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My family's absolute favorite carrot cake cupcake recipe! They're simple to make from scratch, super moist, light, tender, and fluffy. Made with plenty of carrots, spice, then topped generously with a heavenly. sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting!
Carrot cake is made every spring around these parts.
A couple years ago I shared my favorite Naked Carrot Cake with you guys and you really loved it! But the question, "Can I turn this carrot cake into cupcakes?" showed up in the comments pretty often so I knew that a carrot cupcake recipe was much needed.
These adorable carrot cake cupcakes are perfect for your Easter brunch or any spring time merriment you have planned. They're considerably less fussy than making a layer cake, all made in one bowl, and so tender and moist that you'll probably end up eating two or three in one sitting.
Okay, I'm a person who doesn't like the 'moist' word but there's no other adjective!
How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes from Scratch
I absolutely love how easy this cupcake recipe is. I get Greyson in on helping me with it so mamas with littles, this is definitely a kid-friendly weekend project! And as you can see, we decorated the cupcakes Easter-style (or spring style, if you don't celebrate Easter) with pastel sprinkles and Cadbury chocolate eggs. Super easy.
Pro-tip: Toss the walnuts and carrots in a little bit of flour before folding them into the batter. This helps them stay dispersed throughout the batter while baking, instead of sinking down to the bottom.
Granulated and Brown Sugars. Brown sugar helps give moisture to your baked goods thanks to the molasses in it!
Baking Soda and Baking Powder. Theses are our leaveners, or what lifts the carrot cake up to be nice and fluffy.
Spices. Use fresh nutmeg! I mean use a whole nutmeg and grate it a little bit. Seriously. Fresh nutmeg tastes so much better, has such a beautiful flavor and smells so good. Grate it in using a microplane grater. You can find nutmeg in your spice aisle or on Amazon, it's really inexpensive. As for the other spices, cinnamon and cardamom, use the ground versions.
Vegetable Oil. I talk all about why we're using oil instead of butter in carrot cake cupcakes (and carrot cake in general) below. But it's definitely a must here, butter makes a denser carrot cake.
Large Eggs. Any cold ingredients (like eggs and the sour cream) should be room temperature! Cold ingredients will cause your cupcakes to not bake evenly and dome up.
Sour Cream. This is one of our chemical workhorses for this recipe. Sour cream has plenty of acid, which activates our leaveners up there and gets this cake light and fluffy while also adding moisture!
Grated Carrots. Wouldn't be carrot cake without it! Use a box grater to make medium-sized shreds. This recipe has plenty of carrots in every bite, so if you like less carrots use 1 ½ cup of them.
Chopped Walnuts. You can substitute this for pecans or almonds or whatever chopped nut you prefer. Or you can just have carrot cake cupcakes without nuts.
We mix all our dry ingredients together in a big bowl, then add in the wet ingredients one at a time. Remember to leave the carrots and walnuts last, because they need to be folded in!
Scoop the batter into muffin pans fitted with cupcake liners. Use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop for the perfect amount. We don't want to fill them all the way up, just to about two-thirds, because an overflowing cupcake isn't the cutest thing.
Bake them and let them cool completely before smoothing on the cream cheese frosting.
These carrot cake cupcakes are perfectly fluffy, tender, and perfectly spiced.
Why is there Oil instead of Butter in Carrot Cake?
So this is an oil-based cupcake, not a butter one. Why? Well, because oil in cakes actually makes the cake more tender since it's lighter than butter. We're adding some 'heavy' ingredients like brown sugar, carrots, and walnuts, so we want to try to keep it as light as possible, especially for a cupcake.
Butter in cakes will harden up when they're put in the fridge, so you have to wait for them to come to room temperature, while this is not a problem with oil in cakes.
This is important, y'all. Because the carrot cupcakes have that cream cheese frosting, they need to be refrigerated, and with the oil it actually helps them stay fresh and delicious longer than butter cakes (10 days in the fridge vs 3 days for butter cakes).
Making Cream Cheese Frosting
Honestly, probably the reason why we all love carrot cake so much: that amazing cream cheese frosting.
I like my frosting to have more personality than just 'sweet', you know? This cream cheese frosting is simple, just sweet enough, yet tangy and smooth and perfect for piping or smoothing onto our cupcakes...and eating out of the bowl because I know I'm not the only one.
Tips for Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting
Use full-fat cream cheese. The fat gives better texture and flavor than low fat alternatives. Hands down. It comes in the brick, don't get the spreadable kind as it has additives that can affect your frosting.
Make sure the cream cheese and butter is at room temperature. The cream cheese needs to be beaten to a smooth, silky consistency, and cold cream cheese is too firm to do that. It will leave little lumps so just leave the brick out on the counter for about an hour or two.
Want seriously thick frosting for piping? Add a tablespoon of cornstarch. While I find this cream cheese frosting thick enough for piping, if you like your frosting even thicker, sift in a tablespoon of cornstarch with the powdered sugar.
Love Easy Springtime Desserts? Here are some recipes:
- Strawberry Shortcake Cake
- Chocolate Cupcakes with Italian Meringue
- From Scratch Strawberry Shortcakes
- Easy Lemon Curd
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Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- 1 ¼ cups (160g) all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp separated
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100g) light brown sugar packed
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ¾ cups (180 mL) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp sour cream, room temperature
- 2 cups (170g) grated carrots
- ½ cup (65g) chopped walnuts, optional
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup (1 stick, 113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 oz (226g) brick cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 4 cups (500g) powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 / 160 degrees C for Fan) and line a 12-count muffin pan with paper liners.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer, whisk the all-purpose flour, both white and brown sugars, baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and freshly grated nutmeg until well combined.
- Switch to the paddle attachment on your stand mixer and stir in the vegetable oil. Add the eggs, one at a time, pausing to scrape down sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula after each addition. Mix on low until batter is homogenous.
- Stir in vanilla extract and sour cream until just incorporated.
- Toss carrots and walnuts, if using, in the separated 1 tbsp of flour in a small bowl. Gently fold carrots and walnuts into the batter with the silicone spatula (or in your stand mixer on low) until just combined.
- Evenly divide batter into cupcake liners using an ice cream scoop, filling each ⅔ of the way full. Transfer to oven and bake on 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 / 160 degrees C for Fan) for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with moist crumbs, never wet batter.
- Allow to cool to room temperature before decorating with cream cheese frosting or else the frosting will melt.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Combine the room temperature unsalted butter and cream cheese in the clean bowl of a stand mixer, or use an electric mixer with a large mixing bowl, and beat until smooth, creamy, with no lumps.
- Add vanilla extract and salt and beat on low to combine.
- With mixer on low, gradually add sifted powdered sugar until completely combined. Scrape the sides down with a silicone spatula when needed.
- Use to frost completely cooled cupcakes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 129Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 327mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 0gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.