I'm about to show you how to make the most delicious homemade Carrot Cake Cupcakes that are so easy to prepare with simple pantry ingredients. This is an oil-based recipe that makes soft, tender and moist cupcakes full of warm spices and pecans. I top them with a silky smooth cream cheese frosting and toasted pecans. These little cakes are perfect for Easter brunch or Easter dessert, or actually... any time of the year! If you're also looking for a layer cake, check out my recipe for Best Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Easy carrot cake recipe - this recipe is very easy to prepare as you can see from the step-by-step video. You don't need a mixer to make these cupcakes. You simple combine the wet ingredients and then gently mix in the dry ingredients. The most work is grating the carrots.
- Moist carrot cake - these cupcakes have a soft texture and moist crumb that is fluffy and not oily nor pasty.
- Flavorful spice cake - a fragrant blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice adds such a wonderful flavor.
- Smooth fluffy cream cheese frosting - the cream cheese frosting is so silky and smooth and not too sweet. It's also SO fluffy and not dense like a lot of other recipes I've tried. You only need 4 tablespoons of butter for the frosting so it doesn't use a ton of ingredients either.
INGREDIENTS FOR CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES
- All purpose flour - regular unbleached all-purpose flour works just fine in this carrot cake recipe for a moist and soft texture.
- Spices - a fragrant blend of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger is just right here! I've played with the blend of spices a lot and this is the combination I love the most for carrot cake. Feel free to leave out the allspice if you don't have it, or add a pinch of ground clove instead.
- Granulated sugar - granulated sugar keeps these muffins tender and moist.
- Brown sugar - brown sugar adds rich molasses undertones to complement the sweet spices in this cake. You can use light or dark brown sugar.
- Oil - you can use vegetable oil or any neutral-tasting oil. I prefer sunflower oil. I use oil instead of butter in this recipe because liquid oil will keep this cake soft even when it's refrigerated to preserve the cream cheese frosting. That's because oil is liquid even when cold whereas the saturated fats in butter are hard when cold.
- Eggs - two large eggs will add nice structure and help with the moist spongy texture.
- Pure vanilla extract - vanilla will enhance the spices. I like this Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract.
- Yogurt - use full fat plain yogurt to add tanginess to balance the sweet carrots and the acidity will react with the baking soda.
- Grated carrots - you will need 1 ½ cups of shredded carrots which is about 170g from 2 medium carrots. Make sure you grate them on the finer side of your box grater.
- Pecans - I really like pecans in my carrot cake. It's actually the only time I like nuts in cake! This is optional, though, and you could also use walnuts. For extra flavour, toast them before you use them.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- STEP 1). First grate your carrots. Use the fine or medium size on your box grater - do not the largest size. If the carrot shreds are too large then they will be stringy in the cake and this interferes with the nice moist crumb texture. Measure out 2 cups and place it in a large mixing bowl.
- STEP 2). Mix carrots with sugar. Add sugar to the grated carrots and let it sit for 3 minutes. The sugar will pull moisture from the carrots and break them down slightly so they bake right into the batter instead of leaving stringy bits.
- STEP 3). Add wet ingredients. Add eggs, oil, yogurt and vanilla to the carrots and whisk it well to blend evenly.
- STEP 4). Combine dry ingredients. Combine flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to blend evenly.
- STEP 5). Add in the dry ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and fold them in gently. Fold in the pecans if you choose to use them. Do not over-mix.
- STEP 6). Bake. Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups with paper liners and bake until golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS FOR CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES
- Mix carrots with sugar first. This step helps to break down the carrots slightly so that you don't end up with fibrous bits in the baked cakes.
- Measure flour accurately. Too much flour can make these cupcake feel more dry and create a coarser texture. For the best results, weigh your flour.
- Sift the dry ingredients. Sifting the flour will break up any lumps and make it easier for them to incorporate into the batter and minimize the amount of mixing required.
- Do no over-mix on the last step. Once the dry ingredients are just incorporated and the batter looks uniform, STOP mixing.
I really love the classic combination of cream cheese frosting over carrot cake. It's slightly tangy flavor and rich dairy notes pairs well with the warm spices.
I've decorated these cupcakes very simply with a sprinkle of chopped toasted pecans and a sugar carrot decoration. I like the simplistic look of these since I feel like carrot cake is a very rustic and natural type of cake.
Carrot muffins are more dense and firmer than carrot cupcakes. The ingredient proportions are slightly different so that there is more flour in muffins and slightly less sugar.
For oil-based cakes, I almost always prefer sunflower oil because it has a very neutral and clean taste. This recipe will work with any liquid oil, including canola (rapeseed) oil, peanut oil or even olive oil. For a pleasant fruity/green grassy background note, try making this cake with light olive oil. It's really nice!
Water makes cake moist. This cake gets its moisture from maple syrup and yogurt as well as eggs. Also, let's not forget grated carrots which are mostly water! Carrots also contain fiber which helps to provide structure. You don't need a ton of oil to make cake moist - that will only make it greasy.
Oil is fat. Moisture comes from water. Oil does not contain water. So then what's the deal? Well, oil makes cakes soft and that gives the perception of moistness. It keeps the crumb tender. If there is too much oil, then the cake will be dense and heavy and air bubbles will not be able to sustain themselves in the batter. Light and fluffy usually does not go hand-in-hand with high fat.
One of the most important things to note when baking with oils is to use the freshest oil possible. You can easily ruin a recipe if your oil is rancid, and you will be so upset that you wasted all the other ingredients! Store oil in a cool, dry and dark place away from sunlight. Do not store your oil under the sink because it can get hot under there after long periods of running hot water. It's best to buy oil that is packaged in dark green bottles as opposed to clear glass or plastic which do not provide much of a barrier to light. Light and heat can trigger oxidation reactions, and it's these reactions that cause the fat molecules in oil to taste rancid. Rancidity can be detected by a soapy taste.
My favorite spices for carrot cake are cinnamon (in the highest quantity), allspice, nutmeg and ginger. It's such a wonderful fragrance and will make your house smell amazing! You can use clove if you like, but I find it is too overpowering for carrot cake. Clove belongs in gingerbread.
STORAGE AND FREEZING
Due to the cream cheese in the frosting which has a high moisture content, these cupcakes needs to be refrigerated. The good news is that since the cake layers are made with oil (not butter), they will remain soft even when cold. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge. For the best experience, let them come to room temperature before serving.
You can keep these cupcakes for up to 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
EXPERT TIPS FOR THE BEST CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
So many times I hear from home bakers that their cream cheese frosting is runny. This one is NOT! This frosting is so thick, fluffy and luscious!
- The key is to not use too much liquid since cream cheese is almost 60% water anyway! Also it is important to use the right ratio of butter to cream cheese. That ratio is about 1:2. One part butter to 2 parts cream cheese.
- Hold back on the sugar! Too much sugar will not only make it taste way too sweet, but it will make it more runny since sugar binds water and turns into a syrup.
If you love cake, check out these recipes too:BEST Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese FrostingUltimate Moist Chocolate Fudge CakeSticky Toffee Date CakeMoist Lemon Blueberry BreadOlive Oil Chocolate Bundt CakeBest Vanilla Cupcake Recipe with Chocolate Fudge FrostingChocolate Chip Banana Cake with Creamy Milk Chocolate FrostingBlueberry Peach Upside Down Cake
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 ¼ cups 180g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon each ground allspice and ginger
- ⅙ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups (113g) finely grated carrots (from about 2 medium carrots)
- ½ cup 100g granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup 70g packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- ⅓ cup 80ml sunflower oil
- ⅓ cup 80ml full fat yogurt
- ½ teaspoon 5ml pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup 50g coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
- ¼ cup 56g unsalted butter, softened
- ½ block 125g cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup 120g icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoon 30ml sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
- For the cupcake batter, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to blend evenly.
- Combine grated carrots and both sugars in a large bowl. Let stand for no more than 3 minutes to allow the sugar to break down the carrots and release some liquid. This helps to soften the carrots slightly so that they don’t become stringy bits in your cakes. Whisk in eggs until well blended, then whisk in oil, yogurt and vanilla. Add flour mixture and pecans and fold gently using a spatula until mostly incorporated, but do not over mix.
- Divide the batter evenly among paper liners filling them about ¾ full. Bake for 17-20 minutes until cupcakes are golden and they spring back when pressed gently. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting, beat soft butter with soft cream cheese until smooth. Add sifted icing sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy. Beat in yogurt one tablespoon at a time until creamy and then beat in beat in lemon juice and vanilla.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of frosting over each cooled cupcake and then top with chopped toasted pecans.