Carrot cake cupcakes are loaded with fresh carrots and roasted pecans, plus topped with the best cream cheese frosting. They are easy to make and perfect for spring or Easter!
These carrot cake cupcakes are adapted from my favorite carrot cake recipe, and to say I'm happy with how they turned out would be an understatement! The cupcakes are moist, light, and perfectly spiced with plenty of fresh carrots and roasted pecans in every bite. And of course, no carrot cake would be complete without the irresistible, tangy cream cheese frosting!
Ingredients for Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
- Carrots: Fresh, peeled, and grated using the large holes on a box grater. Always use fresh carrots and grate them yourself, never use pre-shredded carrots. Fresh-grated carrots have a lot of moisture, while pre-shredded carrots are almost completely dried out.
- Pecans: Chopped and lightly roasted. Roasting the pecans brings out and enhances their nutty flavor. It's best to roast them whole and then chop them yourself, but you can also roast them pre-chopped.
- All-purpose flour: Measure correctly: Lightly spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level it off with the flat side of a knife.
- Baking powder: Leavener that makes the cupcakes rise.
- Seasoning & spices: Salt, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg.
- Vegetable oil: Vegetable oil gives these cupcakes the best texture and also keeps them fresh longer.
- Granulated and brown sugar: Using both makes the cupcakes extra moist because of the molasses in the brown sugar.
- Eggs: Room temperature. Take the eggs out of the fridge at least 1 hour before using them, or quickly bring the eggs to room temperature by placing them in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for about 5 minutes.
- Vanilla Extract: Pure or imitation is fine.
- Sour cream: Adds moisture to the cupcakes without making the batter too thin. Always use full-fat! You can also substitute with full-fat plain Greek yogurt.
How to Make Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
Grate the carrots and roast the pecans first. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and roast in a 225° oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 350° and line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. Lightly spray the inside of each liner with non-stick spray so the cupcakes don't stick.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ground nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a larger bowl, whisk the oil, both sugar, room temperature eggs, vanilla extract, and sour cream. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Then stir in the grated carrots and chopped pecans.
Pour the batter evenly into the cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full. Gently tap the pan on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles and bake for 15-17 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Cream cheese: Softened to room temperature. Always use brick-style, full-fat cream cheese for making cream cheese frosting.
- Butter: Unsalted and softened to room temperature. If all you have is salted butter then leave out the added salt in the frosting.
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
Use a hand-held electric mixer or the whisk attachment in a stand mixer to mix the frosting ingredients until smooth with no lumps of cream cheese.
If you're making the frosting ahead of time, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge. Then let it soften to room temperature once you're ready to frost the cupcakes.
How to Frost Cupcakes:
To pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes you'll need a piping bag and a piping tip. For a classic swirl frosted cupcake, use a Wilton 1M tip , which is an extra-large open star tip. Other popular piping tips are the Wilton 2D and 2A.
To pipe a classic swirl, start by piping a dollop of frosting in the center of the cupcake, then slowly pipe the frosting around the outside in a counter-clockwise circle.
Once you complete a circle around the outside, start working your way back to the center of the cupcake, building up as you go.
Finish off with a peak of frosting in the center of the cupcake and then add some sprinkles or chopped pecans for decoration.
Tips for Frosting Cupcakes:
- Your frosting needs to be completely softened to room temperature or it won't pipe smoothly and easily.
- To fill the piping bag with frosting: Place the piping bag with the tip side down inside a tall glass. Fold the edges of the piping bag around the outside of the glass and then use a rubber spatula to press the frosting down into the bag. Pull the edges of the bag up and around the frosting, then squeeze the bag to push the frosting down towards the tip and get rid of any pockets of air.
- Only fill your piping bag about halfway with frosting. If the bag is too full the frosting can come up out the other end and create a big mess.
- It's usually easier to pipe frosting in a counter-clockwise direction (or clockwise if you're left-handed).
How to Store & Freeze Cupcakes:
Frosted cupcakes stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days, or in the fridge for 1 week.
To freeze the cupcakes (unfrosted): Once the cupcakes have cooled, arrange them on a baking pan in a single layer and set the pan in the freezer for 1 hour or until the cupcakes are solid. Add them to a large plastic bag and keep frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and frost as normal.
To freeze cupcake batter: Add the batter to the cupcake liners in the muffin pan. Set the pan flat in the freezer until the batter is completely frozen solid. Remove the batter-filled cupcake liners from the pan and add them to a large plastic bag. Keep frozen for up to 3 months. When you're ready to bake the cupcakes, add the batter-filled liners to the muffin pan and bake in a 350° oven, a few minutes longer than the normal bake time, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
More Cupcake Recipes:
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- 12 cupcake liners
- piping bag and piping tip
- 1 cup fresh-grated carrots
- ½ cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream
Cream cheese frosting:
- 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, full-fat, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Preheat your oven to 225°F.
- Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and finely chop once cooled. (You can also use pre-chopped or pecan pieces)
- Peel the carrots and grate using the large holes on a box grater.
- Increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners and lightly spray the inside of each liner with non-stick spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk the vegetable oil, both sugars, room temperature eggs, vanilla extract, and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans and the grated carrots.
- Scoop the batter evenly into the cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way up. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any trapped air bubbles.
- Bake the cupcakes for 15-17 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cool in the pan and then cool completely in the fridge before frosting.
Make the cream cheese frosting:
- In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese and softened butter until smooth with no lumps. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and mix until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- Frost the cupcakes as desired with a piping bag and a piping tip. See the post for a step-by-step visual on how to pipe a classic swirl-frosted cupcake.