Perfect Carrot Cake Cupcakes

By Tessa Arias
  |  
November 30th, 2021
4.88 from 55 votes
4.88 from 55 votes

How to Make Perfect Carrot Cake Cupcakes that are so flavorful, moist, and delightful that even carrot cake haters will love them! Keep reading for the step-by-step video, recipe tips, and full printable recipe!

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Carrot cupcakes have a warm sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by the tangy cream cheese frosting.
Texture: Ultra moist and tender with an ultra rich and smooth frosting.
Ease: You will dirty a few bowls and cupcake pans are kind of a pain to clean, but this recipe is totally doable by anyone.
Pros: Best carrot cake cupcakes we’ve ever tasted!
Cons: None, really.
Would I make this again? Yes! Absolutely.

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.

Four frosted carrot cupcakes on a cooling rack

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!

Carrot cupcakes on a plate garnished with chopped walnuts

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, 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, there’s no white sugar here.
  • 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, no 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.
  • Walnuts – Walnuts are added into the batter then used as garnish on top of the frosted carrots. You can totally leave them out if you prefer. The nuts add crunch, but also 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.

How to Bake Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients: whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients: whisk together the oil, brown sugar, and eggs. Stir in the applesauce, vanilla, and carrots.
  3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Then, gently stir in the walnuts.
  4. Divide the batter and bake: Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  5. Frost! After the cupcakes have cooled for about 20 minutes, frost with cream cheese frosting and enjoy.

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.

how to substitute oil for butter in baking

Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

The shining star of any carrot cake cupcakes! This recipe makes enough cream cheese frosting to generously frost each cupcake. 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. Even if you have a paddle attachment that scrapes the sides as it goes, I would still recommend scraping down the paddle and especially the bottom of the bowl to ensure no lumps. More tips in my Best Cream Cheese Frosting recipe!

How to Decorate Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

I used an Ateco #808 tip which is just a larger plain decorating tip to pipe the cream cheese frosting onto the cupcakes.

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 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 Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time:

The 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.

How to Store Carrot Cake Cupcakes:

The frosted 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. Freeze for up to 3 months. Unwrap the cupcakes and allow to defrost at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours.

Carrot cupcake on a plate with wrapper being removed

More Cupcake Recipes You’ll LOVE!

4.88 from 55 votes

How to make
Perfect Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
How to Make Perfect Carrot Cake Cupcakes that are so flavorful, moist, and delightful that even carrot cake haters will love them! Keep reading for the step-by-step video, recipe tips, and full printable recipe!

Ingredients

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

Directions

Make the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Recipe Video

Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : carrot cake cupcakes, easter, mother's day

This post was originally published in 2016 and recently updated with new photos. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Sora — May 5, 2022 at 9:45 am

    You’re right, absolutely perfect! Wonderful texture, almost bouncy! My only change, if you can call it that, was that I made my own applesauce by cooking a thinly sliced apple in a little water, then mashing it up. Well, and I am always a little generous in measuring spices. The little sprinkle of walnuts on top is great. It looks good, and helps to identify the cupcakes when mixed with others.

  2. #
    Julia — April 14, 2022 at 12:51 am

    Can granuled brown sugar be used instead of packed brown sugar

    • #
      Emily — April 14, 2022 at 7:42 am

      We haven’t tried that, so I can’t say for sure! Let us know how it goes if you do.

  3. #
    Julia — April 14, 2022 at 12:49 am

    Is no baking powder needed for this recipe?

    • #
      Emily — April 14, 2022 at 7:44 am

      Nope, just baking soda as the leavener! Check out the pink tip box above this recipe for a link to our article about the differences between baking soda vs. baking powder 🙂 I hope you give this recipe a try!

  4. #
    LMC — April 10, 2022 at 8:25 am

    Could I somehow reduce the amount of sugar for a childrens party and will it still taste good?

    • #
      Emily — April 12, 2022 at 8:55 am

      We havne’t tried that, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Sugar isn’t in recipes just to add sweetness, reducing it can actually affect the outcome as it helps to create a tender and moist texture and it assists in leavening your baked good (lift and rise for a taller shape and lighter texture), among many other things. Tessa actually goes into detail of the importance of sugar and other common ingredients in our Magic of Baking course, which you might find helpful. Feel free to experiment, but I’d recommend making this recipe at least once as written so you have something to compare to.

  5. #
    Marie — April 9, 2022 at 6:55 am

    Hello!
    Would this recipe work as a cake if doubled?
    Thanks!

  6. #
    jk — March 14, 2022 at 1:29 pm

    Tessa, can I substitute crushed pineapple for the applesauce?

    • #
      Emily — March 15, 2022 at 8:06 am

      We haven’t tried that! Let us know how it goes if you give it a try!

  7. #
    Christine — January 23, 2022 at 10:41 am

    I’d love to make these, but there are so many videos and ads, my tablet keeps crashing and the recipe won’t stay on screen long enough for me to read it.

    • #
      Emily — January 24, 2022 at 2:16 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear of your poor ad experience and have already brought this up to our team. Please check your email, I just sent you an email from [email protected]. Thank you!

  8. #
    Leah — December 28, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    Oh my gosh, carrot cake is my all-time favorite, but I am new to baking. I made these tonight and they were a 10/10!! Hubby loved them and asked me to make a second batch to share with his coworkers. Thank you for this recipe!!

    • #
      Emily — December 29, 2021 at 6:49 am

      That’s awesome, Leah! So happy your cupcakes turned out perfectly, thanks so much for letting us know 🙂

  9. #
    Sherry — November 12, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Great cupcake recipe, makes 12 medium cupcakes. I made a second time but cut back sugar by 1/4 cup. Quick and easy, thank you, Tessa.

    • #
      Emily — November 15, 2021 at 3:51 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this recipe, Sherry!

  10. #
    Jenny — October 2, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    I made carrot cake many times. This recipe is the best. Thank you for amazing recipe.

    • #
      Emily — October 4, 2021 at 12:02 pm

      So happy you enjoyed it, Jenny!

  11. #
    Jacinta Sheridan — September 6, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    This was an amazing recipe
    Full of flavour and was a hit

  12. #
    Sarsha — July 22, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    I made those muffins and they were very moist and delicious I substituted the apple sauce for 2 mashed bananas. Also the canola oil for extra virgin olive oil. Thanks for a great recipe which is not too oily. Definitely a keeper.

  13. #
    Sarsha — July 22, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    I substituted the apple sauce for 2 mashed bananas and they were very moist and delicious . This recipe is definitely a keeper.

    • #
      Emily @ Handle the Heat — July 23, 2021 at 9:25 am

      So happy to hear your substitution worked, Sasha!

  14. #
    Monica — May 26, 2021 at 10:29 pm

    Can l use this cake recipe in a three layer exposed cake?
    Or do you think the cake recipe is too soft?

    • #
      Tessa — May 27, 2021 at 9:05 am

      I haven’t tried these cupcakes as a layer cake, so you’d have to test it out! I do actually have a recipe for Brown Butter Carrot Cake if you’d rather use that recipe! I used two 8-inch round pans for that and sliced them in half to make four layers, but you could tweak it to have a three layer cake instead 🙂

  15. #
    Monica — May 26, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Very good recipe and I will definitely make these again! A real Shame cream cheese in the UK is too soft to hold when making the icing But delicious all the same.

  16. #
    Patty — May 18, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    I made these for a coworkers birthday (I’m a chance taker). They were such a hit!! Absolutely delicious! I will keep this recipe and definitely make again when I want to bring my A game! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    • #
      Tessa — May 19, 2021 at 12:05 pm

      So awesome to hear everyone loved them!

  17. #
    StubbornCook — May 10, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    A big thumbs up for this recipe! I used golden caster sugar after running out of brown sugar and the lighter cake colour meant you can see the carrots, walnuts and apple chunks in the apple sauce. The cupcake texture was light and fluffy, my family loved it.
    I had to make the frosting twice since the first time around the frosting was not warm enough. I can never make my cream cheese frosting gold it’s shape this is because Creamcheese from the UK is a lot softer! Frosting complimented the cupcake flavour combo very well. A hit with even non cake members of the family

    • #
      Tessa — May 10, 2021 at 2:25 pm

      So happy to hear your carrot cupcakes were a huge hit!

  18. #
    Zainab — April 14, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I followed the recipe as written. They were delicious, and everyone loved them!

    • #
      Tessa — April 15, 2021 at 8:44 am

      I’m so happy to hear you loved these carrot cupcakes!

  19. #
    Rebecca — April 11, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    An absolutely delicious and moist carrot cake that I will keep as my go to recipe. I have yet to find another that is as good as this one. Thank you. 5 stars!

    • #
      Tessa — April 12, 2021 at 9:36 am

      So happy these carrot cupcakes have become your go-to recipe, Rebecca!

  20. #
    Nina — April 5, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Made two batches of these for Easter. Both with and without walnuts and they were the BEST! I love cupcakes that aren’t sickeningly sweet and the combo of moist spicy carrot cake mixed with the cream cheese buttercream (I opted to use 1/2 cup less powdered sugar) and they were delish! Not a crumb was left, everyone loved them!

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      I’m so happy you loved this recipe, Nina! Absolutely thrilled your family got to enjoy them for Easter 🙂

  21. #
    Zach — April 4, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    Making these today. You have 174g flour but that is more than 1.25 cup right? Wouldn’t 1.25 cup be 150g?

    Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 10:42 am

      Sorry about that Zach, I’ve corrected it in the recipe. It should be 158g. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  22. #
    Alissa — April 4, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    The frosting literally makes so much we froze it and ate it as ice cream. Way too much 😛 it tastes AMAZING. all things otherwise amazing

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 10:25 am

      That sounds delicious as ice cream HAHA! So happy you enjoyed these cupcakes 🙂

  23. #
    claire — April 3, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    hi!! i’m baking for a friend who is gluten free and was wondering if i could use bob red mill’s 1 for 1 gluten free flour? thank you so much!!

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      Hi Claire, I’m sorry, I don’t bake gluten free, so I’m not sure how that would work!

  24. #
    Fiona Jordan — April 2, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    I’ve never made a cupcake in my life. I made them a few weeks ago for my grand daughter who loves carrot cupcakes. Everyone thought they were delicious, moist and not overly sweet. I’m making them again for Easter. Try this recipe. You won’t regret it.

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 1:42 pm

      Oh yay!!! I’m so happy they turned out well for you 🙂 Thank you so much, Fiona, for taking the time to write your sweet review!

  25. #
    Marlowe — March 29, 2021 at 8:18 am

    Can I use finely grated fresh ginger?

    • #
      Tessa — March 29, 2021 at 12:27 pm

      I haven’t tried this, but it should be fine! Just use 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger in place of the 1/4 tsp ground ginger. Good luck!

  26. #
    Dayris Andrade — March 18, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    Can I substitute applesauce for another ingredient?… i live in Venezuela and here it is very difficult and expensive to find it.. thanks..

    • #
      Tessa — March 19, 2021 at 8:38 am

      Hi Dayris, I haven’t tried this recipe with any substitutions, sorry!

    • #
      SHIRLEY — April 15, 2022 at 9:48 am

      How about 2 banana? Or papaya could work, use the same volume, as with applesauce.

  27. #
    Rebecca — March 15, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Can I just double all ingredients for 24 cupcakes?? I would guess so but didn’t know if that has been tried. Thank you. I love your brown butter carrot cake so I’m looking forward to trying these.

    • #
      Tessa — March 15, 2021 at 2:02 pm

      That should work! Enjoy your cupcakes!

  28. #
    Mariah — March 9, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    The cupcakes were beautifully dense and moist with a bit of fluff! They were not overly sweet, which pairs well with the frosting.

    • #
      Tessa — March 10, 2021 at 12:10 pm

      So glad you enjoyed these cupcakes!

  29. #
    Shauna — February 28, 2021 at 7:47 am

    Hands down the best carrot cake recipe I have ever made, I don’t make any other one!!

    • #
      Tessa — March 1, 2021 at 11:42 am

      So glad you love these carrot cupcakes, Shauna!

  30. #
    Leticia Covarrubias — February 27, 2021 at 12:06 am

    I just baked them. My family loved them, even Lui our dog.
    They are delicious

  31. #
    Lisa — February 8, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Best damn carrot muffin I’ve ever had.
    Thanks for the recipe. Mmmmmmmmm

    • #
      Tessa — February 8, 2021 at 1:40 pm

      So glad to hear that!

  32. #
    Ella — February 4, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    I followed your recipe with a few additions of my own and I must say, this IS a great recipe!

    I enjoyed every bit, a craving has been fulfilled

  33. #
    Lexi — February 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

    This was absolutely delicious, I made them gluten free and dairy free! Using gluten free flour and dairy free cream cheese. Instead of applesauce I used a mashed banana equivalent to the directions in the recipe. Will definitely be making them again!

    • #
      Tessa — February 2, 2021 at 11:34 am

      So glad you enjoyed these cupcakes!

  34. #
    Jami — February 1, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Has anyone added raisins? If so how much?

  35. #
    Lily — January 27, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I made this today with gluten free flour. Worked and tasted wonderful. Couldn’t believe it’s as good (if not better) than the conventional recipes. This will be my go-to recipe from now on. Thank you!

    • #
      Tessa — January 28, 2021 at 3:29 pm

      So happy to hear this!

  36. #
    Julie @theculturedcookist — January 18, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    This recipe is awesome! My cupcakes came out so moist and flavorful (I did add 1/4 cup of brown butter & used toasted chopped pecans due to not having walnuts)! Served this to many of my friends and got so many compliments!

    • #
      Tessa — January 19, 2021 at 11:14 am

      So glad you enjoyed these cupcakes!

  37. #
    Mariam — December 15, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    If I leave out the apple sauce will I still get the same consistency?

    • #
      Tessa — December 16, 2020 at 9:55 am

      Hi Mariam! No, you won’t get the same consistency! You could try using mashed banana instead, but I wouldn’t suggest leaving it out completely.

  38. #
    Morgan K — December 5, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    Hi! I made these today. I actually was positive I ruined them because I was multi-tasking and accidentally put the butter meant for the frosting in the batter. It ended up being a happy accident. Incredibly moist, rich, and DELICIOUS! Definitely not light in calories, but that wasn’t really my goal to begin with. Wonderful recipe!

    • #
      Tessa — December 7, 2020 at 10:36 am

      Hooray! I’m so glad you loved these cupcakes!

  39. #
    Renee — December 3, 2020 at 1:27 am

    Hi! Can I check what’s the measurement for your cupcake tin? Mine might be too big, it’s not enough to make 12 though

  40. #
    Agnes — November 3, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    These cupcakes came out soggy. It took around 30-45 minutes of baking before the toothpick came out with no dough on it. They also did not rise; they are dense. The two stars are for the combination of spice flavours.

  41. #
    Deidra — October 12, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Any suggestion on how make these chocolate carrot cupcakes??

  42. #
    Martha — October 11, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    These were easy to make and delicious to eat.

  43. #
    Ally — October 10, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    I made this and it’s okay, but I must say it doesn’t have a lot of flavour.

    • #
      Kay — April 5, 2021 at 5:54 am

      I agree! I found these to be quite bland with a gummy texture.

  44. #
    CJ — September 13, 2020 at 8:35 am

    I LOVE this! Right amount of sweetness for both the cake and frosting combined. I would like to ask on how to make it lighter and fluffier though as my cake/muffin preference is light and airy and this was a delicious but a little too dense for my liking. Do you have any tips?

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