Carrot cake cupcakes are moist and flavorful like your favorite carrot cake but in cute, individual servings. Fluffy and moist, they're topped with a blanket of sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. You can create pretty carrots on top with the colored icing or skip the decorating and simply spread the frosting on top.
If you like nuts and/or raisins in your carrot cake, feel free to add some to the batter. Make them nut-free by omitting the chopped walnut decoration. A hint of cardamom adds additional flavor and interest to the batter, but you can easily omit it and increase the cinnamon to 1 1/2 teaspoons if you prefer or can't find the spice.
Make carrot cake cupcakes for Easter, take them to bake sales and potlucks, or serve them at a spring birthday or shower. You can easily halve the recipe to make a dozen.
- For the Cupcakes:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 cups carrots (finely grated)
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (finely grated)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the Frosting:
- 1 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese (softened)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the Decoration:
- Orange food coloring
- Green food coloring
- 1 cup walnuts (toasted, chopped)
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, these cupcakes is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Make the Cupcakes
Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line muffin/cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
In the large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Add the shredded carrots, vegetable oil, eggs, orange zest, and vanilla. Mix until moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pans until about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the Frosting and Decorate
Gather the ingredients.
For the cream cheese frosting, in the large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.
Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract to combine.
Remove 1 1/3 cup of the cream cheese frosting. Tint 1 cup of the frosting orange and 1/3 cup of the frosting green in separate bowls.
Add the colored frostings to two separate piping or zip-top bags.
Frost the tops of the cooled cupcakes with the white cream cheese frosting.
Roll the edges of each cupcake in the chopped nuts.
Pipe the orange frosting in the shape of a carrot on top of each cupcake.
Pipe the green frosting as carrot tops on each cupcake.
Serve and enjoy!
How to Store and Freeze
- Store leftover decorated cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in a container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- The unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen. Let cool and then wrap individually in plastic wrap. Place in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to three months. Defrost in the fridge before decorating and serving.
- Finely grate the carrots yourself for the best results. Pre-shredded bagged carrots tend to be too dry. You can use a box grater or a food processor.
- If you want to make these decorative cupcakes but don't have a traditional piping bag with a tip, it is easy to fashion a makeshift piping bag with a plastic baggie or zip-top bag. Simply fill two bags with the orange and green frosting. Squeeze it down to one corner and twist the top of the bag to remove the air. Snip off a small corner of the bag with scissors and then squeeze to decorate.
- Feel free to skip the decorations and simply frost the cupcakes and serve.
- Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts and/or raisins to the batter.
- Make these cupcakes dairy-free by using vegan cream cheese frosting.
Why Is There Oil in Carrot Cake?
Oil adds delicious moisture to cakes like carrot cakes. Since the cake is so flavorful on its own thanks to spices and other ingredients, butter isn't necessary and oil adds more moisture. While you can make carrot cake with butter, you shouldn't simply swap oil for butter or vice versa in a recipe, since butter also contains water in addition to fat and the texture will be noticeably different.
Can I Use Olive Oil Instead of Vegetable Oil in a Carrot Cake?
Neutral oil like vegetable oil and canola oil is usually used for baking since it doesn't impede the other flavors of the dish. You can use a flavorful oil like olive oil, but it will impact the taste.