These Carrot Cake Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are the best way to have a small Easter dessert, without all the leftovers. These cupcakes have all the flavors of a layered carrot cake and piles of cream cheese frosting, but in a much smaller package! This recipe makes 6 delicious cupcakes, but can be doubled to serve more, if you like.
It's carrot cake season, and my family couldn't be happier! We start baking with carrots when Lent starts, and we follow through all the way to Easter.
Carrot cake was one of the layers of my wedding cake, because my husband loves carrot cake. Camille seems to love it too, but honestly, toddlers love any kind of cake---especially if it has swirly cream cheese frosting.
I love carrot cake almost as much as my family, but I really love it in cupcake form. If you're looking for it in cheesecake form, do not miss my Carrot Cake Cheesecake. It's a full-size dessert, so it's perfect for your large Easter gathering.
Actually, I have 5 different sizes of small carrot cake on this site!
- This small batch carrot cake for two, made in 2 ramekins.
- A single layer carrot cake made in an 8" square pan.
- A small 6 inch carrot cake that is so cute.
- A kid-friendly healthy mini carrot cake bites that are naturally sweetened!
- And now these carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!
How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes
This recipe for carrot cake cupcakes makes just 6 cupcakes, which I love because carrot cake is something I have a hard time resisting. I think it's because I justify each bite since carrots are a vegetable? There are 2 carrots in this small batch of carrot cake cupcakes, so technically, you're eating ⅓ of a carrot with each cupcake.
So logical, right? I use this same logic for my strawberry cream cheese frosting, because it contains fresh fruit!
The cream cheese frosting recipe makes juuuuuuust enough frosting to frost all 6 cupcakes, but not a drop less, ok? I know that some of you like to double my cupcake recipes and bake them in small 6" cake pans, and I wanted to let you know that you'll have to double the frosting recipe, too.
- Flour. All-purpose flour, a total of 10 tablespoons, which is ½ cup plus an additional two tablespoons.
- Ground Cinnamon.
- Ground Cloves.
- Freshly Grated Nutmeg.
- Ground Ginger.
- Baking Powder.
- Baking Soda.
- Carrots. One-half cup of freshly grated carrot. I don't like the pre-grated carrots from the store, because they're too thick and don't dissolve into the cake batter like freshly grated. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the carrots, not the small holes.
- Shredded Coconut. I like regular, sweetened shredded coconut flakes, often located next to the chocolate chips in the grocery store. While desiccated unsweetened coconut does exist, let's go for the full sugar since we're making carrot cupcakes.
- Brown Sugar. I recommend light brown sugar, not dark, as the extra molasses found in dark brown sugar can make the cupcakes slightly too moist.
- Egg. We're using one whole large egg.
- Sour Cream.
- Oil. The oil needs to be a neutral, flavor-less oil, like grapeseed oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. Don't use olive oil or coconut oil, as the flavors can overpower the spices in the carrot cake cupcakes.
- Gather all ingredients for the carrot cake cupcakes, and have the cream cheese frosting ingredients out, resting at room temperature too. Grate the carrots just before baking so they don't dry out or turn brown around the edges. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit, and line 6 cups in a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. Now, whisk together the dry ingredients: combine the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well, and then add the coconut and carrots. Toss again; coating the carrots in the dry ingredients helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake during baking.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: whisk the brown sugar, egg, sour cream, vanilla and oil together very well.
4. Finally, combine the wet and dry ingredients by adding the wet ingredients to the bowl with the carrots and other dry ingredients. Stir very well to mix together to ensure no flour remains unincorporated, but do not over-mix.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, and bake on the center rack of the oven for 24-27 minutes. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted half-way into the center comes out mostly clean with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. If you underbake carrot cake, it sinks. Use the toothpick test!
6. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then move to a wire rack to cool completely before starting on the cream cheese frosting.
7. Now it's time to make the frosting! Add the room temperature cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla to a bowl.
8. Beat the frosting together until light and fluffy. Add an extra splash of milk or heavy cream if it seems too thick for you. Don't be afraid to beat it for a long time, to make it super fluffy.
9. You can use a simple butter knife to frost the cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting, or you can scrape it into a piping bag with a star tip and frost the cupcakes like a bakery.
How to Garnish Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
- For crunch: Toasted pecans, chopped is a lovely way to add crunch to the top.
- Simple but elegant: Store-bought glazed pecan halves look very pretty on top, too.
- Fancy carrot ribbons: Use a vegetable peeler to make thin ribbons of carrot, and then cook in a simple syrup for 15 minutes to soften. Curl the carrot ribbons into rose shapes and place on top of the cupcake.
If you want to make these ahead of time, it's best to freeze the cupcakes before they have been frosted. Let them cool completely from the oven, and then wrap them in plastic wrap before placing them in a freezer-safe bag to freeze for up to 3 months. Make the cream cheese frosting the day you plan to serve them. If you have leftover carrot cupcakes with the frosting, yes, you can technically toss them in the freezer for a later day. It would be best to defrost them in the fridge. The frosting will melt if heated in any way.
It's best to store the cupcakes in an air-tight container in the fridge, but remove them for a few hours before serving. It's also best to frost right before serving. If the frosted cupcakes are refrigerated, it's fine--just let them sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. These cupcakes are made with oil, not butter, so they won't harden in the fridge, but still, keep them tightly wrapped or in an air-tight container.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons flour (10 tablespoons total)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup freshly grated carrot
- ⅓ cup sweetened coconut flakes
- ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup neutral oil (canola or grapeseed oil)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- ½ of an 8-ounce block of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. First, preheat the oven to 350, and line a muffin pan with 6 cupcake liners. Have all ingredients ready, and let the cream cheese frosting ingredients sit out at room temperature to soften.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk very well. Add the grated carrots and coconut, and whisk very well to combine. The flour coats the carrot and coconut pieces and helps them not sink to the bottom of the cupcakes.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, egg, sour cream, vanilla and oil.
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and stir just until blended.
5. Divide the mixture between the cupcake liners, and bake for 24-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean with only moist crumbs clinging to it.
6. Let the cupcakes cool completely in the pan.
7. To make the frosting: combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.
8. Beat together until super fluffy and well-combined using an electric hand mixer.
9. Frost the cupcakes with a knife, or place the frosting in a piping bag fitting with a tip and frost them.
The cupcakes keep for up to 3 days, refrigerated. Let them rest on the counter about 20 minutes before serving.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 366Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 275mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 1gSugar: 30gProtein: 3g