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

141 Comments

  1. I just made these with gluten free flour as we have Celiac disease in the family. Amazingly moist and delicious. An excellent recipe.

  2. These are absolutely AMAZING!! I have had carrot cake only one other time and didn’t like it at all. I haven’t tried a recipe on your site that I don’t absolutely love, so I gave this a try. I am definitely going to make these again. Although, I am going to add some chopped nuts next time to give it a slight crunch. Thanks Sally for all your amazingly delicious recipes.

  3. These are so freaking fantastic, I am a bit in love with them. I made 16 of these little guys yesterday, because a friend was coming over in the evening. One had to be tested right out of the oven, because you know, what if they wouldn’t be good? (haha, yeah right…)

    I have three left, and we were two people, thats how good they were. I didn’t make the frosting though, as I felt they were already so good, and I think we wouldn’ve have managed to eat 13 cupcakes between the two of us with Icing on top. Or at least while still being able to say, hey it has carrots, it’s healthy.

    BIG thumbs up, too bad I ate them too quickly, didn’t even take a pic 🙁

  4. I made these for work today. I did make the pineapple, carrot, coconut version. My coworkers loved these!! I had some pineapple on hand and only had Greek yogurt. The frosting was so delicious. That is the only part I can test due to being gluten free. I did have quite if bit of frosting left which was dangersous so I had to hurry up and throw it away before I ended up having a bowl of frosting for dessert. I’m sure it was a sin somewhere to throw such delicious frosting away, but it saved me 20lbs.  Thanks so much for your delicious recipes!!

  5. Just made these and they are delicious!!! I sifted my powdered sugar and whipped my frosting for a bit longer for a smooth and creamy texture. My bake time was much quicker (16 min) so I’m glad I kept a good watch on them as I had my timer set for 20! I can’t wait to serve these on Easter. Thank you for sharing your recipes

  6. These turned out wonderful! I may have had one for breakfast one day… I’m generally not a huge fan of cake but carrot cake (and lemon!) are my exceptions! Thanks for a great recipe 🙂

  7. Sally, thanks for this recipe! When my sister asked me to make carrot cake cupcakes for her wedding, I knew exactly where to start my recipe search. I had never even made carrot cake before. Anyway, I just dropped them off at the venue an hour ago! I sprinkled toasted coconut on top, to partially hide my imperfect frosting…it was my first time with the 808 tip so I was learning as I went. I also made candied carrot curls to stick on top of each one to add pizazz. I can’t wait to see how people like them at the wedding! I mean I know they taste good from my test batch last week…but the candy carrots are new.

  8. Hi Sally, love your blog and recipes, they are delicious every time including these! I decided to try them with unsweetened coconut to cut back on the sugar and love how they came out! They are so moist otherwise I think you can totally get away with it. Also has a good texture. I tried them plain so with the frosting I’m sure they will be plenty sweet! Yum!

  9. Hi! Can you add raisins to the batter? Any suggestion on how much? Thanks!

    1. Absolutely. I recommend 3/4 – 1 cup.

  10. This is a wonderful recipe!
    I made them as mini bundt cakes with a thick glaze instead of frosting and topped that with some carrot shreds and chopped pistachios for some colour – they were so adorable. Love the spices too! Thanks, Sally 🙂

  11. Hi Sally! I made your Carrot Cake for Mother’s Day and it was a HUGE success! I don’t know if this was answered already but what are the differences (if any) between that recipe and the Carrot Cake Cupcakes recipe? Thank you!

    1. Hardly a difference at all. This recipe is simply smaller. So glad you enjoyed the carrot cake recipe!

  12. Lynn Newman says:

    These are really delicious and so simple to make!

  13. Lorri Paron says:

    Hi Sally,
    I just made these cupcakes (without the coconut) hoping they would be ok for a muffin…but the tops are flat, they didn’t rise the way a muffin does…because they are over mixed I think?
    I have been looking for a carrot muffin recipe with these spices for years! These cupcakes taste like the carrot muffins we love but they don’t look like muffins with flat tops. Could you please let me know how to achieve more of a muffin like appearance. Should I only use 1 egg and not mix the batter as much to combine maybe?
    Thank you so much for finding my spice combo for me!
    I’ve just tasted a little bit of one and they taste delicious!
    So glad I found you!
    Lorri

    1. Hi Lorri! I have 2 little tricks up my sleeve for TALL muffin tops and they would definitely work for these carrot cupcakes (as muffins). Fill the muffin liners all the way to the top with batter, then follow the same baking temperatures and times for my banana muffins. The initial high temperature for 5 minutes lifts the top right up. 🙂

  14. Hi Sally!
    Do you prefer plain yogurt, Greek yogurt or sour cream in these cupcakes? I know they are interchangeable, but just was curious which you like best 🙂

    1. Hi Jess! It honestly depends on what I have in my refrigerator when I make them 🙂 I usually reach for plain Greek yogurt!

  15. Sally, you are my go-to for all baking recipes; I don’t even try other “google” sites. I made these for the first time yesterday; my husband and I ate 3 and I brought 9 work today. One person tried them and word got around the office and 5 minutes later, they were gone. Everyone said the absolute best carrot cake cupcake (which is hard to find anyway) they’ve ever had! Can’t wait to make these for my college girls this weekend and your other cupcakes. Btw, your ultimate fudgy brownies don’t even last in their container.

  16. Cupcakes delicious. Used coconut oil and coconut. Frosting was too soft even with addition of extra confectioner sugar. Did not hold shape well. Other frostings hold up better in my tropical weather.

  17. Hi Sally! My cupcakes keep rising in the middle. I use an oven thermometer to make sure I have the correct temperature. I read somewhere that you dial down the temperature if this happens. I’ve done it too but it still peaks. What am I missing?

    They taste amazing though!

    1. Hi Liz! These cupcakes will rise– they aren’t flat on top. You may want to double check that you’re using the appropriate measurements for baking powder and baking soda, too.

      1. Yes, followed the recipe to the letter 🙁 my cupcakes look like they have a small volcano in the middle and not dome like.

  18. Hey, Sally! Is the 1 cup of pineapple a dry measure or wet? Is it 1 8oz can, drained or after draining?

    1. Hi Shona-Lee! You can substitute the yogurt with 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple– just a dry measuring cup works.

  19. Hi. Can I double or triple this?

    1. For best taste and texture, I recommend making 2-3 separate batches instead of doubling or tripling.

  20. Delicious, easy to make, AND super moist too!

  21. Can you substitute applesauce for the oil?

    1. I don’t recommend it. Without that fat, the cupcakes will taste a bit rubbery.

  22. Made these last night as a quarantine treat and they are divine! I didn’t have cream cheese so I used the vanilla buttercream recipe on your website – perfection!

  23. Hi Sally – the vanilla cake pops are a current hit in our house for my daughter who usually orders them at Starbucks. My husband loves carrot cake so I was hoping the next round of pops could be for him. Other than the carrot being shredded more finely, what sort of edits do I need to make? Thanks much!

    1. Hi Kate! This recipe would be just fine to yield cake pops, but you would need VERY little frosting since the cupcakes/cake crumb is so moist already. Maybe only a scant 1/3 or 1/2 cup of cream cheese frosting total until you get a semi-moist crumb like my vanilla cake pops. I recommend halving the frosting– you’ll have some leftover.

      1. So this worked out pretty well – especially since I somehow forgot the oil lol. I ran out of candy melt and I don’t really want to trek to the store for a pretty non-essential item. Could I make a think royal icing as a coating or do you have a recipe that doesn’t require cocoa butter?

  24. Sally I just made these for myself as a cake is too much for one person. Not only are they easy and quick to make, they are delicious! I tried one after it cooled and now I can’t decide if I want muffins or cupcakes!

  25. These cupcakes are delicious! You’re definitely my go to person for sweet treats. How did you get the pretty brown swirl in your icing?

  26. The Best Cupcakes I’ve Ever Made!

    The cupcakes were so rich and smooth in flavor (so moist too!) The frosting had a perfect consistency for piping. Definitely a keeper. Thank you!

  27. I was so excited to find this recipe!! Then I found out my mom doesn’t like coconut OR nuts in her carrot cake. So I followed your option of omitting both, and adding a cup of crushed pineapple instead. I don’t think I drained it enough so the batter was a little liquidy and made 15 cupcakes instead of 12… but they baked perfectly and were absolutely divine!! And the cream cheese frosting may be the best I’ve ever had. Definitely will be making again!

  28. another amazing creation !! I add the coconut but instead of the extract i added spiced rum to the mix and to the frosting…YEAH BABY !!!! Little Boozy treat never hurt anyone..
    Thanks again Sally…ive requested your cookbook as a mothers day gift…

  29. Can any of your cupcake recipes be made into jumbo cupcakes in a jumbo muffin pan? And how many would a recipe make?

    1. Hi Rylee, You should be able to bake most cupcake recipes as jumbo cupcakes. The yield and the bake time will differ between recipes so keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  30. Jessica Nolan says:

    I made these and LOVED them, with no additions. Super good 🙂 I have an order for a cake for this week so I think I’m going to use this recipe for 2 7” cakes…. the cake recipe is too big so I’m hoping this recipe as-is will work for the size cake I need!

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