Do you remember that sweet buttery aroma of special occasion dessert prep? The entire house would be filled with sweet warm fragrance and you could instantly feel festivities to come! When I make these gajar halwa cupcakes, the house instantly fills up with the sweet delicious aroma of gajar ka halwa and freshly baked cupcakes at the same! The absolute best home fragrance! These gajar halwa cupcakes are an easy mash up of the Indian dessert gajar ka halwa (a sweet carrot pudding) with a classic carrot cake, but in a portable cupcake form!
What is Gajar (Carrot) Halwa?
Literally translated to mean confectionary sweet made from carrots. It is a dessert made from:
- seasoned with cardamom, pistachios, cashews, and almonds.
It is similar to rice pudding in that it is cooked with milk and sugar. Traditionally gajar ka halwa is also seasoned with warm spices like cardamom, nutmeg and then mixed together with chopped nuts and raisins.
How do you turn Gajar Halwa into Cupcakes?
If you love gajar ka halwa, you're going to love these cupcakes! It is a classic carrot cake recipe but I mixed in all of the flavors of gajar ka halwa. So all the warm spices that you associate with halwa like: nutmeg, cardamom, cashews, pistachios.
I made a few subtle but rather meaningful substitutions to a traditional carrot cake recipe with some desi/Indian ingredients
- Switched out the traditional carrot cake seasoning of cinnamon to cardamom & nutmeg for more of a halwa flavor
- There are pistachios and cashews instead of walnuts or pecans
- Also added in finely chopped dates in place of raisins. Raisins are actually found in both carrot cake and gajar halwa but I wanted a bite of sweetness with a bit firmer and caramel-like texture.
Indian Spiced Carrot Cake Ingredients - Baked from Scratch
- All-purpose flour- For a gluten-free carrot cake, swap the flour for your favorite gluten-free flour blend
- Baking soda helps the cake to rise
- Vanilla extract gives the cake a floral sweetness
- Oil keeps the cake nice and moist, any neutral-flavored oil will work. Melted coconut oil works as well
- Sugar makes the cake moist and sweet
- Eggs give the cake structure, you can also substitute with applesauce.
- Carrots - I like use freshly grated carrots. You can use your food processor or buy pre-grated carrots from the store.
- Nuts - cashews & pistachios
- Dates - I chop up de-seeded dates. You can use raisins instead, golden raisins especially would be great in this cake
- Spices - nutmeg & cardamom, the perfect warming spices to compliment the sweet carrot flavor
Making the Carrot Cupcake Batter
- First, dry roast the nuts. I just take out a frying pan and roast the cashews and pistachios for a few minutes. Then chop them up and dust them with flour (to prevent them from sinking in the cake batter while baking)
- Then start combining all of the we ingredients: oil, sugar, eggs.
- Add in the dry ingredients: starting with the spices, vanilla and baking soda.
- Mix in the flour
- Gently fold in the grated carrots, chopped nuts, dates
- Divide batter into cupcake liners and bake.
- Frost with Pistachio dusted Cream Cheese Frosting!
Pistachio Dusted Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting
The frosting for these cupcakes is really amazing too! Can you even call it a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting?? Nope I don't think so either! So I couldn't to change that up too much. But I just added a bit of desi flavor with some cardamom powder to the cream frosting, and a touch of texture with pistachio dust. This frosting completely reminds me of shrikhand by the way! (If you're making this frosting ahead of time, make sure that everyone knows its frosting and not shrikhand, I may or may not be speaking from experience! lol)
Pistachio dust is just pistachios that are dry roasted and then ground up in a coffee grinder. By grinding the pistachios in a coffee grinder, you get really fine dust of pistachios which you can easily dust over the top of the cupcakes!
Gajar Halwa Cupcakes
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 cup oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups carrots grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup mixed nuts pistachios & cashews, chopped
- 5-6 dates pitted and chopped
Cardamon Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup butter softened
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 2½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup pistachios roasted and ground to fine dust
- In a large saute pan on medium heat, add the mixed nuts. Roast for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a paper plate to cool. Roughly chop nuts once cooled. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of flour over chopped nuts and mix to coat (this is prevent the nuts from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake)
- Preheat oven to 350°F, line muffin pan with cupcake liners, set aide.
- Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer, mix together sugar, oil and eggs on low speed until blended. Add in cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, baking soda, blend on low speed until combined.
- Add in flour and mix until combined. Add in carrots, mixed nuts and chopped dates, stir together with a spatula.
- Scoop batter into cupcake liners, fill to about ⅔ full (about 2 tablespoons). Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely before frosting.
- In a stand mixer with whisk attachment or hand mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add in vanilla extract, cardamom, salt and mix until combined. (add additional powdered sugar if frosting is too thin, add a teaspoon or 2 of milk if frosting is too thick). Frost each cupcake.
Adapted from this classic carrot cake recipe