These lightly spiced, moist carrot cake cupcakes with a fluffy cream cheese frosting are impossible to resist and incredibly easy to make. A tea time classic!
Carrot cake is one of my all-time favourite cakes. I wasn’t much of a baker at all in my teenage years, (I got better with lots of practice!) but I made a pretty nice carrot cake. I think the recipe was from BBC Good Food magazine. I made little tweaks here and there, adding my own twist to the recipe.
These carrot cake cupcakes are pretty much the same recipe. It’s easy to make, reliable and tastes delicious. If you love carrot cake, I urge you to give them a try.
Looking for a carrot cake recipe fit for a party? Take a look at my carrot cake traybake!
You don’t need any fancy equipment to make the cupcake batter – a couple of bowls, a wooden spoon and a plastic spatula will do the job perfectly.
I would however recommend using an electric mixer for the cream cheese icing. Technically you can make it in a bowl with a wooden spoon, but the mixer will give you a much fluffier frosting.
The sponge is SO moist and packed full of flavour. Adding orange zest to a carrot cake mixture makes all the difference – after all, carrots and orange complement each other beautifully.
Of course, carrot cake wouldn’t taste right without a little spice, so I’ve added ground cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg.
scroll to the bottom of the post to find a printable recipe card with ingredient amounts and detailed instructions.
- Plain (all purpose) flour
- baking powder and bicarbonate of soda – without these, the cakes wouldn’t rise. They would also turn out quite dense!
- spices – ground cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg. I always prefer grating my own nutmeg to buying ground. The flavour is so much fresher. It’s little things such as this that make a big difference to your baking.
- finely grated orange zest
- carrots, of course!
Grating carrots is not my favourite thing in the world to do, but carrot cake is so worth it so I grin and bear it. I use the coarse side of a box grater, but you could use a food processor if you like. I’m a bit of a lazy baker and don’t like giving myself lots of extra washing up, so I never do this.
- soft light brown sugar makes the sponge even more moist and adds a gorgeous caramel flavour.
- A flavourless oil such as vegetable or sunflower. A light, mild olive oil would also work well.
- vanilla extract
- two large eggs, at room temperature
- sour cream makes the cupcakes extra moist! (I know, that word I’M SORRY, but I’m struggling to find another appropriate word to describe them!) I’m a bit of a fan of using sour cream in cake recipes – see my chocolate sour cream banana cake and sour cream lemon bundt cake recipes.
- sultanas or raisins. You could swap these for dried cranberries, or just leave them out completely if you aren’t a fan.
- chopped walnuts or pecans add a lovely crunchy texture to the soft cupcakes, but these could also be omitted.
cream cheese frosting ingredients
- cream cheese – full fat all the way! The low-fat stuff turns runny very quickly when beaten. It just doesn’t work as well. The cream cheese should also be at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge to take the chill away – about 20-30 minutes should do.
- unsalted butter. The butter must be soft enough to blend with the cream cheese – if it’s too cold, lumps will form and it will be very hard to get them out. BUT – you don’t want to too soft either!
- Icing (confectioner’s) sugar
- vanilla extract adds flavour to the frosting, so it’s worth using a good quality one.
how to make carrot cake cupcakes
Step one – Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, spices, orange zest, sultanas and chopped nuts in a large bowl.
Step two – In a separate bowl or large jug whisk together the brown sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and sour cream.
Step three – pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of flour, followed by the grated carrots.
Step four – quickly stir everything together to make a batter. Stop stirring when there are no flour streaks.
Step five – Pour the batter into a 12 hole cupcake tin lined with paper cases.
Step six – bake the cupcakes at 180C/160fan/350F for 20-22 minutes or until the cakes are risen and spring back when lightly pressed in the middle.
step seven – remove the cakes from the tin and place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
step eight – make the cream cheese icing. Beat together the soft butter and cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract, then add half of the icing sugar and beat on high speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar and mix once more until you have a smooth frosting.
TOP TIP – Don’t overbeat the cream cheese icing or it will turn runny. As soon as it is nice and smooth, stop mixing. It’s also very important that your butter is nice and soft.
decorating carrot cupcakes
To decorate the cupcakes, I used a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M icing tip.
For a final flourish, I sprinkled the cakes with finely chopped walnuts and a cute mini fondant carrot. I LOVE these – I think they’re adorable!
I found them in Sainsbury’s but I’ve also seen them online. If you have the time, you could make your own with fondant and food colouring gel or paste.
Since these cupcakes are topped with cream cheese icing, it’s best to keep them in a tupperware box in the fridge. They will keep for up to 3-4 days. In my opinion, carrot cake cupcakes are even nicer the day after baking.
can you freeze carrot cake cupcakes?
You can freeze the cupcakes, but without the icing. Cream cheese goes a bit funny after freezing and defrosting. The cupcakes will keep well in the freezer for up to three months.
did you make this recipe?
I hope you enjoyed making (and eating) these carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting as much as we did! Let me know what you thought by leaving a comment below – and please consider rating the recipe by clicking on the stars in the recipe card below. Happy baking!
more cupcake recipes
- 175g plain flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 50g sultanas or raisins
- 50g chopped walnuts or pecans
- finely grated zest of one orange
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 200g soft light brown sugar
- 125ml flavourless (such as vegetable or sunflower) oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 75ml sour cream or plain yoghurt
- 150g grated carrots
- FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 300g icing sugar
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g full fat cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- FOR DECORATION
- Chopped walnuts/pecans and fondant carrots, optional
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160Fan/350F. Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and grated orange zest. Stir in the sultanas and chopped walnuts, if using.
- In a large jug or medium bowl, whisk togther the eggs, brown sugar, oil, vanilla extract and sour cream until smooth. Pour this mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, then add the grated carrots. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, lightly stir to combine everything together until you have a smooth(ish) batter.
- Fill the cupcake cases 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the cupcakes have risen and spring back when lightly pressed in the centre. Remove the cakes from the tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the soft butter and cream cheese together until smooth. It's easier to use an electric mixer for this. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add half of the icing sugar and beat on high speed until smooth, then add the remaining sugar and beat for 1-2 minutes or until you have a smooth, lump free frosting. Don't overbeat or it could become runny.
- Frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese icing - I used a piping bag fitted with a 1M open star nozzle. If you don't want to use a piping bag, a spoon will be absolutely fine. Sprinkle the top of the cupcakes with finely chopped walnuts and a fondant carrot if you like.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 422Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 237mgCarbohydrates: 69gFiber: 2gSugar: 53gProtein: 5g
Calories and nutritional information are provided by a third party application and should be viewed as indicative figures only.