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

131 Comments

  1. 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!!!

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. Hi Sally. If I want 24 cupcakes can I just double this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cherisse, for best results (and so you don’t accidentally over mix with the added volume), we recommend making two separate batches.

  9. Hi Sally! If I omit the shredded coconut and choose not to add anything in its place, should I expect this to make less than 12 muffins? My husband hates coconut but I’m planning to make these for my 1 year old’s bday and don’t want to worry about nuts or raisins.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lyssa, you can leave out the shredded coconut without any other changes to the recipe. Hope they’re a hit!

  10. Made the cupcake dairy free by using pineapple instead of the yogurt and only added about 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut. (I’m willing to go frosting free if I’ve got a great cake to eat.) Also made the cinnamon butter cream cheese frosting for everyone else . Total hit with the family. Cupcakes were moist and tasty, cinnamon was a fantastic addition to the frosting. Comments were “Is this bakery bought?”. Wahoo, mission accomplished!

  11. Can you substitute the coconut for something else??
    Thank you this recipe looks AMAZING!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely! See recipe notes for details.

  12. Once the cupcakes are frosted, can they be stored at room temperature for a day if used for at a wedding reception?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Renee, 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.

  13. OMG!!! I made these this week and I have never received such great reviews!!! These were amazing!!! Thanks for making the recipe so easy to follow!

  14. If I wanted to make these bigger, what baking time and temp would you use for 6 big cupcakes.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Danielle, We haven’t tested jumbo cupcakes so can’t say for sure. They would need more time in the oven (same temperature) – we would use a toothpick test to test for doneness.

  15. Will it change the taste if I use sour cream instead of yogurt. We are having a Bake Sale very soon and I want to make these.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Connie, the taste will be the same — you won’t be able to tell that there is sour cream in the cupcakes. Hope they’re a hit!

  16. Hi! Is it possible if I want to make it a 6inch cake? Can I split into two 6 inch cake? How long do I need to bake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, this batter is the perfect amount for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake. Using this batter, follow the bake time and temperature from our 6 inch cakes post. If you want only two layers, fill your two cake pans about half way and then use the leftover batter for a few cupcakes. Enjoy!

  17. I needed cream cheese frosting for another cake and this was perfect! I’m wondering, however – you mention that the cupcakes can be frozen, what about the frosting itself? I had enough frosting left over to fill a Corell bowl, and covered it with saran wrap – do you think I can freeze it ok? If so, for how long?
    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christine, absolutely! You can freeze the frosting for about 3 months.

  18. Hi Sally. I normally make these with pineapple but make an error and put sour cream instead. Can I also add the crushed pineapple if I already added sour cream?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Risse, unfortunately, adding both would make the batter too wet. We haven’t tested this, but you could try dabbing away as much excess liquid off the pineapple as possible and adding it that way. Let us know if you give it a try!

  19. Jan Johnson says:

    Can I double the recipe? I need 24 cupcakes.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, that should be fine!

  20. Will this work well in 6 inch cake pans?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elaine, If we have tested a different size pan it will be listed in the recipe notes. For any shapes/sizes that are not listed, you can use our handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions post to help calculate how much batter you would need for different size pans.

  21. Left out the coconut ingredients but what an amazing recipe!!! Thank you!

  22. Hi Sally,
    Can I use desiccated coconut instead of shredded?
    Thank you

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Huma, These should be fine with desiccated coconut!

  23. Hi Sally! These cupcakes were an all-time favorite at a recent event! I know that you have a carrot cake recipe that doesn’t have coconut in the batter. Can I use this cupcake recipe to make a double layer round cake instead of your carrot cake recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, this batter makes the perfect amount for a three layer, 6 inch cake, or our cake pan sizes and conversion guide will help you scale it for other sizes. Or, you can add a cup of coconut to our carrot cake recipe (see recipe notes there for more details).

  24. Perfect with the coconut oil. Thank you.

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