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I wanted to make 'stuffed' carrot cake muffins. I checked a few recipes, like (carrot cake muffins with cream cheese filling), (stuffed carrot cake muffins) or (carrot cheesecake muffins), just to follow methodology of the filling part, as I have done tons of carrot cakes before, and also carrot cake muffins. My guess was:

  • Making a regular carrot cake muffin dough (whichever your fav recipe), pour in baking moulds until half (or whatever preference), pour filling, pour the rest (to close/complete the muffin shape for when it bakes).

Then I noticed the 'filling' part, as I did not consider it would be different to the classic frosting in a carrot cake (hence why I thought and used the 'stuffed' word in the beginning of my question). I've seen there are differences between filling and frosting, and here. I always filled and topped my carrot cakes (and other cakes, chocolate cake with choco frosting unless I did a ganache, Red Velvet, etc) with frosting. Never did I consider that they should be made different (if they should at all).

The ingredients of a cream cheese filling seem different than cream cheese frosting (recipe example). More specifically, I've noticed that butter is not present. Just cheese and sugar (+vanilla).

So my question: is there any difference in BAKING filled muffins with filling (as all recipes I've seen) and baking filled muffins with frosting. Does adding butter to make it from filling to frosting, change anything in terms of baking it? In the SA.SE answer to the question, it is stated:

You can therefore have a filling made of frosting, but you cannot have a frosting made of filling.

But I'm assuming it's for already baked goods. What about for to-be-baked goods?

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    I am confused about your question. Are you asking if you can bake a piece of the mass intended for filling or frosting inside a muffin, as opposed to injecting it into the muffin after baking, or are you asking what is the language difference between the terms "filling" and "frosting"?
    – rumtscho
    Aug 31 at 11:00
  • My bad, I will try to edit the question for a better understanding. I'm asking if is there any difference in BAKING filled muffins with filling (as all recipes I've seen) and baking filled muffins with frosting. And what can the additiona ingredient in frosting (butter) affect in the baking with filled frosting @rumtscho
    – M.K
    Aug 31 at 11:19
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    Yes, butter will make the filling melt and possibly "dissolve" into the batter, rather than staying firm as a filling. It will also not set up as firmly once its fully baked.
    – Esther
    Aug 31 at 14:08

3 Answers 3

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Anything meant to be applied cold or slightly warm to a cooled cake will melt in baking without special precautions, especially if it contains butter. But baked Alaska works so it's certainly possible to bake a sponge around a cold filling.

Freezing a lump of your buttercream or cream cheese frosting then surrounding it in cake mix before baking might be worth a try.

In terms of wording, "filling" is necessarily broader - you can fill with jam for example, but filling is inside while frosting or icing can go on top.

Cream cheese frosting for carrot cake may or may not include butter. I wouldn't use butter. It may or may not be used inside as well/instead of on top. There's no reason for including butter in one place and not the other, and definitely no reason to make 2 similar batches for one cake

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  • It makes sense, but i don't understand why these recipes (and end result pictures) seem to be okay... About the freezing, I have seen (and made) coulant recipes where you freeze them (at least for a bit). But it makes sense as everything is the same dough/mass. Here, the frozen filling can have an impact on the muffin right? I'll make an experiment then! Thanks!
    – M.K
    Sep 1 at 7:06
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    The fact that they call it a "cheesecake filling" at the first link makes a difference, as cheesecake can be baked and doesn't usually contain butter. Then they add flour to thicken it; the flour probably needs to be cooked so as not to taste raw, and starting with it frozen it wouldn't get cooked.
    – Chris H
    Sep 1 at 7:51
  • I ended up making 2 batches just to check the difference. Good results for filling, not the desired one for the frosting. I posted it below
    – M.K
    Sep 26 at 16:39
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The filling-frosting language conundrum

First, you seem to be confused about the meaning of the terms "filling" and "frosting". They are both structural terms - just like the name "roof" means a specific part of a house, no matter if made out of tile, corrugated tin, or thatch, "frosting" and "filling" are both specific parts of a cake, no matter what they are made out of. If somebody writes up a recipe for "filling", then they actually mean a recipe for "a mass that is suitable for filling cakes". In reality, you can always use a mass-meant-for-filling to frost a cake, and mass-meant-for-frosting to fill a cake*.

It is indeed quite common for carrot cakes in the US to be filled and/or frosted with a mass based on cream cheese. This doesn't mean that it is universal that the mass for filled cakes will be different from the mass of frosted cakes. The recipe differences you found may be due to tradition, to selection bias, or to a preference for thicker layers of filling. So the question of using "filling" or "frosting" is not really meaningful.

Baking a "filling" or "frosting" mass inside a muffin

Now, to your actual question. You are planning to put either a mixture of cream cheese, sugar and butter, or only a mixture of cream cheese and sugar, into muffin batter, then bake.

You will be facing two problems: 1) your mass mixing with the batter, and 2) your mass melting in the oven and then re-solidifying.

My intuition was that any creamy dairy-based filling will invariably run into the second problem, and so the original version of my answer suggested to not do it at all. After comments mentioning that it works in practice, I will revide: if you try the "pack it inside before baking" route, do use a mass which is both dense, and unlikely to get unpleasant after melting. For both reasons, you'll be better off if you don't include any butter, and stay as close as possible to pure cream cheese - or even use a cheese which won't melt, such as ricotta or quark, if you think you'll enjoy the different flavor.

If you want to be less restricted in your choices and be able to use any mass intended as frosting or filling, you can achieve this by baking cupcakes first and then piping the filling from outside afterwards. You don't even have to be especially good at piping, just use a long tip and press until it is full, but not overfilled.

Chris H's idea of freezing the core first is intriguing. It will likely require very precise time and temperature control and a lot of well-guided experimental tweaking to both the batter and filling, until it starts working. You don't want your filling to ever melt, and at the same time, you want all the batter in contact with it to bake through; that's a tall order.


* You may have to use a very thin layer if you are filling with something without structural strength, but it will still be a filling. And due to the way languages work, people may look at you strange if you tell them that you frosted your cake with a jam, and tell you that you didn't frost it, but glazed it. But these complexities are not all that relevant for the rest of the answer.

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    cream cheese fillings inside liquid batter do indeed work, since both are viscous enough that they barely mix. Cream cheese softens a bunch when it's hot, but doesn't really ever flow (although adding butter to the mix would likely make it flow). I've done it before and seen many recipes, and if you read the OP's recipes carefully, all of them bake the cream cheese filling inside of the muffins. Some recipes also call for flour to thicken the filling a bit, just to be sure it doesn't melt into the batter.
    – Esther
    Aug 31 at 21:02
  • Very detailed and nice answer (as usual!), thank you. I am 'concerned', as @Esther mentions, that in the recipes linked, I found they bake them together, and the final result pictures don't look bad at all. Although it probably won't be the same visually as 'injecting' it post baked.
    – M.K
    Sep 1 at 7:04
  • @Esther now that you say it, I must admit that I have not worked with fillings made from cream cheese specifically, only with other dairy-based ones, and my intuition may be wrong. I will think about deleting the answer, but if you know it to be incorrect, the fair thing would be to downvote me.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 1 at 8:15
  • I posted an update with my findings, that go where @Esther was pointing! Hope you find it insightful!
    – M.K
    Sep 26 at 16:37
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It took me some time. I did a baking experiment and decided to bake Cream Cheese filled Carrot Cake Muffins. Half of the muffins filled with cream cheese filling and the other half with cream cheese frosting.

What I found curious about this filling (not frosting), is one of the 3 ingredients it has: flour. The ending result for these ones is nice.

As stated in my question, prepare carrot-cake muffins batter/mass/dough. For the frosting, the recipe stated

  • 120g of butter
  • 120g of cream cheese
  • 250gr glass sugar

I used half the ingredients (And there was a some left over, so I guess dividing by 3 would have been fine. I used less sugar though. Beat well sugar and butter until specially creamy (5 mins), then add cream cheese.

The following pictures show the end result. Filling: left muffins, Frosting: right muffins.

Everything prepared

For the filling part, I first filled the base, filled a sphere of filling/frosting (seems small in the picture but I added more after taking it), fill sides with muffin, repeat 2-3 times overall. I tried to do it equally for all muffins. It's quite some process, troublesome and gets everything a bit dirty.

Filling

I filled 5 muffins on the right with frosting, 5 on the left with filling. The ones with filling seemed perfectly fine. The ones with frosting on the other hand, exploded. The texture might seem foamy, but it was actually like grilled cheese. I would post another picture with the looks of them after some resting, the cavities of the now missing frosting inside. But this answer already has too many picutres, sorry. They were empty on that side, so the butter not only melted into the muffin but also helped some of the frosting firm up, and made it into some kind of sweet grilled creamcheese.

After Baked

And the final result, on the right, "cut in half" is a frosting filled muffin, and on the left is a filling filled muffin. It had a texture similar to oven cheesecake. I guess flour as a main ingredient made it's wonders. So as a final answer: If you want to bake filled muffins (not filling them afterwards), use filling, not frosting (for these specific muffins and this specific filling).

Final Picture

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