Super soft and moist coconut carrot cake cupcakes are loaded with coconut, sweetened with brown sugar, and flavored with warm spices. They’re topped with silky smooth cream cheese frosting—like carrot cake and coconut cake in one!
I published a recipe for carrot cake cupcakes in my cookbook Sally’s Baking Addiction. They’re wonderful with a denser texture, similar to muffins. I adapted today’s version from my book’s recipe and added coconut flavor. What a treat!
Why You’ll Love These Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Deliciously moist
- Perfectly spiced
- Quick and easy to prepare
- A great make-ahead recipe
- Garnished with cream cheese frosting
If you’re looking for traditional cupcakes without the coconut flavoring, here are my regular carrot cake cupcakes. Very similar to today’s recipe!
Carrot Cake Should Be Spiced & Moist
Let’s be honest. 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. I encourage you to stick to my recipe below for best results! From the oil and brown sugar to the eggs and Greek yogurt, there are many moist-makers in these coconutty carrot cupcakes.
Two stand out the most:
Carrots: Pick up whole carrots and freshly grate them at home. Carrots that you buy pre-shredded are much drier and thicker than freshly grated carrots. Use those and you’ll miss out on a ton of moisture, not to mention experience large chunks of carrot in each bite.
Coconut: While the main player in this recipe is the carrot, we can’t ignore the coconut. It’s best to use sweetened shredded coconut in these cupcakes– it’s a little sticky and adds mega moisture to these cupcakes. Unsweetened is fine, but it’s typically drier and less flavorful than sweetened coconut.
How to Make Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Just like hummingbird cake, these cupcakes are simple to make!
- Whisk the dry ingredients together.
- Mix the wet ingredients together. Add the carrots and coconut.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients. The batter will be thick.
- Fill cupcake liners. Pour the batter into cupcake liners– only about 2/3 full.
- Make the frosting.
- Frost the cupcakes. Make sure they’re completely cool before frosting.
- Garnish with coconut flakes.
How to Frost Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Coconut carrot cake cupcakes are great, but they’re basically muffins without a swipe of cream cheese frosting. (Albeit super moist and spiced and delish muffins!) Cool, creamy, and smooth-as-silk cream cheese frosting complements the warm spices in our coconut carrot cupcakes. It holds its shape when piped, too—I used the Ateco #808 large round piping tip for today’s pictured cupcakes. For even more coconut flavor, try adding a little coconut extract to the frosting.
These would also be delicious topped with the brown butter cream cheese frosting from my banana layer cake recipe or the cinnamon cream cheese frosting from my banana cupcakes recipe. Have fun mixing and matching flavors!
These cupcakes taste even better after a few hours because the flavors have settled, mingled, and married. The moisture prevails and the cream cheese frosting sets into the tops. They’re the perfect treat to make ahead of time—even a day or 2 before.
Ingredient Substitutions You Can Make
Here are ingredient substitutions I’ve tested with success.
- Coconut: Use either type of coconut—sweetened or unsweetened. For best results, however, sweetened coconut adds the most moisture. If coconut isn’t for you, leave it out! You can replace it with 1 cup of chopped nuts or raisins.
- Coconut Extract: Totally optional for amped up coconut flavor. If you can’t get your hands on it or don’t enjoy coconut, simply leave it out.
- Yogurt: Use 1/3 cup of sour cream or unsweetened applesauce instead. Or try using 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple in place of the yogurt. They’ll taste like pineapple carrot cake!
- Oil: Instead of vegetable oil, try melted coconut oil for even more coconut flavor.
Super spiced and moist carrot cake cupcakes filled with shredded coconut and topped with creamy cream cheese frosting.
- 1 and 1/4 cups (156g) all-purpose flour (spooned & 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
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil, canola oil, or melted coconut oil
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (75g) plain yogurt, sour cream, or unsweetened applesauce
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
- 1 cup (130g) freshly grated carrots (about 2 medium)
- 1 cup (80g) sweetened shredded coconut*
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces (226g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp; 113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- toasted coconut flakes for topping*
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, brown sugar, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and coconut extract (if using) together until combined. Whisk in the carrots and coconut. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a mixer or whisk until completely combined. Batter will be thick.
- Pour/spoon the batter into the liners—fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 20-22 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.
- 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 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, coconut extract (if using) and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it).
- Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used an Ateco 808 large round piping tip for these pictured cupcakes. Top with coconut flakes.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Special Tools: Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Glass Mixing Bowls | Whisk | 12-Count Muffin Pan | Cupcake Liners | Piping Bags (Reusable or Disposable) | Ateco #808 Tip | Marble Cake Stand (optional for serving)
- Coconut Extract: For extra coconut flavor, you can add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract to both the cupcake batter and cream cheese frosting.
- Carrots: Don’t use pre-shredded carrots found in the produce aisle. They’re on the dry side. Rather, freshly grate 2 medium carrots to yield approximately 1 cup of moist carrot shreds.
- Coconut: I suggest sweetened shredded coconut in the cupcake batter. You can use unsweetened coconut, but unsweetened coconut tends to be drier and milder in flavor than sweetened. Keep that in mind if you make the switch. You can use either for the garnish on top, though. I used sweetened coconut flakes for the topping. To toast them, simply spread on a lined baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes at 300°F (149°C).
- Not a Coconut Lover? Leave the coconut and coconut extract out completely. Or you can replace with 1 cup chopped nuts or raisins. Or if pineapple carrot cake is your thing, sub in 1 cup of crushed pineapple. If adding the crushed pineapple, leave out the 1/3 cup yogurt.
- Pineapple: What about pineapple coconut carrot cake cupcakes? We can do it! Sub 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple in for the 1/3 cup yogurt.
- Cake Recipe: Follow my carrot cake recipe (same-ish recipe, doubled). Add 2 cups of sweetened shredded coconut to the batter. You can leave in the nuts or skip them in that recipe.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
Keywords: coconut carrot cake cupcakes