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Look out, other cupcakes: these Perfect Carrot Cake Cupcakes are going to be a new contender for your favorite cupcake ever!
I’ve never been a big fan of carrot cake or carrot cake cupcakes. I think it probably started in childhood. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any child on board with the idea of putting a vegetable inside a dessert.
A lot of carrot cake at grocery stores and restaurants is horribly bland and even dry. Or includes raisins… which I’m not a huge fan of.
That’s why I made it my mission to come up with a PERFECT carrot cupcake recipe that was as easy as it was delicious. And I think baking cupcakes is so much easier than cake. Easier to actually make and decorate, easier to transport, and easier to serve.
These Perfect Carrot Cupcakes are sure to be a hit at your next family gathering – maybe even for Easter or Mother’s Day!
How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Ingredients for Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
- All-purpose flour – Measured correctly! I’ve also made these cupcakes with half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour with great success.
- Baking soda – Learn about the differences between baking soda vs. baking powder here.
- Spices: Salt, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground ginger. The spices in this recipe are one of my favorite parts, I just love that warm sweetness. It goes perfectly with the brown sugar, too.
- Canola oil – All you need is 1/4 cup. Vegetable oil would likely work as well.
- Light brown sugar – The brown sugar adds more complex sweetness and also more moisture.
- Eggs – I haven’t tried any egg substitutes.
- Applesauce – Provides moisture to the cupcakes! Lightens up the cupcakes a little without sacrificing any flavor or texture. If you can’t have applesauce, you can try using mashed banana instead. Your cupcakes may vary in flavor and texture slightly.
- Vanilla extract – Balances out the cupcake flavors perfectly.
- Finely shredded carrots – Shred fresh carrots instead of using pre-shredded packaged ones. Freshly grated carrots are more flavorful and moist! 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded carrots equals about 2 medium carrots, but definitely buy extra just in case you don’t get as much from your carrots. You can use a box grater, or the grating attachment on your food processor, if you have one, to make super quick work of grating!
- Walnuts – Walnuts are added to the batter and also used as a garnish on top of the frosted cupcakes. The nuts add crunch and a bit of savory flavor to contrast the sweetness. Use any nuts you’d like such as pecans, or feel free to add in a few tablespoons of raisins! You can also omit the nuts entirely, if preferred.
Butter vs. Oil in Cupcakes: Which is Better?
I recently experimented with butter vs. oil in baking to see which is better and how the type of fat used affects tenderness, flavor, and texture. The results were shocking! This Carrot Cake Cupcake recipe calls for oil for beautifully tall cupcakes with a coarser crumb and more spongy texture.
Find out more on the breakdown of these two fats in my Butter vs. Oil in Baking article.
Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting Tips
- The shining star of any carrot cake cupcake! This recipe makes enough cream cheese frosting to generously frost 12 cupcakes. If you don’t like or want that much frosting, feel free to cut the frosting recipe in half.
- For the best and creamiest frosting, be sure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature.
- Beat them together until completely smooth, there should be no lumps.
- Scrape down your bowl. Even if you have a paddle attachment that scrapes the sides as it goes, I would still recommend scraping down the paddle and the bottom and sides of the bowl, to ensure no lumps.
- More tips in my Best Cream Cheese Frosting recipe!
How to Prevent Cupcake Liners from Sticking
I know how frustrating it is when you lose half of your delicious cupcake to the liner! Check out my article for all my secret tips on preventing cupcake liners from sticking to your cupcakes.
How to Decorate Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- I used a disposable piping bag and an Ateco #808 tip, which is just a larger plain decorating tip to pipe the cream cheese frosting onto the cupcakes. Feel free to use a different piping tip.
- If you’d like to get a little creative and crafty, especially for Easter, check out my video post on how to make adorable edible decorative carrots for cake or cupcakes!
How to Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time
Carrot Cake Cupcakes can be baked and stored in an airtight container a day ahead of frosting. The frosting itself can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Just bring to room temperature and beat until light and fluffy again before piping on your cupcakes.
How to Store Carrot Cake Cupcakes
The frosted Carrot Cake Cupcakes can be left at room temperature for up to 8 hours, since the sugar in the cream cheese frosting acts as a preservative. After that, you’re best off refrigerating the cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.
Can Carrot Cake Cupcakes Be Frozen?
Wrap unfrosted cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (this prevents freezer burn and taste transference). Place cupcakes inside a freezer bag on a shelf in your freezer where they won’t get smashed, or inside an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Unwrap the cupcakes and allow to defrost at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours.
More Cupcake Recipes You’ll LOVE!
- Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes
- The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
- Banana Dulce de Leche Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting
- Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1 1/4 cups (158 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 cup (47 grams) canola oil
- 1 cup (198 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups (148 grams) finely shredded carrots* (about 2 medium carrots)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (42 grams) finely chopped walnuts, divided
For the frosting:
- 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar
Make the cupcakes:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, and eggs. Stir in the applesauce, vanilla, and carrots. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in 1/4 cup of the walnuts.
- Using a spring-loaded scoop, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until a cake tester inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium-high speed until very light, creamy, and smooth. On low speed, gradually add in the sugar and beat until fluffy.
- Frost cupcakes and decorate with remaining chopped walnuts, if desired. Serve or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
This post was originally published in 2016 and recently updated with new photos. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.