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These carrot cake cupcakes are everything you love about the cake—outstanding spice flavor, super moist crumb, and velvety cream cheese frosting—in a portioned cupcake wrapper! I’ve scaled down my popular carrot cake recipe to bring you a batch of cupcakes that’s easier and quicker, but just as delicious.

carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on white cake stand

I think we can all agree that carrot cake and cream cheese frosting is a flavor duo surpassing time—it’s just never going out of style. I love it as carrot cake loaf and mixed up in this carrot Bundt cake. But nothing can compare to original carrot cake and today’s cupcake version. Just CLASSIC!

Tell Me About These Carrot Cake Cupcakes

  • Flavor: These cupcakes are scrumptiously spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. You also have brown sugar, a little applesauce, natural sweetness from carrots, and the tangy-sweet frosting.
  • Texture: The crumb of these cupcakes is soft and moist, but not at all greasy. (A difficult balance to achieve, but this recipe nails it!)
  • Ease: Bakers of any skill level can handle this recipe. You can mix the cupcake batter by hand, though I recommend using a mixer to make the cream cheese frosting.
  • Time: The batch of cupcakes takes about 2 hours start to finish, and that includes cooling. Cupcakes cook faster than cake layers, but they still need to cool completely before frosting.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: carrot cake is only good if it’s spiced and if it’s moist. Under-spiced carrot cake tastes like nothing. Dry carrot cake tastes like you forgot you were baking a cake and frosted a vegetable instead. Ha! I encourage you to stick to my recipe below for best results.

carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting

Key Ingredients You Need & Why

You can make carrot cake cupcakes with a handful of staple kitchen ingredients and these are the most important:

shredded carrots, brown sugar, spices, vegetable oil, and applesauce shown in bowls and measuring cups
  1. Brown Sugar: Brown sugar not only sweetens the cupcakes, it lends more flavor and moisture than white sugar. I love using dark brown sugar in this recipe.
  2. Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger add warmth and depth of flavor without overpowering anything else. I usually add some ground cloves to carrot cake recipes, but it’s quite potent and I don’t like it as much in the cupcakes.
  3. Vegetable Oil: When preparing cupcakes without strong flavors, like vanilla cupcakes, I prefer to use butter as the fat, because it adds flavor. But when I’m making a cupcake recipe with flavorful ingredients like these spiced cupcakes, I find using flavorless oil lets all those spice flavors shine. (Also, oil keeps the cupcakes SO VERY moist!)
  4. Carrots: Obviously, you need carrots. But actually, this recipe would be tasty if you substituted shredded apple or zucchini instead!
  5. Unsweetened applesauce: Applesauce adds even more moisture to these cupcakes, without making them oily. I love the subtle flavor that it adds, but you could also use sour cream or plain yogurt. Another popular swap for the applesauce is crushed canned pineapple, an addition many bakers love in pineapple carrot cake!

You may be surprised to see there’s only 1 and 1/3 cups of flour, which isn’t much considering all of the wet ingredients. Keep in mind that shredded carrots, while not necessarily a dry ingredient, bulk up the batter. Any more flour created a denser muffin-like texture. Trust this recipe because it works for cupcakes!

Success Tip: Shredding the Carrots

The bags of pre-shredded carrots you can find at the grocery store are not worth the extra couple of minutes it saves you to peel and shred whole carrots yourself. Store-bought carrot shreds are dry and tough, and that will translate into your carrot cake cupcakes. Grab whole carrots, a peeler, and a box grater, and flex your grating muscles!

And beyond that: After you’ve finished shredding, give the carrots a rough chop, so the pieces are finer and can distribute evenly in each cupcake, like this:

two piles of shredded carrots on wooden cutting board

In this photo, you can see the difference. You want more carrots (moisture! flavor!) in each bite, so chop those shreds:

two carrot cake cupcakes showing different amounts of shredded carrots inside

Photos: How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes

The full printable recipe is below, but let’s see a few photos of the process.

Expect a semi-thick cupcake batter:

carrot batter in glass bowl and divided in muffin pan
carrot cupcakes and cream cheese frosting on spatula

We’re using my favorite cool and creamy cream cheese frosting recipe, which flawlessly pairs with warmly spiced desserts like carrot cake, spice cake, and pumpkin cake. One question we usually see with cream cheese frosting:

How Can I Keep My Cream Cheese Frosting Thick?

Cream cheese frosting is thinner than buttercream. Putting the frosting in the refrigerator for a bit—while you’re waiting for the cupcakes to cool—helps thicken it. This means your silky cream cheese frosting will hold its shape better when piped. Stick with basic piping tips and nothing intricate; even when chilled, the frosting will not hold shape as well as a sturdy buttercream.

And don’t fret, you don’t have to pipe this frosting; it’s just as tasty swiped on with a knife.

Which Other Frostings Could I Use? These carrot cake cupcakes would also taste great with whipped frosting, Swiss meringue buttercream, this caramel frosting, the cinnamon cream cheese frosting from these banana cupcakes, or simply unfrosted as carrot cake muffins (like morning glory muffins!).

What About a Dairy-Free Frosting Option?

Today’s cupcakes are dairy free when made with applesauce, so if you’re looking for a dairy free frosting, try this creamy marshmallow meringue frosting.

carrot cake cupcakes with white chocolate carrot garnish on top

I topped this batch of cream cheese-frosted cupcakes with chopped nuts and a white chocolate carrot topper, but both are completely optional. See Notes for instructions on making the white chocolate topper!

Print
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carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting

Simply Carrot Cake Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These carrot cake cupcakes are a scaled down version of my popular carrot cake recipe. You can mix this easy cupcake batter by hand, though I recommend using a mixer to make the cream cheese frosting. The white chocolate carrot topper is optional!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 and 1/3 cups (166g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80g) unsweetened applesauce, sour cream, or plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (200g) peeled and shredded carrots* (about 3 large carrots)
  • optional add-in: 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans; raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • optional garnish: white chocolate carrot topper (see Notes) and/or finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, brown sugar, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla extract together until combined, and then whisk in the carrots. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold or whisk together until completely combined. Batter will be slightly thick.
  3. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners, filling only about 3/4 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 21–23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 12–13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  4. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract,  and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds and then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate the frosting as the cupcakes finish cooling—this is helpful if you plan to pipe the frosting with a piping bag + tip. Cold cream cheese frosting holds its shape better.
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with optional garnish, if desired. I used an Ateco 808 piping tip and then swirled the center with a small icing spatula (you can see me do that in the video– totally optional way of decorating). Cover and store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Plain cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. If frosting is thick/stiff after refrigerating, beat it with your mixer for a minute to help loosen it up. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2–3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Special Tools: Hand Mixer, Box Grater, Cupcake Pan, Disposable Piping Bags or these Reusable Piping BagsAteco #808 Piping Tip
  3. Vegetable Oil: You can use melted and slightly cooled coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. If doing so, it’s imperative all other ingredients in the cupcake batter are room temperature so the oil does not solidify.
  4. Applesauce/Sour Cream/Yogurt: You can use any of these options, but applesauce is my favorite because it adds a little extra flavor. Or you could use the same amount of canned crushed pineapple instead (no need to drain).
  5. Carrot: Don’t use pre-shredded carrots found in the produce aisle because they’re quite dry. Rather, freshly shred large carrots to yield approximately 1 and 1/2 cups (200g) of moist carrot shreds. Before measuring, give the shreds a rough chop so the pieces are finer and distributed nicely in each cupcake. And instead of carrots, you could even use shredded apple or zucchini.
  6. How to Make White Chocolate Carrots Garnish: In a microwave-safe bowl, melt 4 ounces (113g, usually 1 bar) of white chocolate in 20-second increments, stirring after each until perfectly smooth. Separate into two bowls (don’t worry about making them perfectly equal). Tint one bowl with orange gel food coloring, and the other with green gel food coloring. (Use gel food coloring because liquid food coloring can change the consistency. I like the brand AmeriColor—you can find their gel colors in the baking aisle of craft stores or give it a quick search online. I use and recommend this set of 6 colors or this set of 12 colors.) Pour into two squeeze bottles. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, wax paper, or a silicone mat, drizzle the orange melted chocolate into a carrot shape, then drizzle the green melted chocolate onto the tops to make the carrot stems. Refrigerate the pan until the chocolate carrots are set, at least 15 minutes. The white chocolate carrots do soften up when they come back to room temperature, so if making these cupcakes in advance, make sure to keep them in the refrigerator until it’s nearly time to serve them.
  7. Adapted from Carrot Cake Cupcakes in Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook. This version yields fewer and the cupcakes aren’t as dense.

Keywords: carrot cake cupcakes

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. These look great and I am sure I will b making them very soon. I love carrot cake anything and am wondering if you have any suggestions how to adapt your basic scone sto get the essence of a carrot cake in taxture and flavor…spices/carrots/raisins. I am guessing it might work but thought I would check. I would defer to any suggestion you may have. Thanks, SallY!

    1. I’m no Sally, but I think using the Master Scone recipe on Sally’s website and adding the appropriate spices (maybe 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg), 1/3-1/2 cup of raisins, and 1/2-3/4 cup of shredded carrots should work. If you’re going to try it out, avoid pre-shredded carrots! The ones sold at grocery stores are usually pretty thick and don’t bake well.

      If the scones aren’t quite spicy enough

  2. Sally, you mentioned after you’re finished shredding, give the carrots a rough chop. Would pulsing in the food processor until the carrots are roughly the consistency of couscous work?

    1. That’s actually a little too fine– you really just want 1/4-1/2 inch little pieces. You could use a processor for that, but really a knife may be easier. Just a very rough chop!

  3. The recipe looks similar to your carrot cake loaf…which I just made on Sunday. Since I use my 3X5 loaf pans, I rough chop my shredded carrots and it makes a nice difference. I bet it will be the same in these cupcakes. Cannot wait to try them.

  4. Hi Sally – those look amazing. I need 2 dozen cupcakes so would it work to double the recipe?

    1. Hi Cheryl, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches rather than doubling. Enjoy!

      1. Hi sally!
        Would it work to use this recipe for mini cupcakes? Thank you!

      2. Hi Emily, yes! This recipe yields 24 mini cupcakes. See the baking instruction (step 3). Bake for about 12–13 minutes.

  5. Hi Sally! I love all of your recipes especially the ginger snap cookies!
    Many years ago I found a very similar recipe for carrot cake made with baby food carrots, it gives that deep moisture to the cake…..I may start adding in a few chopped pieces of carrot!! Thank you!

    1. Hi Deborah. I has to respond to you, as I also had a recipe which I got out of a magazine – like Ladies Home Journal, or Good Housekeeping – that called for baby food carrots, 3 small jars. I think I came across it sometime between 77-88? It was delicious. I lost it somewhere, searched as much as I could online, but no records that I could find since pre-WWW. I think I’ll try to recreate it, using the baby food in place of some of the sour cream or applesauce…Let me know if you know where this ‘old-time’ recipe can be found!

  6. Hello Sally, thank you for the added twist to the cupcake recipe. Your original carrot cake recipe is a definite winner and never disappoints !
    I appreciate how thorough you are with your insights and the baking tips you share are always valuable. I cannot wait to try this recipe out.

  7. HI Sally! I recently purchased jumbo muffin pans and cups. How would I adjust the oven temperature and/or baking time? Or is there a reason you wouldn’t recommend making this recipe jumbo-sized? thank you! I can’t wait to make for Easter weekend!

    1. Hi Leslie! This recipe should work nicely as jumbo cupcakes/muffins. Same oven temperature, but the bake time will be longer. I haven’t tested it to know the best time. I would guess around 30 minutes. Let me know if you try it!

    1. Hi Cass, I’m sure this amount of batter will fit in an 11×11 pan. I’m unsure of the best bake time.

  8. What brand of squeeze bottles did you use for the melted chocolate? I’m concerned that it will harden in the tip before I’m finished creating the carrot decorations. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kathy, as long as you are quick, it won’t harden. To wash them, I fill them under hot water and let it sit for several minutes. Run the lid under hot water too.

  9. Hi Sally, thank you for releasing this recipe and I’m so excited to give this a try since I’ve been adopting your Pineapple Carrot Cake recipe for my cupcakes. My question, is there any particular reason you chose to base on this Carrot Cake recipe instead of the Pineapple Carrot Cake? Personally, I haven’t tried the Carrot Cake recipe purely because the Pineapple Carrot Cake is already mind blowing and memorable as it is. Thank you Sally and team!

    1. Hi Cindy, yes! This recipe yields 24 mini cupcakes. See the baking instruction (step 3). Bake for about 12–13 minutes.

  10. Hi Sally, I used this recipe to make a 3 tier 6″ carrot cake. It was superb. The crumb was perfect and was not wet like some carrot cake recipes. I think this is a personal preference. I used sour cream vs the other choices. Absolutely divine.
    Thank you!
    G

    1. Thanks so much for reporting back, Gail! We’re glad you enjoyed this recipe.

    1. Hi Namrata, we haven’t tested an egg-free version of these cupcakes, but let us know if you give anything a try. If you’re interested, here are all of our egg-free recipes on the site.

  11. I made this last night, following the recipe exactly as written. They turned out perfect. I used my jumbo muffin tins and got 10 cupcakes. The baking time was 21 minutes as directed. I also added chopped walnuts. Love this recipe. Thank you!!

    1. I’ve been making a carrot cake recipe in cupcakes for years. I use the same recipe for the frosting as your recipe but I’ve notice in the last couple times I made it the frosting was not ver thick which made the cupcakes a mess to eat. Any suggestions??

      1. Hi Bernie, Putting the frosting in the refrigerator for a bit — while you’re waiting for the cupcakes to cool — helps thicken it a bit. Also be sure that your cream cheese and butter aren’t too soft (just room temperature) and that you’re using full-fat block cream cheese (not spread). Hope this helps!

  12. Sally, I have been a fan a long time and have shared your website/recipes multiple times!
    Question: I used to live in a remote area. I wanted to bake something but did not have Brown Sugar. So I used white granulated sugar and measured in the molasses. Now it has become habit to do so. Do you think it makes a difference to the overall end result of the food?

    1. Derrilyn, it may make a very slight difference, but not much. It depends how much molasses you are adding. The typical amount should be 2 Tbsp (30ml) molasses to 1 cup (200g) sugar. Just to make sure there isn’t TOO much moisture, sometimes I bring that amount down to 1.5 Tablespoons instead.

  13. These look great. Anyway to turn it into a recipe I can use during Passover? Looking for a special dessert — other than brownies or macaroons — that uses matzoh cake flour and potato starch

    1. Hi Donna, we haven’t tried a version of these cupcakes using those ingredients so we’re unsure of the results, but let us know if you give anything a try!

  14. Do you think this recipe would work with King Arthur Measure for Measure gluten free flour?

    1. Hi Lori, we haven’t tested it ourselves so we’re unsure of the results. Many bakers have had success doing so with other cake/cupcake recipes. Let us know if you do give it a try!

    2. I’ve made this (and many other Sally recipes) using Bob Red Mill 1-1 gluten free flour. I can’t get King Arthur where I live but Bob Red Mill has worked in every recipe I’ve tried. Sometimes I will substitute 1/5 of the flour with almond flour but would not do that for this recipe as it worked perfectly with the 1-1. Delicious!

  15. Excellent recipe. I happened to have all of the recipes on hand and was able to use 4 rather aged, medium-sized carrots. I followed the recipe, only subbing in crushed pineapple for the applesauce. Best of all, besides tasting stupendous, it actually made exactly 12 perfectly portioned cupcakes. Usually cupcake recipes leave me with too little or too much batter. This worked beatifully. I think because I weighed the flour. Worth breaking out the scale for.

  16. Hi Sally. I love your emails. I also love carrot cake. Do you have a recipe for a carrot cake roll? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ginny! I do not have a carrot cake roll recipe, though I’d love to try one sometime!

  17. Hi Sally & fellow Sally Addicts!
    I JUST made these cuppy cakes & as ALWAYS they are so good! First off…I used a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop as I can NEVER judge 3/4 in a cupcake holder etc. That made 24 cupcakes using it. The small amount left over, I simply the leftovers in all the holders. I also don’t care for ginger so I just used a half of teaspoon not the 1/4 & it was PERFECT for me! I made them for my husband & co-workers.I tried one just to make sure they were “OKAY” for them to eat,LOL Thanks again for helping making baking FUN!

  18. Great recipe. It was quick and easy. The taste…undeniably moist, airy, not too sweet – carrot cake. I used Sally’s alternate yogurt substitution, as I was out of applesauce.

  19. I’m excited to try this recipe! My family likes raisin in their carrot cake. If I were to add them to this recipe how much would you recommend and would I pre-soak my raisins for plumpness and moisture, or keep them how they come in their packaging? Thank so much!

    1. Hi Kristy, absolutely. We’d recommend about a cup of raisin. No need to soak them before adding to the batter. Let us know how your family likes these cupcakes!

  20. Delicious and moist carrot cake cupcakes! I am on Noom and in case anyone else wants to know, its 289 calories per cupcake, using applesauce and Sally’s Marshmallow Creme Frosting. YUM!!

  21. I added walnuts and doubled the recipe. I ended up with 29 cupcakes. They were moist and fluffy. Everyone loved them! Will definitely make again.

  22. Hey Sally, love all the recipes of yours I’ve tried, a lot of different muffins as we manage an Airbnb, and I make muffins for our guests.
    I’d like to substitute, at least partially, a jar of baby food carrots for either the sr. cream or applesauce, and wonder if you think 1:1 substitution would work?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Katie, we’ve never tried that but let us know if you do!

      1. Hey Sally! What can be substituted for vegetable oil? Will canola oil or just plain butter work?

      2. Hi Ellie, canola oil will work perfectly.

    1. Hi Erika! We strongly recommend vegetable oil for these cupcakes. The vegetable oil really lets the spiced flavors shine through, where butter will leave more of a distinct taste. Also, oil keeps the cupcakes SO VERY moist!

      1. Hi Sally. Just a quick question, I have 100 cupcakes to make for a friends wedding, 50 carrot / 50 lemon. To save making up multiple batches of the mixture (as per your recipes for cupcakes) could I use the bigger cake recipes for the cupcakes instead? Thanks x

  23. Fantastic! My husband loves carrot cake but it is just the two of us so they seem too big now. I made these for our early Easter celebration and he was thrilled. He loves them!
    I always make your recipes as written but I did substitute the crushed pineapple as directed, eliminated the walnuts (I don’t like nuts) and added some flaked coconut which is in my cake recipe. I didn’t have confectioners sugar on hand (shocking!) so I didn’t make the frosting. My husband doesn’t like much frosting on his cakes so this worked out great. I will be freezing a few to take on our trip to Europe in a few days for snacks for him in the hotel room. Thank you Sally for another fabulous recipe.

  24. I made a your vanilla cake recipe with strawberry filling for my daughters birthday.
    She and her husband liked it so much they requested I make one for his birthday but with raspberry filling. I’m not much of a baker but was very successful with this cake!
    I am making your carrot cake with pineapple cupcakes for Easter. Would it be okay to make them and ice them with cream cheese icing the day before as long as they are in a cake carrier and refrigerated until the next day? If that would work should I pull them out of the fridge a few hours before serving them to take the chill off of them?
    Thanks!
    Happy Easter!

    1. Hi MKA! After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day. You can definitely refrigerate and let sit at room temperature for a bit before serving if you prefer. Or, see the recipe notes in our Carrot Cake recipe for our recommended make ahead instructions. Enjoy!

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