Making sweet cupcakes using a vegetable may sound strange, but the result is really a kindred spirit to carrot cake. The batter for these zucchini cupcakes is mixed by hand with cinnamon and nutmeg, and then grated zucchini is folded in; cake flour gives the cupcakes a light texture and fine crumb. The frosting is a riff on cream cheese frosting but uses a buttercream base with some yogurt mixed in for tang. And toasted pecans sprinkled on top offer crunch and unexpected flavor.
What to buy: For this recipe, use bleached cake flour such as Softasilk, for a tender cupcake that will rise high and evenly. Do not use unbleached cake flour, which yields denser results.
- 1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 (12-well) muffin pans with paper liners.
- 2Place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
- 3Combine the eggs, sugars, oil, and vanilla in a second large bowl and whisk until the eggs are broken up and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the zucchini until evenly mixed.
- 4Fill the muffin wells about three-quarters of the way. Place the muffin pans side by side in the oven and bake for 11 minutes. Rotate the pans front to back and side to side and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 11 minutes more.
- 5Place the pans on wire racks and let them cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool completely on the racks before frosting.
For the buttercream frosting and nut topping:
- 1Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a paddle attachment and beat on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- 2Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is light in color, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
- 3Return the mixer to medium-high speed and add the vanilla and salt. Add the yogurt 1/3 cup at a time until all of it has been added, then continue mixing until the frosting is evenly combined and light in texture, about 3 minutes. (It’s very important that the yogurt is at room temperature when you begin, or the frosting will seize and form clumps.)
- 4Frost the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle them with the nuts. If you don’t plan to eat the cupcakes within 4 hours, refrigerate them until the frosting hardens, then tent loosely with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. To serve, let the cupcakes sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to take the chill off before serving.