Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Please welcome Garrett McCord from the food blog Vanilla Garlic as he shares his carrot cake cupcake recipe. I swear these are the best carrot cake cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. ~Elise

I find that you can tell a lot about someone based on the type of carrot cake they make. I find that those who enjoy pineapple and coconut in their carrot cake are a bit more flamboyant and unpredictable than the average baker and, likely, have a tiki shirt in their closet. Those who prefer heavy amount of cloves and raisins are traditionalists; they have a penchant for nostalgia and reminiscing over their fragrant and fruity carrot cakes that encapsulate their childhood. Others prefer orange juice – modernizing the classics and stirring up cocktails to pair with them.

I like to see myself as inventive, strange, and maybe even quirky – my carrot cake is a carrot cupcake (I like to think I’m a wee bit adorable, too). Toasted walnuts add a certain bittersweet and earthy taste to the cupcakes. Cinnamon and a good dose of cardamom give it a faraway newness, which is only made more intriguing with the floral and citrusy finish from the orange zest. Dolloped with some cream cheese frosting, it’s a carrot cupcake that emulates old times from way back when with a bit of a contemporary twist. A funky cupcake that anyone’s personality can appreciate.

So then, what does your carrot (cup)cake say about you?

Carrot Cake Cupcakes Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 pound of carrots
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or add a teaspoon of lemon juice to regular milk and allow to stand for 10 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350F. Toast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2 Rinse the carrots and peel the rough skins off, then grate the carrots.

3 Place the carrots, buttermilk, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest together in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.

4 In another bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon.

5 Fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture, being sure not to overmix. Fold in the toasted walnuts until evenly incorporated.

6 Scoop into cupcake papers about 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake for 19-21 minutes at 350F, being sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking. Afterwards allow to cool for 5 minutes before taking the cupcakes out of the cupcake tin and allowing them to fully cool on a wire rack. Frost cooled cupcakes.


Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 oz of Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until well combined. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

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carrot-cake-cupcakes-2.jpg

68 Comments

  1. Martijn van Steenbergen

    This recipe looks awesome and very easy to make. I can’t wait to try it out!

    What does overmixing mean (step 5)?

    It means that if you mix too much you will increase the gluten bonds creating a denser cupcake. ~Garrett

    Thanks,
    Martijn.

  2. Susie

    Any suggetions for an alternative, non-cheese frosting? My son loves carrot cake, but my husband can’t eat cheese.

    Try a simple glaze of orange juice and powdered sugar. Just mix them together to a proper consistency then allow a few minutes for it to sit and thicken. ~Garrett

  3. zoe maya

    My carrot (cup)cake says that I love my mama! She has been making carrot cake for all of our birthdays, so four times a year, for 33 years. It is always delicious and a reflection of how she is feeling at the moment she makes the cake. Sometimes it’s heavy on the coconut, sometimes it all carrot and spice. Sometimes both! Lately crystallized ginger has made its way into the mix, yum! All I know is I have never been and will never be sick of it because when you take the first bite, it’s love. After lusting over the smell for hours and rushing through dinner for it, you experience a perfectly moist, spiced crumb with delectable surprises as you move your way through a generous slice. I can’t wait for my birthday this year…

    Sounds delish, but why wait? Make some now! (That’s how my mind works – cake is good at all times and for all reasons.) ~Garrett

  4. Saumya

    Elise, love your blog!

    Please help….
    How much would a cup of chopped walnuts, sugar, flour, butter, etc be in metric?
    The metric convertor is no help since it only converts into millilitres.
    Dying to make these so really looking forward to hearing from you..
    Thanks! Saumya

    Sorry Saumya, can’t help you there. I don’t cook in metric. Perhaps someone else who tries this recipe and weighs out all of the ingredients after measuring them as given, will report back. ~Elise

  5. Julianna

    These look really amazing! I love the cardamom addition as well. How many does this make? I’m assuming is makes 12. I would need 2 dozen for Easter, so would you suggest I double the recipe or just bake two batches? Thank you!

    The recipe makes 24. Sorry, forgot that note. ~Garrett

  6. Alyson

    I can’t wait to try this recipe, I love carrot cake and cupcakes! I’m wondering.. does the lemon juice/milk trick work in other baking? I’ve never heard of this but being young and broke it’s hard for me to bake as much as I’d like since I have to buy pricey special ingredients that I wouldn’t use for other day to day things, like buttermilk.

    I feel ya’ on the young and broke bit. The trick works fine for me as I’ve made this recipe using both buttermilk and the lemon juice/milk method. As for other baking, I think so, depending on the recipe. Buttermilk has its uses, like for pancakes if you have some leftover. Personally, even in a pinch, I substitute a bit of old yogurt or even old sour cream. Still, for this recipe, stick to the lemon juice / milk. ~Garrett

  7. avvikande

    Good afternoon… I have a couple of questions, if I may.

    Question #1: When a recipe calls for milk, or buttermilk, what fat content should be used for proper consistency?

    Question #2: Every time I use muffin cups to line my muffin pans, more muffin stays stuck to the darn cup than gets eaten. How do I prevent this from happening without saturating the muffin liner with oil?

    Thanks in advance!

    You may! 1: I use whole milk. As for buttermilk, I use what I can find. Sadly my local Safeway is sporadic in holding it. 2: It just happens sometimes. I find the foil liners to stick less myself. However, others would vehemenently disagree and swear by the paper ones. Overbaking however, can cause it the cake to burn and then “glue” itself to the paper. ~Garrett

  8. jeremy

    Wow, I completely forgot how amazing carrot cake is, I’ll definitely be making these soon.

    I’m actually really interested in the alternative “orange juice / powdered sugar” glaze, which sounds awesome. Could you offer any more details or should I just start adding powdered sugar to OJ until it gets to a reasonable consistency? Is it really that simple?

    Thanks!

    Off the top of my head the glaze should be a heaping 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to a teaspoon or two or orange juice. You may have to play with that a bit, but yes, it really is that simple. ~Garrett

  9. Sangeeta

    What size of the mold should I use?

    Just use cupcake papers and a muffin tin. ~Garrett

  10. AngelSong

    I love carrot cake with pineapple and coconut. How would orange juice fit into a carrot cake recipe, other than using it as a glaze?

    Like this one here. ~Garrett

  11. JEP

    Your recipe has just the right mix of ingredients for my taste! Grating a # of carrots is not my idea of fun…what’s the easiest way to tackle that? Does is make a difference if they are course grated or finely grated in the crumb of the baked cupcake?

    Just grate the carrots with a box grater. ~Garrett

  12. Saumya

    Please please would someone who is familiar with metric as well, post how much of everything I need to use when measuring in metric?

    Want to make these for a surprise party next week, and am just clueless about how much ‘one cup of butter’ etc is!

    Thanks in advance… Saumya

    Check online for a conversion calculator. one of them should be able to help. ~Garrett

  13. Eileen

    Wow – this recipe looks fantastic! I must try it! But, like the poster who is adverse to grating 1# of carrots (I would think you could use your food processor with the grater disc for this task), I rarely do cupcakes (or cookies) because it takes more time than just making a cake. Garrett, I wonder if this batter would make a 9×13 cake or two 8″ or 9″ round cakes? Thanks so much for sharing this!

  14. Elyse

    Garrett, I can tell you’re awesome by your carrot cake! My favorite carrot cake is Maida Heatter’s…she adds a bit of cocoa powder to hers…what does that say about me? What a great post! Can’t wait to try your recipe!

  15. Nicole The Weekend Baker

    My carrot cake says “Grandmom knows best!” :-)

    Just curious, why no vanilla in your cream cheese frosting?

    So as to not interfere with the sweet, sweet taste of cheese. ~Garrett

  16. Lisa

    Here’s the metric conversion for the big ingredients:

    1 cup walnuts – 120g
    1/2 cup buttermilk – 112g (or 120ml)
    2 cups sugar – 397g
    1 cup vegetable oil – 227g
    3 cups a/p flour – 404g

    1 cup butter (2 sticks) – 227g
    16 oz cream cheese – 454g
    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar – 180g

    I figured this out by looking on the containers of each ingredient. Most food packages in the U.S. have ounce and gram equivalants.

    Rock on. Thanks so much Lisa! ~Garrett

  17. jennywenny

    I love a generous addition of walnuts, pecans, cranberries (soaked in orange juice) and orange zest.

  18. Puja

    The carrot cupcake looks so yummy. Your cake recipes are very easy. This urges me to try it once at least. In India, since we are all a bit too much into spicy things, baking a cake is like a mountainous task for us.

  19. Colleen

    Someone at the top asked about metric conversions for the weights. I would like to be the one to share the power of google.

    Type in the measurement you have the word convert then what you want to get it back in and hit enter. TADA!! it will do it for you automatically!!!
    This does look super tastey though. I will by testing it out as a reward for my handsome man this weekend.

  20. Elisa

    Great recipe – My carrot (cup)cake would say I have a meyer lemon tree in my garden, so I might use lemon zest to replace some of the orange zest, or if fortune favors the bold, I might like to try using the zest of a tangerine or tangelo instead…cause I like a little mystery. ;-}

  21. Cheryl

    What would happen if I used 1 tsp cardamom and 1 tsp. cloves instead of all cardamom??? Would cloves be the best choice over all spice or nutmeg??

  22. Cheryl

    I forgot to ask earlier what is the difference if any, if I use canola oil versus vegetable oil?? I am a lover of carrot cake and am in the hunt for a good recipe. I look forward to making these today.

    Should be fine with either. ~Garrett

  23. Marie

    Could this recipe be easily transferred into a 13 X 9 sheet pan to make a cake? Any alterations needed?

    Maybe. Will need a longer baking time for sure. Give it a try and tell us how it works out! ~Garrett

  24. Lisa

    Regarding the metric conversions on the web for this recipe – you will get the wrong answer as the measurements for the ingredients here are listed by VOLUME and not WEIGHT. It’s not the same thing. 1 cup of flour does not weigh 8 ounces, it weighs 5 ounces.

  25. lui

    Gorgeous! So moist and good! My friends couldn´t get enough, one of them ate 4. Probably is the absense of butter that makes them so light, right? I added coconut and pinapple like in your previous carrot cake recipe, one of the best things I´ve baked. Thank you!

  26. anjee

    Can I use melted butter as a substitute for the vegetable oil?

    Never made this recipe with butter. If it works out for you please let us know. ~Garrett

  27. TriciaCee

    I have an idea that these carrot cakes muffins will turn out to be delicious! There is one little problem, though. I love carrot cake with walnuts, but most of the people I share with prefer it without walnuts. What adjustments should I make for a nut-free recipe?

  28. Linda In Washington State

    Saumya

    I don’t weigh anything, my suggest to you is to buy a set of imperial/American measure cups and spoons online. This way you don’t have to worry about converting or weight the recipes. For myself I have a set of metric measuring spoons. I bake a loaf or two of bread every week for my family I learned to measure a cube of butter with a sewing gage 1 tablespoon of butter measure 3 1/2 cm tall and 1/2 cm wide.

    Garret, thanks for posting your recipe it reminds me of my sister who made the best carrot cake with lots of coconut.

  29. twinmom

    There are good measuring, substitution lists and other baking info at http://www.kingarthurflour.com

  30. Kacy

    Does anyone know if cream cheese frosting freezes? This recipe makes way too much frosting for the number of cupcakes. (I love cream cheese icing, but this is a bit much!!) and I don’t want to throw it out.
    By the way… this recipe is fabulous! Thanks :0)

    I have frozen it before without too much trouble. Don’t store it for longer than a few months though. ~Garrett

  31. LeeAnn

    This recipe is divine! It made 30 for me and I still had half the frosting left. Thanks for the tip on freezing. I love your site!

    Hmm, I might just be too generous with the frosting on my cupcakes. ;) ~Garrett

  32. Benne

    Love your blog. I was reading the comments and noticed the one from Saumya on 4-7. The two links below are to metric conversion sites and the third one is a link where a small program “Convert” can be down loaded and used for all kinds of conversions. I don’t know if these will fill Saumya’s needs, but she can try them.

    http://www.metric-conversions.org/volume/us-cups-conversion.htm

    http://www.onlineconversion.com

    http://joshmadison.com/software/download-convert-for-windows/

  33. mai

    Thanks Garrett, I love your recipe!
    It was my first time to bake carrot cakes, but they turned out soooo good.
    Best baking I’ve done in a while.
    I put lemon zest instead of orange zest, and I made lemon glaze. It worked!
    Arigato!

  34. Heather

    I made these for Easter last weekend. They were scrumptious! I ended up with 24 regular cupcakes, and 11 mini cupcakes. I also had a cup or more of leftover frosting even though I mounded the cakes high with frosting. They were a definite hit with my family! Thanks for the recipe. I love how moist they cake is.

  35. kim

    The cake part recipe was great! They were a little oily and the orange zest was a little strong, but next time I’ll just use a smaller orange or use less. Unfortunately, the cream cheese frosting left much to be desired, but the cake recipe is a keeper!

  36. Amanda

    This nicely made 12 jumbo cupcakes. A little longer bake time but still moist and not dry on the edges. I also added orange extract and zest to the cream cheese icing. Already have requests for them again.

  37. Judy

    These were wonderful. I brought them to work today and people have loved them.

  38. Sterling

    I just made these cupcakes… I’m hoping for the best. They smell delicious and I can’t wait to try them. The recipe was very easy, except the grating carrots part. That was kinda tedious :)

  39. Robbo the Yobbo

    I just made these and tried one without sans frosting. I find the flavor interesting, but not particularly carroty. I didn’t grate my carrots by hand, but used a food processor with the shredder disk, instead. Could that be why the cupcakes don’t have a stronger carrot flavor? I carefully measured all ingredients, and there was a bona fide pound of grated carrot in the batter….

    To my tongue, the the cardamom is sort of dominating the ‘cake. Also, it’s not very sweet at all, which I suppose is okay given the frosting is going to give me a lot of tangy sweetness.

    Overall, these are fine, but I will keep looking for a go-to, definitive carrot cake recipe, and if I make these again, I’m cutting the cardamom by half.

  40. Mélanie

    I tried your cupcakes and everybody loved them! I had to avoid using cinnamon and nuts because of my friends preferences, but it was still very good.
    I blogged about them, I hope you don’t mind… Of course I indicated your blog as the source!
    Thank you!

    Thank you! It’s also neat to see how you translated the recipe! So cool! ~Garrett

  41. gg

    Hi,
    These look great and I’m looking forward to trying them out!
    I was just wondering though, can the cupcake batter be frozen to be baked later on?
    Thank you!

    I would bake them, then freeze them. Never froze the dough before so I can’t say. ~Garrett

  42. Robbo the Yobbo

    Re. my May 7 comment, upon an overnight in the fridge, the sting of the cardamom seemed to mellow a lot, and overall I developed a greater appreciation for this recipe than I had the night I made them (and commented upon them above). The cream cheese frosting wasn’t especially to my liking, however – a bit whangy – and I only ended up making a half-batch of it, eating some of the muffins naked, some with a modest smear.

    So, this is a pleasant cupcake recipe after all, and I would make them again as directed but might check out, and experiment with, other cream cheese frosting recipes for a milder version.

    Good recipe.

  43. Mélanie

    I made them again, this time with the nuts & cinnamon (other friends!), and it was a huge hit at the party. I converted a lot of people to carrot cakes thanks to your recipe :)

  44. Sandy

    Wow! These are terrific! Next time I’m going to add some coconut for a twist.

  45. MH

    Finally, a frosting with no vanilla. I like vanilla but I ran out when I baked my last cake without knowing. Thank you so much!

  46. Nasim

    Thank you! I just discovered your website and it really inspired me. I am in no way a cook. This is my first time cooking anything from scratch. It came out great! Thanks for the recipe and instructions.

  47. nirm

    HI, what kind of cups are you using for your measurments?..I’m confused! please help.

    The basic U.S./Imperial measuring system. ~Garrett

  48. Diane

    I’ve never been a big fan of carrot cake, but these cupcakes won me over. I cut the recipe in half (using one large egg and one small egg) and it came out perfect.
    I also cut the frosting in half and still had some left over. I plan on freezing it. Any recommendations on thawing?

    Thaw it slowly in the fridge. ~Garrett

  49. Lois Parker

    Lovely complex cupcakes. I cut the oil in half and used non-fat yogurt instead of the buttermilk. I used Pecans instead of walnuts. I used one third ground almonds, one third tapioca flour and one third urid lentil flour as I cant eat gluten. This gives a moist, light cupcake that will keep well. For those of you who find you are heavy- handed and get tough baked goods try adding some non-wheat flour like tapioca – there is no gluten so you cant make it tough by handling it too much.

  50. Bobbi Martiniello

    These are the best carrot cupcakes! I brought them into work and co-workers loved them! I tried to eat just 1/2 of one because I’m on a diet but I couldn’t resist and ate the whole thing! They are very moist and the cream cheese frosting is delicious! Thanks Garrett!

  51. Foodie

    Straightforward and terrific recipe — these came out great!

    We didn’t have cardamom on hand, and it was too expensive at our local supermarket (3 times the price of other spices!), so instead of 2 tsp cardamom we substituted 1/2 tsp ground clove and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. This seemed to work well.

    The frosting was easy to make, and there was plenty of it.

  52. Felicia Moreno

    I just finished making these for a baby shower – they are awesome. I’ve never made carrot cake from scratch and these were probably the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. I added raisins and shaved coconut….ymmm. Thanks for sharing!

  53. krissy

    Hi there! I have tried this last week as i had a lunch date with friends and you are right about the overmixing thing; I may have done it that way as I was trying to incorporate everything cake ended up heavy instead of light but really, really beautiful flavors! My hub is really curious about the incluion of cardamom so he is requesting me to make some today so I really want to perfect it this time! Thank you both Garrett and Elise. Your recipes are always top notch!

  54. Anya Gorson

    Excellent! I looked for hours before choosing your recipe. They are the best I ever had.

  55. Jennifer V.

    Well my boyfriend and myself are battleing on who makes the best cupcakes. I hope this one is a winner… I am making them right now. I made the first dozen without raisens and the second batch with. I am taking them to a halloween/birthday party. Thanks you for the recipe. Oh, and that cardamom is very expensive, what else can it be used for?

    Any number of desserts or baked goods. ~Garrett

  56. Meghann

    I just tried these…they are delish. I made mini cupcakes. It ended up making about 100 minis and I baked them for about 12 minutes. I also used my food processor for the carrots and it made it a lot easier. I added a bit of cloves and nutmeg, just because I love the extra spice. Excellent carrot cake recipe. It will be added into my faves!

  57. Gowri

    A pound of carrots is how may cups grated?

    I can’t translate that. One is a measure of weight and the other of volume. You’ll simply have to measure out a pound of carrots. ~Garrett

  58. Lauren

    I just made these cupcake for my son’s 1st birthday tomorrow! I sampled them with plain whipped cream cheese (since I am not making the cream cheese frosting until tomorrow). They were so yummy! I am sure he will love to eat them and wear them all over his face and hair too! :)

  59. Jane Herriot

    To the poster who is wondering about cardamom:

    Look for it in both Scandinavian and Indian cuisine! Isn’t that interesting? In Scandinavian cooking it shows up more often in desserts/baked goods, as Garrett mentioned, but in Indian cooking you find it used just as much in main courses, as well as a component of chai.

    In my family we make Finnish Cardadmom Bread at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, a sprinkle of cardamom on top of rice pudding…I’ve died and gone to heaven.

    As for the cupcakes, I will be making them this weekend for Easter festivities!

  60. Jeanne

    I made these today and just wanted to say thank you for such a great recipe! They are delicious – they seem a lot lighter than a typical carrot cake recipe. I didn’t have cardamom – and didn’t realize it until I was half way through so I substituted nutmeg and cloves – just about 1/4 tsp of each. But I’ll be getting some cardamom and making these again!

  61. Barbara

    Can I use brie cheese for the cheese frosting – its the only soft cheese I have today!

    That wouldn’t work as a substitution. Try a simple buttercream of butter and powdered sugar. =) ~Garrett

  62. Naz

    Very good recipe. I used 2 large eggs instead of the 3 suggested. I used orange blossom water (1 tsp) which I added to the frosting. The cupcakes were very moist and flavoursome. Thank you for sharing.

  63. atb

    hey everyone :-)

    i read this blog religiously and in the comments for several recipes i’ve noticed questions about converting into grams and liters.

    i’m german and don’t own american measuring cups and this site REALLY helps me out:
    The Metric Kitchen, http://www.jsward.com/cooking/conversion.shtml

    happy baking!

    elise, love the blog; garrett, love the cupcakes – thanks so much for this site!!!

  64. Kathy

    Made this recipe today and love it! I made half the batch without nuts, as one my daughters doesn’t like them. Accidentally put the whole amount of nuts into the second half, but they turned out fine, and a nice mix of crunch and sweet! My daughter has even asked me to make this into a cake for her birthday next weekend. The cream cheese icing is divine!

    I bought a 2lb bag of carrots and grated half of them with the shredder disk on my processor. Turned out fine. And I love cardamom, so I added just a smidge extra :)

  65. Gemma

    I was wondering what could I do to make this a no nut recipe?
    Thank you.

    Just don’t use the nuts. ~Garrett

  66. Rogee

    How long do I bake it if I am just doing one big cake or it is not feasible to use this receipt for a large cake?

    • Elise

      Hi Rogee, great question! I haven’t made this recipe as a sheet cake, I would guess 20 to 25 minutes of baking time, but you’ll have to experiment to see what time works best for your pan and oven.

  67. Christine

    These are the best carrot cupcakes that I have ever tasted. Fantastic recipe! I halved the frosting recipe and it was plenty. I was concerned about the generous amount of cardamom, but it was the magical ingredient. I had lots of purple carrots to use up from my CSA box and they made the cupcakes look especially interesting with orange and purple flecks. Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

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