Filed Under: Cakes & Cupcakes | Dessert

Perfect Carrot Cupcakes

Recipe By Tessa Arias
  |  
March 18th, 2019
5 from 7 votes
5 from 7 votes

How to Make Perfect Carrot 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 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. 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.

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

Perfect Carrot Cupcake Recipe Tips

 

Cupcakes

The cupcake batter comes together super easily, no electric mixer needed! AND it only uses a 1/4 cup oil. The rest of the moisture is added in via unsweetened applesauce. This lightens up the cupcakes a little without sacrificing any flavor or texture. I’ve also made these cupcakes with half all-purpose flour, half whole-wheat flour with great success.

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. The brown sugar adds more complex sweetness and also more moisture.

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, if you wish. You can totally leave them out if you prefer. They add crunch, but also a bit of savory flavor to contrast the sweetness.

Cream Cheese Frosting

The shining star of the 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.

Decorating

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!

Making Ahead & Storing

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.

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.

Carrot cupcake on a plate with wrapper being removed

More Cupcake Recipes You’ll LOVE!

5 from 7 votes

How to make
Perfect Carrot Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
How to Make Perfect Carrot 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 (174 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.

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: easter, mother's day

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

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!)

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  1. #
    Leslie — April 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Can this recipe be converted into a sheet-like cake recipe? If so, what are the dimensions and baking time you recommend?

  2. #
    Norly — April 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    can I substitute the applesauce to something else?

  3. #
    Hala — April 26, 2016 at 1:23 am

    It looks really delicous

  4. #
    Helen — April 29, 2016 at 2:28 am

    This is a superb recipe, thanks for sharing! I tried it and it was really fast and nice though I made them a bit too tight.

  5. #
    Gayatri Mantra — May 22, 2016 at 4:46 am

    This sounds amazingly delicious!

  6. #
    Carmen — June 11, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. #
    vanessa — July 19, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Is it possible to make this into an 8 inch cake using this recipe?

  8. #
    Robin Horst — August 8, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Can you swap out a gluten free flour instead of regular all purpose flour?

    • #
      Tessa — August 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      Sorry Robin, but I have no idea. I’ve never tried and am no expert on GF baking. Let us know if you give it a try!

  9. #
    Robin Horst — August 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    I tried it with Gluten Free flour and it worked perfectly. Use GLUTINO brand and its wonderful.

    • #
      Tessa — August 11, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Glad it worked! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. #
    Belle — August 17, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    Could I use a Wilton 1m tip for the frosting?

  11. #
    Ivy Claire — August 19, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Hi,thank you for sharing once again one of your best recipe for cupcake lovers. I would like to know what’s the substitute for the unsweetened applesauce?

  12. #
    Megan G. — September 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    These were the most successful carrot cake adventure I’ve ever been on! My dad loves carrot cake, so every year I try a cake or cupcakes for his birthday. They’re usually pretty good– often too rich or too sweet. This particular recipe says it right in the title. They were, indeed, PERFECT!! I just couldn’t have been more satisfied! Perfect amount of sweet, spice, and density. I cut about half cup of powdered sugar out of the frosting, but that’s just a personal preference of mine. There were zero left over!

    • #
      Tessa — September 6, 2016 at 10:17 am

      So happy to hear that, Megan! Thanks for your wonderful comment 🙂

  13. #
    Ann — November 19, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Hi these look lovely,but what can I use instead of canola oil.

  14. #
    Alice — November 30, 2016 at 5:26 am

    How is this cupcake with coconut and pineapple with the recipe?
    I have a carrot cupcake I make with the addition above but want to know if your recipe If I would need to adjust anything.
    thanks

    • #
      Tessa — December 1, 2016 at 11:33 am

      I’m not sure, Alice! I haven’t tried. Let us know how it turns out if you give it a go 🙂

  15. #
    Shruti — December 13, 2016 at 3:36 am

    Hi,
    The recipe sounds great but can i substitute unsweetened apple sauce with something else?

  16. #
    Danielle — February 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Hi there, I made these cupcake and used half whole wheat half white, and half brown sugar half white. I also added 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal. They were amazing!! Thanks

    • #
      Tessa — February 14, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      Glad you made the recipe work for you!

  17. #
    Leslie — April 1, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Can you make mini cupcakes with this recipe?

  18. #
    Kathy — April 4, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Hi Tessa!

    I want to bake this but it is so hard to find unsweetened applesauce here in my country. Can I substitute it with crushed pineapple instead? How much do you think? Love love love your blog!

  19. #
    Becky — April 15, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    My husband loves carrot cake and I was looking for a cupcake recipe for his birthday. I made these just tonight and he loved them!! He ate 2 cupcakes!! This recipe will stay in my favorites to make again!

  20. #
    Samantha Esqueda — April 16, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    These were so amazing!!!! This is my new go to carrot cake recipe. I loooove carrot cake and I have been looking for a good recipe. I added raisins because whats carrot cake without raisins?! The frosting was to die for! I wanted to eat the whole bag.

  21. #
    Misato — May 11, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Hi Tessa,

    I love this carrot cupcake, it looks super yummy. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try.

    Thank you for creating and sharing this.

  22. #
    Susan — May 24, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    @Kathy – above! I made these with crushed pineapple from a can – just put it in a strainer to get rid of some of the liquid and then use the same amount as you would applesauce. Don’t use fresh pineapple – there is something about the enzymes in it that will mess things up! I found that out the hard way once when making a carrot cake!
    Tessa – great recipe – mine really looked almost as perfect as yours which was fun! Nice to have cupcakes that dome up rather than a flat top! Thank you!

  23. #
    Miranda — May 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    These were an absolute delight. I didn’t have applesauce on hand, so substituted 1/2 cup full fat sour cream. Will try them with apple sauce next time, but they still turned out moist and absolutely delicious. Will definitely be a new ‘go to’ for my Fam! Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — May 29, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Glad to hear it! 🙂

  24. #
    Ann — June 1, 2017 at 7:41 am

    I made these cupcakes yesterday and it was so good, moist and tasty! Definitely a keeper. Thanks for sharing this.

    • #
      Tessa — June 2, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Wonderful! So happy to hear it.

  25. #
    Christine — June 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Perfect Carrot Cupcakes are excellent!! I used whole wheat flour instead of white flour. These muffins are very moist muffins. I will differently make them again and again. Thank you for the recipe.

  26. #
    ann — June 14, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Hi Tessa, great recipe! I love it:) but why is it my frosting turns into into gritty texture? please kindly advise? Moreover I really love the taste

  27. #
    gloria finley — July 6, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    how would it be to freeze half the cupcakes that are frosted????how do you suggest i do it, so it will be good when i take them out
    gloria

  28. #
    Kathie — September 13, 2017 at 6:22 am

    Made these on Saturday for a friend. He requested the Cool Whip and vanilla pudding for the icing. They turned out fabulous!! Sunday afternoon I made a 2nd batch for my family! Highly recommend this recipe!!

  29. #
    Jenessa — November 7, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I’d like to try these but we do not use any canola oil in our house. I wonder if I could sub coconut oil or butter….

  30. #
    Corie — January 26, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    I made these for my friends birthday and they were amazing! Thank you for such an easy and delicious recipe!

  31. #
    Linda — March 20, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    Hello! Can I substitute the applesauce for something else?

  32. #
    Cindy Shoaf — March 24, 2018 at 8:23 am

    If I want to add raisins what would you recommend the measurement to be?

  33. #
    Eneida M Mason — March 29, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Perfect, thanks 🙂

  34. #
    Kaitlyn — March 31, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Delicious! I used whole wheat flour, coconut oil, and skipped the walnuts and they turned out great! My toddler LOVED the frosting. She ate the top of the cupcake then claimed it was “all gone” to try to get another with fresh frosting.

  35. #
    Molly — July 3, 2018 at 11:39 am

    This cake is AMAZING! I doubled the recipe and made three 8-inch rounds and it was so moist and flavorful. I also subbed crushed, canned pineapple for the applesauce (thats what I usually put in carrot cake) and it was great. Frosting was delicious too 😀

  36. #
    AR — August 15, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    I subbed the eggs with buttermilk (1/4 cup for every egg) and made my own applesauce (steamed the apples and puréed it)
    I subbed pecans for walnuts
    The bake time needed to be increased by 15 minutes and the cupcakes turned out amazing!!
    Thank you for such a great recipe!!

  37. #
    Trudy rieger — November 20, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    I made these muffins using a can of carrots, I diced them also used pecan pieces 1/2 cup and rest of recipe and they came out delicious Thank you.

  38. #
    Yvonne — February 27, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Ms. Tessa, is it okay not to use applesauce in the recipe?

  39. #
    Zel — March 3, 2019 at 6:04 am

    We followed the recipe to the letter and it came out perfect!

  40. #
    Leea — March 18, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Hi Tessa,
    What is the substitute for the apple sauce?
    Thank you very much.

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