open Streets Hamilton, was a pivotal event for the business that involved cupcakes. To help garner attention in a sea of booths on a hot day, I had made my 5×5 foot tent into a giant pink cupcake topper. I needed to communicate that this booth had baked goods from a distance, and a tent with a giant pink swirl of icing, cream sprinkles and a cherry on top made everyone stop and stare.
Kids would pull at their parents hands for cupcakes when they saw the tent, and I came prepared. Cupcakes that gave the kids the satisfaction of having icing on a cake that fit in their hands (and in their little mouths). Cupcakes that parents wouldn’t worry about sugar content since the cupcake was small, and wouldn’t bat an eye about price because it was a toonie. The cupcake tent was the perfect marketing trick to stand out, and it made appearances at every festival moving forward.
Making of the red cherry on top: spray paint and styrofoam. A green wire from Home Depot was the stem, which went through the cherry (top and bottom), and was woven into the icing layers to hold it in place.
The unraveled cupcake icing, lovingly nicknamed the “intestine”. It was a long tube of pink jersey fabric stuffed with basic polyester stuffing.
Making of the cream sprinkles: spray paint and styrofoam. We kept it on the tent with duct tape.
I actually met my first employee, Amanda, thanks to cupcakes at Open Streets.
Her kids (then 2 and 4 years old) pulled her hand to get cupcakes (as intended) but she was vegan. Amanda wouldn’t feed her kids cupcakes that were not vegan. Lucky for Claire and Jim (her kids), the cupcakes were vegan. When she found out they were also gluten free, she had to have one as well, since she was also celiac. She took the cupcake, left, and then came back quickly after to buy more. Amanda said they were the best gluten free cupcakes she had ever had, and that was a big compliment because she was an avid baker herself. We stayed in touch, and it was only a short 2 months later that I hired her to help me start growing Dolled Up.
So, as much as I think cupcakes are overrated, they’ve played a crucial role in building the brand you know today.
The cupcake base in the early days was always approachable: vanilla, lemon, chocolate, red velvet and carrot. My red velvet back then was a big work in progress (let’s just say, the red velvet cake we sold in the bakery was 100x better than the cupcakes I sold in our first year), but the other cupcake bases were decent. Vanilla, chocolate and lemon went through a couple facelifts over the years, but carrot, like banana, was one of those recipes I got right the first time and never changed.
Moist, spicy, and paired with toasted coconut, caramel and cream cheese icing. Our carrot cake was one of the most popular cakes at the bakery. I remember one autumn we removed carrot cake from the menu since our pumpkin spice cake was relatively similar and we wanted to encourage customers to try something new. But customers that were die hard carrot cake lovers were very upset. We learned, and never took it off the menu from that point forward.
I never expected this little home craft to become an iconic and well recongized part of my brand at festivals and events. The intestine still lives in my moms basement to this day. The sprinkles and cherry however got beat up over the 6 years of use.
Everyone, whether you’re a health nut or a sweet-a-holic can enjoy a slice of carrot cake.
Carrot cake tends to be a crowd pleaser. Chocolate and vanilla can be divisive, red velvet is chocolate cake for basic bitches, but carrot cake is like Switzerland. Everyone, whether you’re a health nut or a sweet-a-holic can enjoy a slice of carrot cake. There is controversy regarding the addition of pineapple, raisins or nuts (I personally like all three, but I know most people have strong aversions to it), thus to keep the peace, this recipe does not include those ingredients. If you want to add them, I would suggest ¼-⅓ cup of each.
Since this journey is chronological, I am sticking to a cupcake version of this recipe to ease you into baking like we did at Dolled Up. Cupcakes are easier from a technique perspective, and you should practice piping icing before you level up to the stacked carrot cake.
The penultimate classic, I present to you our carrot cupcake.
Until next time,