Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Soft, moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes crowned with luxurious cream cheese frosting will be the hit of every occasion! 

This Carrot Cake Cupcakes recipe will have everyone swooning – even the haters (like my husband, he couldn’t stay away)!  It’s easy, versatile and melt-in-your-mouth addicting.  The soft, ultra-moist, tender cupcakes are packed with warm fragrant spices, freshly grated carrots, sweet and tangy crushed pineapple, and nutty finely crushed pecans, piled high with silky, rich and tangy cream cheese frosting.  But what truly elevates these perfectly portable Carrot Cake Cupcakes is the combination of a little oil with Greek yogurt and crushed pineapple for the ultimate flavor and tenderness. Keep reading for the step-by-step video, recipe tips and tricks, and printable recipe!

I look forward to spring all year. Not only is it synonymous with gorgeous weather, blooming flowers and birds chirping, it means carrot cake!   If you’re a carrot cake fan, don’t miss Carrot Cake CookiesLayered Carrot CakeCream Cheese Stuffed Carrot CakeCarrot Cake Crepes, and now these Carrot Cake Cupcakes!

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how to make carrot cake cupcakes video

up close of carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting

CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES RECIPE

Easter is just around the corner, which means it’s time for spring desserts!  Years ago, I shared my wildly popular Cream Cheese Stuffed Carrot Cake with Orange Glaze which later inspired my Layered Carrot Cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Glaze. Since sharing, so many have asked about turning these recipes into cupcakes, so here it is! 

These Carrot Cake Cupcakes are essentially the same cake recipe crowned with my foolproof cream cheese frosting.  After experimenting with the pineapple cream cheese frosting, I discovered it was too loose to pipe for cupcakes – but you can stuff the cupcakes with it if you’d like (thanks Therese 😉.)

 Why This Recipe Works

The cupcakes are meltingly soft and moist thanks to the unique ingredients. What truly elevates these Carrot Cake Cupcakes is the combination of a little oil, Greek yogurt and crushed pineapple for the ultimate flavor and tenderness without being oily.  So, if you have never added crushed pineapple to your carrot cake or are hesitant about adding carrots to cupcake – don’t shy away, they make all the difference in creating an obsessive worthy recipe.  I have used this holy trinity in all my carrot cake recipes and I swear by its moisture giving powers.

The cupcakes are irresistibly delicious, chock full of flavor.   These homemade Carrot Cake Cupcakes are infused with brown sugar, cinnamon, hints of allspice, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla extract, vanilla yogurt, crushed pineapple, finely ground pecans and of course, carrots!  The harmonious medley of ingredients is evenly dispersed throughout the cupcakes for a warm sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by the tangy cream cheese frosting.

The cream cheese frosting is literally the icing on these already fabulous cupcakes.  While buttercream frostings are usually too sweet, this cream cheese frosting I could eat with a spoon. The hint of tanginess cuts through the sweetness of the cupcakes and its luxuriously, smooth, creaminess offers the perfect juxtaposition to the ingredient-studded mini cakes.   Additionally, many cream cheese frosting recipes are far too loose and won’t hold their shape, but this frosting is perfectly sturdy and pipe-able every time.

The recipe is easy to make from scratch in minutes. Don’t let the somewhat lengthy ingredient list fool you.  These cupcakes are very simple to make without any fancy equipment.  They are filled with mostly pantry staples that get whisked into two bowls, combined, then dolloped into cupcakes.  Beat the frosting together while the cupcakes cool and you’ll be bursting at the seams with pride because everyone will be begging you for the recipe.

The cupcakes are always a hit for every occasion!   While everyone might not dive into a slice of carrot cake, I’ve found everyone enthusiastically gobbles up these Carrot Cake Cupcakes!  These portable little gems are ideal for Easter, brunch, birthdays, bridal showers, wedding showers, potlucks, picnics, etc. 

They’re make ahead friendly.  Best of all, these cupcakes taste even better the next day –  no last-minute rush stress for you!

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a row of carrot cake cupcakes with pecans

Carrot cake cupcake ingredients

What makes these Carrot Cake Cupcakes so exquisite you might ask?  It comes down to everyday ingredients combined in perfect proportions.  You will need:

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • Carrots: There are 1 and ¼ cups of freshly grated carrots in this recipe for maximum flavor!  Finely grated carrots are the key to the cupcakes signature tenderness because they release moisture as they bake. Don’t use pre-packaged carrots because they are too thick and aren’t as moist as freshly grated.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is best here.  You can also use gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: Work together to help tenderize the cupcakes and provide the perfect amount of lift. Make sure your leaveners are fresh so they work!
  • Sugars:  Brown sugar adds sweetness, moisture and warm molasses undertones and granulated sugar rounds out the sweetness.
  • Pecans:  Are finely ground (takes seconds in your food processor) so they evenly disperse throughout the batter for a subtle, savory nutty flavor to contrast the sweetness.  You can omit them if you wish or substitute with walnuts.
  • Spices: Warm, fragrant spices of ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and salt make the cupcakes. They infuse the recipe with nutty, earthy, slightly sweet and spicy notes.

WET INGREDIENTS

  • Oil: You can use canola, vegetable, or melted coconut oil in these Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Oil is used rather than butter because it creates moister cupcakes.  Butter is traditionally used for its flavor, but this recipe is already chock full of flavor thanks to the spices, pineapple and pecans, so you won’t even miss it.
  • Crushed pineapple:  Use crushed pineapple packed in juice and not pineapple in packed in syrup because the syrup makes the pineapple too sweet.  We will drain the pineapple and not use the juice.  I like to freeze the extra juice for smoothies.
  • Vinegar:  Just a splash of vinegar activates the baking soda, giving it a kick-start on the rise.  You can also use lemon juice or orange juice as well.
  • Eggs: Provide structure and moisture.  Use room temperature eggs because they blend with the other ingredients more easily so you don’t mistakenly overmix the batter.
  • Vanilla Greek yogurt:  You can use regular or low-fat with excellent results.  The yogurt adds extra moisture and flavor so our Carrot Cake Cupcakes are extra tender without being oily. You can substitute with additional vegetable oil if you must.
  • Vanilla extract:  All desserts need a little oomph of vanilla.  The better the quality, the better it tastes, so go as quality as you can.
up close of carrot cake cupcakes recipe on a plate with pineapple

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • Cream cheese: Use a full fat block of cream cheese and not spreadable cream cheese otherwise your frosting will be too soft. The cream cheese should be softened to room temperature at room temperature or again, your frosting will be sloppy and not hold its shape.
  • Butter:  Use unsalted butter so we can salt the frosting ourselves.  Soften the butter to room temperature at room temperature. (More tips on softening cream cheese and butter in tips section.)
  • Vanilla extract:  Pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
  • Salt:  Cuts through the sweetness of the frosting. 
  • Powdered sugar: Use only powdered sugar otherwise the frosting will taste grainy.  Add your measured powdered sugar and sift it through a fine mesh sieve to eliminate any possible lumps while beating.

HOW DO I GRATE CARROTS FOR CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES?

It’s important to grate the carrots correctly for the best Carrot Cake Cupcakes.  This recipe calls for 1 ¼ cups or 4.75 oz. of peeled and finely grated carrots.  I recommend weighing the carrots for the most accurate measurement.

  • Cheese grater:  Select the finest holes on a cheese grater (aside from the zester) and shred the carrots carefully. To avoid long strands of carrots, grate the carrots perpendicular to the grater, i.e., 90 degrees against the grater, rather than on an angle.
  • Food processor:  Alternatively, if you have a shredding blade for your food processor then you can grate the carrots that way. After you grate the carrots, briefly pulse a couple times to create fine shreds.  Take care to not overdo it or you’ll end up with carrot juice!  
up close of carrot cake cupcake on a white serving plate

Possible Recipe Variations

This Carrot Cake Cupcake recipe is very flexible when it comes to add-ins. You can add 1 cup of total add-ins, so you’ll need to divide that between ingredients if using more than one add-in.  For example, ½ cup coconut and ½ cup pecans.  Here are a few ideas: 

  • All-purpose flour:  These cupcakes can successfully be made with all-purpose flour, half whole-wheat flour, or gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour.
  • Yogurt: You may swap the yogurt in this recipe for sour cream or unsweetened applesauce instead.  These swaps will also add moisture but the vanilla Greek yogurt adds the best flavor.
  • Nuts:  You can swap the pecans in this recipe for walnuts or use chopped nuts instead.  You can use less nuts if you’d like and combine with another add-in.
  • Raisins:  Add alone or in addition to the pecans and/or coconut so the total add-ins equal 1 cup.
  • Coconut:  Use sweetened coconut because it will make the cupcakes moister (the sugar releases moisture).   
  • Coconut Extract:  If you’re adding coconut, consider adding ½ teaspoon coconut extract. 
  • Oil:  If adding coconut, consider using melted coconut oil instead of vegetable oil to really amp up the coconut flavor.

How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Making Carrot Cake Cupcakes is as about as simple as it gets – if you have a couple of bowls and can stir ingredients together, you can make these heavenly morsels!  Let’s take a closer look at how to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes with step-by-step photos (full recipe with measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Step 1: Mix the Dry and Wet ingredients in separate bowls. Mixing the ingredients separately ensures everything is evenly dispersed, especially the leaveners.  It also helps to not overmix the eggs once combined with the flour which can activate the gluten and cause dense, dry cupcakes. 
a collage showing how to make carrot cake cupcake recipe by whisking eggs, pineapple, vanilla in a bowl and flour, sugar, pecans and cinnamon in a separate bowl
  • Step 2: Fold the Dry and Wet ingredients together. Use a rubber spatula (or I love my rubber spatula spoon) and fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until you don’t see any large streaks of flour. A few streaks are okay, because they will be incorporated when you add the carrots. 
a collage showing how to make carrot cake cupcakes by whisking dry ingredients together, whisking wet ingredients together then combining all the ingredients together
  • Step 3: Add the carrots.  Finally, fold the carrots into the batter just until evenly combined.  If you’re adding chopped pecans (not the ground ones in this recipe), raisins, or coconut, you’ll fold them into the batter at this time. 
showing how to make carrot cake cupcakes by whisking carrots into the batter
  • Step 4: Bake the cupcakes.  Divide the batter evenly between the greased cupcake liners, using a spoon, or I find it easiest to use a cookie scoop.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. 
showing how to make carrot cake cupcakes by adding batter to cupcake liners
  • Step 5: Make the frosting.   You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric mixer.  First, beat the cream cheese until creamy followed by the butter, vanilla extract and salt.   With the mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined.
showing how to make carrot cake cupcakes by whipping cream cheese frosting in a stand mixer
  • Step 6: Frost the cupcakes.  Wait until the cupcakes are completely cool before frosting otherwise the frosting will melt right off! 
carrot cake cupcakes recipe with cream cheese frosting garnished with pecans

Expert tips for the best recipe

This Carrot Cake Cupcakes recipe is pretty straightforward but please take a look at these tips and tricks to make sure you’re not making any common mistakes which can derail your success.  Here’s what to know:

Drain the pineapple:  Add crushed pineapple to a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and push down on pineapple with a spoon to eliminate excess moisture.  This ensures that you and I both have roughly the same moisture content in our cakes.

Use room temperature eggs: Room temperature eggs easily blend with the other ingredients which helps you not to overmix. Cold eggs, on the other hand, are more difficult to mix in and can break the emulsion of the sugar and oil, so the batter loses air cells, resulting in a cupcakes that are grainy, dry or dense.

Room temperature eggs hack: Add warm (not hot) tap water to a bowl then add eggs (still in their shells) for at least 20 minutes. 

Measure the flour correctly:  When measuring flour, it’s best to use the spoon and level technique.  If you directly scoop flour from the container, the flour will compress, and you’ll get more flour than intended, resulting in denser, drier cupcakes.  The correct way to measure flour is to scoop the flour into the measuring cup with a spoon and then level.

Don’t Overmix!  Our goal is to preserve the airiness of the batter so the less you mix once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, the better. When you overmix cupcake batter, the gluten in the flour can form elastic gluten strands which results in a denser, tough texture as opposed to a light, softy, fluffy crumb.

Don’t overfill the cupcake liners:  Overfilling the liners can cause the cupcakes to overflow and turn out more like muffins. You only want to fill the cupcake liners about 2/3-¾ of the way full. 

How to prevent cupcake liners from sticking:  Don’t forget the baking spray!  Although the cupcakes have oil in them, they need a little help from nonstick cooking spray or else they will stick after baking.

Bake the cupcakes immediately:  Don’t forget to preheat your oven before you start making the batter so you can pop the cupcakes into the oven immediately. Just think of how quickly bubbles rise and pop in a batter – we don’t want them popping before the cupcakes are in the oven.  Instead, we want to trap the bubbles while baking otherwise the cupcakes won’t rise as high or be as tender.

Don’t overbake!  One of the main reasons people complain of dry cupcakes is because they overbake them.   You want to remove your cupcakes when there are just a few crumbs clinging to a toothpick.  Check the cupcakes right at 20 minutes, even if they don’t look done because the shiny surface can be deceiving.

Don’t open oven door while baking:  Don’t be tempted to open the door while baking until the cupcakes have been in the oven for a full 20 minutes, otherwise the cold draft of air can cause the cupcakes to fall in the center.

Use room temperature – NEVER MICROWAVED butter and cream cheese for frosting: Plan ahead and use only room temperature butter and cream cheese (17°C/63°F). If they are too soft, your frosting will be too runny/sloppy to hold its shape instead of sturdy and pipeable.

Don’t serve immediately: It’s going to be difficult, but Carrot Cake Cupcakes taste even better after a few hours, or I think they’re best the next 1-2 days.  This gives the flavors time to settle and mingle and the moisture to permeate.

carrot cake cupcakes recipe with pineapple and pecans and cream cheese frosting

Can this recipe be doubled? 

Absolutely!  Just use the sliding scale next to the servings to change the servings to the desired number of cupcakes. 

How do you store the cupcakes? 

The frosted cupcakes can be left at room temperature for up to 2 hours because the sugar in the cream cheese frosting acts as a preservative.  After that, store the frosted cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up 4 days. Plan ahead so you can let the cupcakes rest on the counter for at least 1 hour before serving so they can come to room temperature.  Cold Carrot Cake Cupcakes just aren’t the same!  

How to Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time:

Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container on the counter one day before frosting (not in the fridge because it dries them out more quickly).  The frosting can be made 7 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring the frosting to room temperature before using then beat until light and fluffy before piping on the cupcakes.

Can these Cupcakes Be Frozen?

  • Unfrosted cupcakes:  Let the cupcakes cool completely.  Individually wrap each unfrosted cupcake in plastic wrap (prevents freezer burn) then place all of the cupcakes inside a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to frost, remove the plastic wrap and allow the cupcakes to thaw on the counter for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Frosted cupcakes:  Transfer cupcakes to a freezer safe container deep enough so the frosting doesn’t get smooshed. Seal and freeze until the cupcakes are solid, about 1-2 hours.  Remove the cupcakes from the container and individually wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap (prevents freezer burn).  Place the cupcakes inside a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to frost, remove the plastic wrap and allow the cupcakes to thaw on the counter for 1 to 2 hours.

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up close of a carrot cake cupcake with a bite taken out showing how soft and moist they are

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up close of carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

This Carrot Cake Cupcakes recipe will have everyone swooning – even the haters (like my husband, he couldn't stay away)!  It’s easy, versatile and melt-in-your-mouth addicting.  The soft, ultra-moist, tender cupcakes are packed with warm fragrant spices, freshly grated carrots, sweet and tangy crushed pineapple, and nutty finely crushed pecans, piled high with silky, rich and tangy cream cheese frosting.  But what truly elevates these perfectly portable Carrot Cake Cupcakes is the combination of a little oil with Greek yogurt and crushed pineapple for the ultimate flavor and tenderness without being oily. Keep reading for the step-by-step video, recipe tips and tricks, and printable recipe!
Servings: 13 -14 cupcakes

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Ingredients

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped (I use my food processor), (See options in notes)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, allspice, nutmeg, ground ginger

WET INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (regular or low-fat)
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained (packed in JUICE/not syrup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

ADD LATER

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (8 TBS) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions

CUPCAKES

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard 12-count muffin pans with a total of 13-14 cupcake liners. Lightly spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the Dry Ingredients together. In a separate bowl, gently whisk eggs then stir in remaining Wet Ingredients, including drained pineapple, just until combined.
  • Fold Wet Ingredients into Dry Ingredients just until moistened, then stir in the grated carrots (or coconut, raisins, etc. if using) just until evenly combined; DON’T overmix.
  • Divide batter equally between the 13- 14 cupcake liners, filling each liner about ¾ of the way full (easiest to use a cookie scoop).
  • Bake in separate batches at 350°F for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING THE CUPCAKES

  • In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle (may use whisk attachment), beat the cream cheese until smooth on medium-high speed. Add the butter and continue to beat 1 additional minute, until creamy and lump free. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt.
  • With mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined, then switch to high speed and beat for 1 minute.
  • Frost cupcakes as desired once completely cooled. Garnish with crushed pecans if you’d like.

Video

Notes

*Note:  The video is double the recipe (because 12 is never enough), so there are 4 eggs instead of 2.

Recipe Variations

This Carrot Cake Cupcake recipe is very flexible when it comes to add-ins. You can add 1 cup of total add-ins, so you’ll need to divide that between ingredients if using more than one add-in.  For example, ½ cup coconut and ½ cup pecans.  Here are a few ideas: 
  • All-purpose flour:  These cupcakes can successfully be made with all-purpose flour, half whole-wheat flour, or gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour.
  • Yogurt: You may swap the yogurt in this recipe for sour cream or unsweetened applesauce instead.  These swaps will also add moisture but the vanilla Greek yogurt adds the best flavor.
  • Nuts:  You can swap the pecans in this recipe for walnuts or use chopped nuts instead.  You can use less nuts if you’d like and combine with another add-in.
  • Raisins:  Add alone or in addition to the pecans and/or coconut so the total add-ins equal 1 cup.
  • Coconut:  Use sweetened coconut because it will make the cupcakes moister (the sugar releases moisture).   
  • Coconut Extract:  If you’re adding coconut, consider adding ½ teaspoon coconut extract. 
  • Oil:  If adding coconut, consider using melted coconut oil instead of vegetable oil to really amp up the coconut flavor.

Can this recipe be doubled? 

Absolutely!  Just use the sliding scale next to the servings to change the servings to the desired number of cupcakes. 

How to Store

The frosted cupcakes can be left at room temperature for up to 2 hours because the sugar in the cream cheese frosting acts as a preservative.  After that, store the frosted cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up 4 days. Plan ahead so you can let the cupcakes rest on the counter for at least 1 hour before serving so they can come to room temperature.  Cold Carrot Cake Cupcakes just aren’t the same!  

How to make Ahead

  • Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container on the counter one day before frosting (not in the fridge because it dries them out more quickly). 
  • The frosting can be made 7 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring the frosting to room temperature before using then beat until light and fluffy before piping on the cupcakes.

how to Freeze

  • Unfrosted cupcakes:  Let the cupcakes cool completely.  Individually wrap each unfrosted cupcake in plastic wrap (prevents freezer burn) then place all of the cupcakes inside a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to frost, remove the plastic wrap and allow the cupcakes to thaw on the counter for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Frosted cupcakes:  Transfer cupcakes to a freezer safe container deep enough so the frosting doesn’t get smooshed. Seal and freeze until the cupcakes are solid, about 1-2 hours.  Remove the cupcakes from the container and individually wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap (prevents freezer burn).  Place the cupcakes inside a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to frost, remove the plastic wrap and allow the cupcakes to thaw on the counter for 1 to 2 hours.

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8 Comments

  1. Susan says

    Good morning Jennifer!
    I can’t wait to make these and am sure they’ll be delicious as are all your other recipes!!
    Can I use my large muffin pan to make larger cupcakes?
    Any advice you can give me is appreciated.
    Thank you and have a great weekend!
    Susan
    PS—I LOVE YOUR SITE, PICTURES, PRESENTATION AND THE TASTING OF ALL!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind words Susan! Yes, you can definitely use your large muffin pan. I would start by increasing the baking time by 5 minutes and go from there, enjoy!

  2. Christine Williamson says

    Loved the “tips” to warm your eggs INSIDE the shell. Laughed till I had tears running down my leg ! Too funny.

    • Jen says

      LOL! Happy to make your day! You’d be surprised at the things people do :)!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Roxy, I’m so pleased you loved them!

  3. Alicia says

    Thank you for another wonderful recipe! These came out so moist and delicious! Cream cheese frosting is perfect. Can’t wait to try out your carrot cake with pineapple cream cheese frosting recipe next! 🙂

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Alicia, I’m glad they were a hit! I think you’ll absolutely love the carrot cake!

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