Carrot Cake Cupcakes – Everybody’s favourite Carrot Cake, in cupcake form! Topped with fluffy cream cheese frosting, they’re ultra-moist and beautifully spiced. These little friends are completely irresistible, but a total breeze to make.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Let’s firstly get one thing out of the way: The presence of carrot in these cupcakes is not so much about shoe-horning in virtuous vegetables or even flavour. It’s not carrot-y (is that a word?) at all. It doesn’t even contribute to colour.
So then, why add carrot?
The answer is it gives the crumb that signature tenderness without crumbling all over the place because it softens as it bakes. It’s similar to the way zucchini is used in Chocolate Zucchini Bread. You can’t see or taste the zucchini at all. But it will be the most chocolate-y, ultra-moist bread of your life.
Carrots are just another way to achieve that.
Plus, we can pretend: Look ma! Getting my veg fix!
What goes in Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Here’s what you need to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
Carrot – I know, you almost fell off your chair. But yes, we need carrot for Carrot Cake Cupcakes!
Canned crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup, it’s too sweet). We drain the pineapple well then measure out 3/4 cup of the pineapple and 2 tablespoons of juice;
Coconut, walnuts or pecans – Stir-ins, for interest. Some people also include raisins. I do not. I feel like there’s enough going on here already!
Cinnamon – The spicing. We never tire of the stuff!
Milk – Full-fat is best, though low-fat works fine. I haven’t tried with non-dairy but I’m confident it will work;
Baking soda – The rising agent. It can be substituted with baking powder but it won’t rise as well. Baking soda is more powerful (it’s about 3x stronger than baking powder) and because this is quite a dense batter, the it benefits from that extra boost to yield a better crumb;
Vinegar – This reacts with and activates the baking soda, giving it a kick-start on the rise. You don’t need much, just half a teaspoon, and you can’t taste it. I simply use plain white vinegar because it’s the most neutral in flavour. Lemon juice also works;
Oil rather than butter for the fat. Oil makes cakes more moist than butter, whereas butter adds flavour. In this recipe, there’s loads of other flavour from the add-ins and cinnamon, so we can use oil instead of butter;
Eggs – Use standard “large eggs”, labelled as such on the cartons at supermarkets. They are 55 – 60g / 2oz per egg. Make sure they’re at room temperature, not fridge-cold, so they incorporate more easily into the batter;
Brown sugar rather than white, which makes the crumb more moist as well as adding a lovely caramel flavour; and
Flour – Just plain / all-purpose flour.
Ingredients in Cream Cheese Frosting
And here’s what you need for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Cream cheese – Philadelphia brand all the way for me – there is no substitute!! (And they aren’t paying me to say that, either!). It must be the brick type, as opposed to the stuff in the tubs which is softer because it’s formulated to be easily spreadable. If you use the tub form, the frosting will be far too sloppy;
Icing sugar / powdered sugar – Heads up Australians: use soft icing sugar not pure icing sugar. Soft icing sugar is used to make fluffy, creamy frostings like this cream cheese one and buttercream frosting. Pure icing sugar sets hard and is used for things like Royal Icing;
Butter – Softened to “room temperature” which is 17°C/63°F. At this temperature, the butter should be pliable so it can be creamed when beaten. But not so soft that it leaves a shiny slick of grease on your finger. If it’s too soft, your frosting will be too sloppy;
Vanilla for flavour; and
Salt – Just a pinch.
How to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes
1. Carrot and pineapple
First, grate the carrot and measure out the canned pineapple.
Grate carrot using a standard box grater. Hold the carrot perpendicular so you get short strands, rather than on an angle which would leave you with long strands;
Drain canned pineapple, pressing out excess liquid;
Pineapple juice – Measure out 2 tablespoons of the pineapple juice; and
Pineapple – Measure out 3/4 cup of the crushed pineapple.
2. Cupcake batter
No electric mixer required – just a wooden spoon!
Whisk the Dry ingredients in a bowl;
Whisk Wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then add the stir-ins – carrot, coconut, nuts and pineapple;
Combine Wet and Dry mixes, then mix just until you can no longer see flour;
Fill muffin tin using whatever scooping device you prefer. Pro tip: Ice cream scoops with a lever are super handy!
Bake for 20 minutes in a 180°C/350°F oven (all oven types) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Ordinarily, the oven temperature equivalent for fan ovens would be 20°C lower, but in this case the dense batter needs a higher temperature to get the rise so we use 180°C for fan too; and
Voila! Done – ready for cooling then frosting.
Despite the close-up of the inside, it’s hard to illustrate clearly how moist the crumb of this Carrot Cake Cupcake is in a photo. Just take my word for it, OK? 😂
Oh – but actually, you don’t need to do even that! The batter for these cupcakes are just a scaled-down version of Carrot Cake, so you can browse feedback from people who have made that recipe if you want evidence, before trying this! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 440g / 14 oz (1 can) crushed pineapple in juice , drained but RESERVE juice (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup milk , at room temperature (full fat best, low fat ok)
- 1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice or other clear vinegar, (Note 2)
- 2 large eggs , at room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or canola)
- 1 1/3 cups flour , plain / all-purpose
- 1 1/4 tsp baking soda (aka bicarb soda, Note 3) (NOT BAKING POWDER!)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 1/3 cups shredded carrot , 1 medium carrot peeled (Note 4)
- 2 tbsp coconut , shredded or desiccated (unsweetened)
- 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans , roughly chopped (ie. measure after chopping)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 180g / 6oz cream cheese , at room temperature (Note 5)
- 90g / 6 tbsp unsalted butter , softened (17°C/62°F)
- 3 1/2 cups soft icing sugar / powdered sugar , sifted (Note 6)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup walnuts or pecans , moderately finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (all oven types). Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- Canned pineapple: Drain crushed pineapple well, reserving the juice. Measure out 3/4 cup pineapple and 2 tbsp pineapple juice.
- Whisk Dry Ingredients: Whisk Dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Whisk Wet Ingredients: In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, vinegar, eggs, sugar, oil and the 2 tbsp pineapple juice from Step 2.
- Add-ins: Stir in carrot, crushed pineapple, coconut and pecans into the Wet ingredients bowl.
- Combine Wet & Dry: Pour Wet into Dry ingredients, stir only until flour is no longer visible. Batter will be lumpy (from the stir-ins) and thick, but runny.
- Fill muffin tin: Divide batter between 12 holes. (A 3-tbsp levered ice cream scoop makes life super-easy here.)
- Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and fully cool before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream butter: Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or whisk attachments for hand mixer), beat the butter for 1 minute until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Cream cheese: Add cream cheese then beat for 1 minute until smooth.
- Icing sugar: Add 1/3 of the icing sugar, then starting on the lowest speed (to avoid a powdery explosion!), beat until mostly incorporated. Add half the remaining icing sugar, beat it in, then the remaining icing sugar.
- Fluff it! Beat on high for 2 minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla and salt, beat briefly to incorporate.
- Pipe: Transfer to piping bag fitted with a round tip (or ziplock bag with snipper corner). Pipe on to cupcake, sprinkle with chopped walnuts or pecans if desired.
Life of Dozer
Practicing the art of Mind Control: trying to make the Carrot Cake Cupcakes jump onto the floor.