Confetti Carrot Cake Muffins or Tea Bread

PHOTO BY KATIE NOBLE / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

I love muffin and tea bread recipes because they are almost always quick to mix and can be enjoyed as is or dressed up with a drizzle of glaze or a swirl of frosting. This confetti carrot cake is loaded with veggies: sweet potatoes, zucchini and carrots. The blend of spices in this recipe fills the kitchen with a heavenly scent. It’s also perfect for bakers who like to “go rogue” and toss this-and-that into their recipes. Feel free to add toasted nuts, dried fruit, coconut or chocolate chips if you like!

Makes 1 (8¼- by 4½-inch) loaf pan or about 14 standard size muffins / cupcakes

1 small raw sweet potato, peeled and shredded
1 small raw zucchini, shredded
1 medium or 2 small raw carrots, peeled and shredded
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup plain nonfat yogurt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F. If making muffins, line muffin tins with baking cups. If making 1 large tea bread, spray pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Shred veggies until you have 3½ cups. Place shredded vegetables in small bowl, add 2 tablespoons sugar and stir to mix. Set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place ½ cup sugar and softened butter in mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed, scrape bowl well with a rubber spatula and mix again to blend.

Add eggs 1 at a time, then scrape bowl with rubber spatula and blend again. Add remaining ½ cup sugar and all dry ingredients, then mix until combined. Add lemon juice and yogurt and mix again.

Place a colander in the sink. Place shredded veggies in the colander, lay a paper towel on top and press firmly to drain out as much liquid as possible. Add drained vegetables to mixing bowl and stir into batter with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape into prepared pan with a rubber spatula or use an ice cream scoop for muffins.

Bake until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean or the center of the muffins/tea bread springs back to the touch. Muffins bake for 18–20 minutes; tea bread bakes for 35–45 minutes. Cool on a rack, then remove from pans; be sure the muffins are fully cool before frosting, if you choose to.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING, optional

All it takes to turn these muffins to cupcakes is a swirl of frosting. I recommend using a pastry bag and piping the frosting onto the muffins; using an offset spatula can be tricky because the thick frosting sometimes pulls away from the top of the muffin instead of adhering easily.

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon juice
pinch salt

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add softened butter and scrape the bowl down. Add sugar, mix to combine, then add vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Mix 1 more time and scrape into a piping bag to frost cooled cupcakes.

Karen Collins is a self-taught pastry chef and owner of Bisousweet Confections, a wholesale bakery located in Shirley, MA. She also co-founded Nashoba Brook Bakery. Karen has always loved to write and has a blog called As the Bread Burns where she discusses baking, business-ing, parenting and life. When she's not baking or writing, Karen spends her time parenting her three children and three dogs, cycling, running, skiing, volunteering and vacuuming.