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Hi. You see those muffins up top there? The ones that actually look more like cupcakes with their gloriously creamy frosting? Yeah, those. They are healthy. Like whole wheat, low sugar, full of nutrition, clean eats, totally acceptable for breakfast healthy. They don’t look healthy. But they are. Which is the best kind of healthy.
Of course, my definition of healthy might vary drastically from yours and both of ours are probably different from the person down the street. Healthy is a totally relative term (and part of the reason why it is so full of contention all the time). For something to be considered “healthy” in my book, it has to focus more on being nutrient-dense than anything else—and that’s what these muffins are. Delicious, healthy, nutrient-dense little balls of awesome.
Your typical store-bought muffin is really just birthday cake in disguise as a breakfast food—they are packed with so much sugar, you might as well just really enjoy yourself and have a big ole slice of that triple chocolate cake that you’ve been eyeing instead of choking down a dry muffin from the bakery. These are not those muffins—in health or in dryness.
The majority of the sweetness in these muffins comes in the form of creamy, spicy, apple-tastic Musselman’s Apple Butter. They are low on the added sugar and high on the moisture thanks to the ole A.B. They are dense. Sweet. Moist. And packed full of good-for-you-ingredients like whole wheat flour, walnuts, carrots (duh), and raisins.
I love baking with apple butter because you can use it in place of most of the fat and sugar in your regular baking recipes—it’s a great time save. And I love, in particular, baking with Musselman’s Apple Butter because the only ingredients are apples, sugar and spices. No weird additives! Just like I would make it at home if I managed to actually make it to the apple orchard and pick my own apples last Fall. Which I did not. Life, man.
I am thrilled to be partnering up with Musselman’s again in 2016 (we had so much fun last year with pulled pork and donuts and pizza) to bring you a few fun ways to use apple butter in your cooking. We all know apple butter is totally dreamy slathered on a hot buttermilk biscuit (swoon!), but I love it as an ingredient in cooking and baking, too. It just adds a little somethin’ somethin’ that sends food over the top.
These muffins are wonderful on their own. They are very dense and hearty, but they are tender and moist without any need to add butter on top or dip them in your coffee. You could totally make these and skip the frosting and still be thrilled with your results.
BUT. What’s carrot cake without cream cheese frosting? Nothing. That’s what.
So that’s why I made a healthy version of cream cheese frosting. Normal cream cheese frosting in 99.9% sugar to 00.1% cream cheese. This healthier version flips the script—just a touch of honey is added to softened cream cheese to make a perfectly tangy and smooth topping for the muffins. It’s a lot more cream cheese than frosting, and it’s the perfect complement to these beauties.
I get asked all the time why I don’t post the nutrition facts with my recipes, and recipes like this are one of the main reasons (well, that and the fact that I’m not a dietician and have very limited formal nutrition training, so I have no expertise in calculating nutrition facts). I truly believe that nutrition facts—and especially calorie counts—don’t tell the full picture of food. I understand that nutrition information is important and even vital for some folks, but for me, food is about so much more to me than some numbers in black and white.
So, if you’re counting calories, I’d urge you to (a) make these in a mini muffin tin to keep portions in check and (b) really keep in mind that calories don’t always tell the full picture of nutrition. These are not light, skinny, or low calorie muffins. They are filling, nutritious, and packed with all kinds of goodies to keep that beautiful body of yours happy as can be. Proceed accordingly.
One more bit of rambling before I finally give you the recipe, these muffins are an awesome choice for the freezer! Once they are cool, before frosting them, just plop them in a freezer zip-top bag and freeze away. When you’re ready to eat one, wrap it up in a paper towel and nuke it for 30-40 seconds until warm. Yum! Enjoy.
5 from 3 reviews
Healthy cake? Yup! Packed with whole grains, low on the sugar, and totally tasty, these healthy carrot cake muffins are a great breakfast option.
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A carrot cake recipe is for sureeeee happening on the blog this year! Thanks for the motivation! :P
You can never go wrong with carrot cake! Always a crowd pleaser. :)
Just wanted to say I love your “rambling” and enjoy all of the words you post! lol seriously though, I love the insight you give and your perspective on healthy foods and it just makes it more exciting and makes me want to try it! So keep on rambling because I’ll keep reading away :) I also love this recipe and would love to try it. Thanks so much!
Thank you so much, Julie! That means a lot to me. (Although, I totally get that people just want to jump straight to the recipe—and that’s cool, too!)
Would any measurements need to be altered to omit the raisins and chopped walnuts? I want to make them for my kids! Thanks for the advice!!
No, I think it should work out just find if you just omit them both. Let me know how they turn out!
I love the looks of this! Of course, I always make frosting with a much higher butter or cream cheese to sugar ratio than most ; ). As soon as I finish this whole 30 I’ll give them a try. OH, and skip your babble to get to the recipe,no thanks!
Looks delicious! Could applesauce be subbed for the apple butter?
It could, but the resulting muffin won’t be as sweet. If you want to up the sweetness, then just add a little more honey, maple syrup, or sugar. Maybe 1/4 cup?
These muffins are healthy? What? They look lie glorious cupcakes! I love the idea of using apple butter to sweeten them up! I need these bad boys for breakfast:)
I love healthy food in disguise! :)
yummy! These look relish! Totally qualify as healthy in my book :) Pinning and will be making soon!
These were delicious! I didn’t “frost” them, and we used them for breakfast or snacks. I must have made them smaller-I think they made 18-20. This recipe is a definite keeper!!
I’m not sure one must be a nutritionist to add calories of the ingredients, divide them by portion number and include them as a service to busy readers. That would be a welcome indication of honesty and transparency — because anyone can bake and photograph an appealing food and throw in multiple claims that it is “healthy.”
I believe I do a pretty good job of honesty and transparency in all of my posts, but if you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that!
If you stick around a while, you’ll come to learn that I’m pretty good at admitting to my own weaknesses, and one that I regularly own up to is not being a trained dietician—I’m just a girl sharing my personal journey toward a healthier diet. As I mentioned in the post, there are multiple reasons why I do not include calorie counts for my recipes, and me not having adequate nutrition training is just one of those reasons. It has nothing to do with not wanting to serve my readers. I love my readers, and if I felt like adding nutrition info to my recipes would be beneficial to them, I would do it in a heartbeat. But, honestly, I don’t feel that way.
Beyond that, I don’t feel comfortable with the limited tools, resources, and education I have to provide scientific claims on my recipes (like those included in nutrition facts). I do feel comfortable saying that, without a doubt, these muffins fit within my own personal definition of healthy. Calling something “healthy” is objective. Nutrition facts are not.
In the mean time, there are plenty of great online calculators that you can use to generate your own calorie counts quickly and easily. And you can use them to make sure the counts are more accurate because you can use the exact brands/types of ingredients you use (a variable I cannot account for if I provided calorie counts). Here is the one I most often recommend, because it’s literally just cut and paste, easy peasy: http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php Hope this helps!
These look so good! Adding them to my food prep this weekend for breakfasts next week. And can I just say that I love your attitude toward food, especially your thoughts on “healthy” & the value of nutrition facts on recipes. I am a dietitian & I keep coming back to your recipes because they feature a variety of real foods that look delicious. Food as it should be. Keep up the awesome work!
My goodness..As someone who has lost 145 pounds the best advice I can give to someone is own up to your own personal responsibility when it comes to figuring out the nutritional value of what you are making if it is that important to you. I don’t expect any blogger to figure anything out for me and neither should anyone else. The empowerment of doing it yourself will benefit you in the future.
With that being said, I thank you so much for this recipe that totally fits into my healthy lifestyle. My husband takes a 2 hour train ride to work each morning that has us up at 5 am and him out the door by 6:30. As you can imagine, he is starving by the time his work day begins. It’s up to me to send him off with a snack that will keep him satisfied until lunch time. I can tell you first hand these do just that.
Baked these super moist and tasty muffins up and he is one happy guy. I left the frosting off simply because it’s easier to pack one up with his lunch and he doesn’t have to worry about making a mess. We’re Americans over in The Netherlands and they don’t have apple butter over here so I used applesauce in place without any issues what so ever.
Loved everything about these and will be using them in my rotation of muffins I bake for my husband. Thank you for taking the time to develop these recipes that people like myself search for and feel good about feeding their family!
I totally agree with your advice! Take your health into your own hands (in even the smallest way) is the step to ultimate health and happiness! And I’m so glad you and your husband like the muffins. :)
I love these !! Can’t wait to make this for my family!!
Thank for sharing!!
I´m from Czech Republic and “Apple Butter” isn´t available here. May I know which substitute I could use instead of Apple Butter? Thank you in advance for your response.
I wouldn’t recommend this recipe.
I’m excellent baker and I did follow the recipe. However, muffins come out very hard, dry outside and wet and uncooked inside ( I baked 18 min).
Mine came out terrific ~beautiful. Used Applesauce b/c here in France we don’t easily find Apple Butter either. I am more dreaming of a healthier lifestyle than actually following through at the moment….but I did make these and am hoping i’ll make better decisions starting… now! :D
That looks great!! I’ll try to make them for my daughter for school snack. By the way, how did you make the icing??
It’s a cream cheese frosting! Instructions and ingredients are in the muffin recipe. :)
I want to make full sized carrot cake muffins that taste like moist carrot cake. Would this be the best receipe, or one of your other carrot recipes like classic, ultimate, or pound cake. BTW, I made your apple pie pie oatmeal cookies and they were great!
I would try these – I love this recipe!
What a great way to serve carrot cake – as a muffin! I love it.
I made these for a 2 yr old’s birthday last year. His mom wanted something amazingly yummy, but also, conceivably healthy.
After he had eaten 3, he still wanted more. She saved a couple for the rest of the week, and said he could request them again next year.
Somehow, he remembered. And guess what I’m making again this week? These cupcakes for his 3rd birthday!!!
These look terrific. – all I need is the Musselman’s Apple Butter. The tip about not over mixing is helpful.
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