Cupcakes:3⁄4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1⁄2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1⁄2 cups carrots — finely shredded
1⁄2 cup walnuts — finely chopped
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon — zest only
Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.
Whisk together remaining cupcake ingredients.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid ingredients and mix until just combined. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when touched. Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, beat together the frosting ingredients until smooth and creamy. Frost cupcakes when cool. Keep refrigerated.
NOTES: Whole wheat pastry flour is flour milled from soft (lower protein) wheat, with the bran and germ still included. "Whole wheat flour," without any other qualifiers like "bread flour," is a blend of milled soft and hard wheat’s, again with the bran and germ left in. The mix of wheat’s provides a medium level of protein, as in plain old all-purpose flour. Pastry flour is suitable for cakes and pastries where tenderness is desired.
For less health food-tasting all-purpose whole wheat, try King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat, which is milled from a light-colored variety of wheat. I've used it to replace half the white flour in various recipes and it doesn't have the strong wheaty taste of regular reddish whole wheat.