For the cupcakes:
175g light soft brown sugar
100g wholemeal self-raising flour
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp mixed spice
zest 1 orange
2 large free-range eggs
150ml sunflower oil
240g carrots (approximately 2 large carrots)
For the fresh orange buttercream:
250g slightly salted butter
500g icing sugar
zest 1 orange
2tbsp orange juice
1–2 drops of orange extract (optional)
A handful of freshly chopped walnuts or pecans
Start by preheating your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with large cupcake cases.
Grate your carrots using a large hole grater (I have allowed for the ends to be disposed of rather than run the risk of grated finger being added to the recipe – I’ve been there. It wasn’t fun). Wrap the grated carrot tightly in some food-grade muslin (available here) and squeeze out as much of the excess moisture as you can.
In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine your dry ingredients (sugar, flours, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest) and mix thoroughly.
Whisk your eggs and then add these, the oil and the grated carrot to your dry ingredients, mixing by hand until thoroughly combined.
Divide the mixture between your cases and bake at the top of the oven for 22-27 minutes (until the mixture stops ‘singing’).
Cool on a wire rack before icing.
While your cakes are cooling, make your buttercream. Begin by creaming your butter until pale and smooth. This may take a while, but the longer you leave it, the better.
Add in the icing sugar, a little at a time, ensuring each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next – the orange juice can be added at this point if the mixture is too stiff to work with.
Finally, add the orange zest and mix through thoroughly.
When your cakes are fully cooled, use a piping bag with a closed star tip to pipe a swirl of buttercream onto each cupcake and then decorate with a sprinkle of freshly chopped nuts (either pecans or walnuts).