Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes

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 in cupcake form! If you aren’t a fan of coconut, see my recipe notes.

carrot cake cupcakes on a marble and wood cake stand

Up until today, you couldn’t find a carrot cake cupcake recipe on my blog. Considering carrot cake is simply known as “birthday cake” in my family, I’m ashamed. No miniature version of the world’s best cake flavor? Who even am I?

In my defense though, I published a recipe for them in Sally’s Baking Addiction. But let’s make room for carrot cake cupcakes on the website. They’re a long time coming and I think you’ll appreciate this recipe, too.

carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut flakes on a cooling rack

Why You’ll Love These Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes

  • Deliciously moist
  • Perfectly spiced
  • Coconut-y
  • Quick and easy to prepare
  • A great make-ahead recipe
  • Garnished with cream cheese frosting

carrot cake cupcake batter in a glass bowl

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! This recipe yields flavorful and moist carrot cake cupcakes. From the oil and brown sugar to the eggs and Greek yogurt, there are many moist-makers in these carrot cake 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.

carrot cake cupcake batter in a glass bowl and cupcake batter in a cupcake pan

How to Make Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Just like hummingbird cake, these cupcakes are simple to make!

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together. Add the carrots and coconut.
  3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. The batter will be thick.
  4. Fill cupcake liners. Pour the batter into cupcake liners– only about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake.
  6. Make the frosting.
  7. Frost the cupcakes. Make sure they’re completely cool before frosting.
  8. Garnish with coconut flakes.
  9. Enjoy!

overhead image of carrot cake cupcakes without frosting

How to Frost Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot cake cupcakes are great, but they’re muffins without a swipe of cream cheese frosting. (Albeit super moist and spiced and delish carrot cake muffins!) Cool, creamy, and smooth-as-silk cream cheese frosting complements the warm spices in our carrot cake cupcakes. It hold 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 coconut carrot cake cupcakes 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!

Cream cheese frosting with stand mixer

carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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.

carrot cake cupcakes on a marble and wood cake stand

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.
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carrot cake cupcakes on a marble and wood cake stand

Coconut Carrot Cake Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Super spiced and moist carrot cake cupcakes filled with shredded coconut and topped with creamy cream cheese frosting. 


Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (156g) 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 EACH ground nutmeg and 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 (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, 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*

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, 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 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).
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes however you’d like. I used an Ateco 808 large round piping tip for these pictured cupcakes. Top with coconut flakes.
  6. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, Measuring Cups, Box Grater, Cupcake Liners, Cupcake Pan, Frosting Bags, Ateco #808 Tip, and Marble Cake Stand
  3. Coconut Extract: For extra coconut flavor, you can add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract to both the cupcake batter and cream cheese frosting.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: coconut carrot cake cupcakes

156 Comments

  1. Dumb question, when grating the carrots can I use the small grating side, or would that make it too wet? (Yes I’m trying to hide vegetable from my toddler).
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shawna, We always use the largest grating surface (largest holes) on a box grater and they don’t turn out too chunky if you are trying to hide them but you can try using the smaller side if you wish.

  2. Can I bake these in jumbo cupcake liners and pans? I realize I’ll probably only get six but that’s all I need Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kim, You can bake these as jumbo cupcakes, yes! The yield and the bake time will differ, so keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

      1. Perfect and thanks for the super speedy response!

  3. Great recipe! Very moist and flavorful, it was an absolute hit with my partner and coworkers. Just 2 suggestions based on my experience:
    1. I only made 2/3 of the frosting, and it was the perfect amount for me (not too much, not too few)
    2. I tried the cupcake recipe twice, once as it is and another with reduced sweetness (used unsweetened coconut and decreased the brown sugar to 3/4 cup). Both versions are very good and the texture is great.

    1. Thanks Beatrice. I was wondering about the coconut as sweetened coconut is not something I would normally use, but I usually have unsweetened around!

  4. Hi!

    I loved the simplicity and yet a super tasty and moist muffin (got too lazy to make the frosting).
    I’ve left out the cloves (because I didn’t have any) and IMO it still tastes really good.
    I do have a question about freezing. I know I can bake and freeze. But can I prepare the batter, freeze them and then thaw it out to bake when I’m ready ?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathy, We don’t recommend freezing the batter – but yes, the baked cupcakes do freeze well!

    2. Hey there! I was wondering if plain Greek yogurt would work in this recipe? I’m guessing yes since sour cream is listed as an option, but I’d love to know if you guys have any opinions.
      Thanks so much!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Kate, you can absolutely use plain Greek yogurt instead. Full fat is best, but lower fat will work in a pinch. Enjoy!

  5. Hi there, whenever it says vegetable oil, is olive oil a good substitute? That’s generally the only oil I use at home!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brian, Olive oil should be ok in this recipe (same amount). For other recipes it really depends on the flavor profile of what you are making – olive oil has a stronger flavor than vegetable oil.

  6. My husband was really impressed with the balance of moist, sugar, and spice of this cupcake.

    From Switzerland

  7. I´ve never done carrot cake, actually, I didn´t like it years ago and then I found it delicious… haha.. and I wanted to make cupcakes. I have to admit I was a little bit skeptical about all the spices, but I went to the store and bought what I was missing, and I used them exactly as per the recipe. I only left out the coconut. I follow all the steps and it went so soooo good! I will definitely make it again! 🙂 thanks a million!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so glad you enjoyed this recipe, Andrea! Thank you for all the positive feedback.

  8. Hi Sally, I recently baked your 6-inch vanilla cake which was fantastic! I’m wondering if I could use the batter for the coconut carrot muffins and pour them instead into the 6-inch cake pans? Would you recommend pouring the batter into two of those pans or would one suffice? Further, would I be able to do the same thing with any of your cupcake recipes?
    We are a small family so I am always looking for small cake options.

  9. Made this into a 6 inch cake and was absolutely amazing! It was the perfect size as a birthday cake for feeding a small family. Cream cheese frosting was so smooth 🙂

    1. Hi Chiara, Can you share how many pans you used for the 6 inch cake? I love making them and would love to with this cake! Thanks!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Jessica! This batter fits perfectly in 3 six inch cake pans. You can read more about 6 inch cake recipes in this blog post. Enjoy!

  10. Hi Sally! If I don’t have ground cloves, may I substitute it with nutmeg? Or should I just omit it? Thanks in advance!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ayen, you can leave the cloves out without any substitutions. Happy baking!

      1. Yay! Thank you so much! I love your recipes!!! ♥️

  11. Hi Sally,
    I made your carrot cake on Wednesday and it turned out great. I was wondering because my family finished the other carrot cake if I could substitute sugar for maple syrup, regular flour for GF flour, and half the recipe???

  12. Since I’m not seeing friends to give excess baked goods to during COVID, I only made half the recipe which was the RIGHT CHOICE or I’d be eating 11 cupcakes today (I gave one to the electrician who also sent me an overly effusive text about it). So good. Definitely needed to bake 25-28 minutes, but I wonder if pressing the grated carrot with paper towels before adding would reduce cooking time. Given the ingredients, I’ll bet the batter would freeze pretty well too.

    I made with a coconut buttercream frosting from Magnolia bakery since I don’t like cream cheese.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So happy you enjoyed these cupcakes, Emily!

  13. These were delightful. I made them with 1/2 cup coconut and 1/2 cup toasted pecans and they were perfect!

  14. Oh my gosh – I love this recipe and made it exactly as is. I am not usually a huge coconut fan but was actually making for others. I am so glad I went with coconut in every instance. My 4-year old great nephew is a huge frosting fan and LOVED the frosting. I loved it as well. I have shared the link on my Facebook page. Thanks for sharing – BTW, I have made several of your recipes and will continue to do so. Not one that wasn’t a hit!

  15. Hi,

    I’m wondering if you don’t want to use any coconut and just make a plain carrot cake cupcake if there are any additions or substations to the recipe?

    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle! See the recipe note titled “not a coconut lover?” for substitution ideas.

  16. Just wondering if the plain yogurt can be greek 0% or should I stick with regular plain yogurt or sour cream?
    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Colleen, you can absolutely use plain Greek yogurt instead. Full fat is best, but lower fat will work in a pinch. Enjoy!

  17. I love this recipe. Can I add raisins and nuts? If so, how much? Our house loves carrot cake with all the things!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely! We would add 2 cups of add-ins total, including the coconut. So maybe 1/2 cup coconut with 3/4 cup chopped nuts and 3/4 cup raisins. Or any combo of add-ins equaling about 2 cups. Enjoy!

    2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mara, You can add 2 cups of add-ins total, including the coconut. So maybe 1/2 cup coconut with 3/4 cup chopped nuts and 3/4 cup raisins. Or any combo of add-ins equaling about 2 cups. Enjoy!

  18. How would the recipe be modified to make a two layer 6 inch carrot cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary, this batter yields the perfect amount for a 3, 6-inch cake layers, so we’d recommend making the 2 layers you need and a few extra cupcakes with the leftover batter. Hope this helps!

  19. I used this recipe to make a 3-layer 6-inch cake and it turned out beautifully! I love coconut so I put the extract in both the cake and frosting but I think this recipe would be great without or with the other substitutions as well. I’ve made a lot of recipes off of Sally’s blog and this one really stood out as one of the best. The perfect crumb, not too dense but super moist, and the frosting was perfect. I’ll definitely be making this again.

    1. Carrot AND coconut!! This was AMAZING!!! Can I bake as mini muffins? What do you suggest as the bake time?

      1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Ashley, absolutely! We’re unsure of the exact bake time, but likely around 13-14 total minutes. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  20. Thelma Pillepich says:

    I made these cupcakes for a friends birthday and they were a huge hit! Everyone loved them! My supermarket was completely out of coconut because Passover begins this weekend so I added some walnuts and used coconut milk yogurt. I will definitely be making these again!!!

  21. Made these this weekend and they were great! I used 1/2 the amount of coconut but added walnuts.

  22. Hi Sally! Can I add walnuts into the batter?

  23. Hi Sally,
    Can I substitute Monk sugar for the brown sugar? And if so, is the ratio still 1:1? I’m not sure if there is a keto brown sugar…..

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denise! We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Thank you!

  24. Michele Moynihan says:

    Do you drain the 1 cup of crushed pineapple if subbing for the sour cream and coconut? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michele, correct — you’ll want to drain the pineapple. Hope you enjoy it!

  25. Perfect. I do not bake and I don’t have cake pans, so I made cupcakes to take to an Easter brunch. I didn’t have any coconut but I had crushed pineapple and pecans, so I used those. They turned out great! I like them especially because they are not overly sweet. Thank you!

  26. Just finished making these about an hour ago and they are out of this world! We used the 1/3 cup of sour cream substitution (instead of yogurt) and the flavor works well. These are perfect in time for Easter. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  27. I just a batch of these using gluten free flour (Bob’s Red Mill 1 to1 GF baking flour) and they came out moist and delicious. I cut back a little on the apple sauce because my carrots were quite wet. I will definitely be making these again!

  28. Made these cupcakes for Easter. I decreased the coconut to 1/2 cup and added 1/4 cup each of raisins & chopped pecans. The recipe made 15 cupcakes. I added the extra 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar to the frosting as it was rather soft.
    The cupcakes were moist and the frosting was perfect. They were so good, in fact, that I made another batch for my brother’s birthday a week later! There was plenty of frosting for all 30 cupcakes!
    I can’t wait to try more of your cupcake recipes!

  29. Aysha H. Aljabry says:

    Hi Sally
    I just want to know if I can use freshly grated coconut as it’s flovour is better but I wonder as it’s moist should I reduce or skip youghut

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