A simple recipe for carrot cake cupcakes topped with a rich brown sugar cream cheese frosting.
First things first. Let’s talk about this frosting, because carrot cake is basically a vehicle for consuming cream cheese frosting, right? This isn’t just any cream cheese frosting. It’s brown sugar cream cheese frosting. And, oh my gosh, it is amazing. It’s fighting-over-who-gets-to-lick-the-beaters good.
As I was eating this frosting by the spoonful, all I could think was, “why, why, WHY, have I never done this before?” The brown sugar adds a slight caramel flavor to the cream cheese frosting and gives it a rich, deep flavor. It strikes the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. But, here’s the important thing – you have to use really fresh, soft, brown sugar. This is not the time to pull lumpy, dried out brown sugar from the back of your pantry. Make sure it’s fresh so your frosting will come out smooth and creamy.
I wanted the frosting to be the star of this recipe, so I kept the carrot cake simple. The cake is tender and moist, filled with finely grated carrots, and lightly spiced with cinnamon. The cake perfectly compliments the decadent frosting.
Carrot cake was my most requested birthday cake as a child. I’ve always been a fan. So, maybe I’m a little biased, but I can’t imagine that you won’t love these cupcakes. I’m planning to make these again for Easter. I just can’t get enough!
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- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- scant ⅓ cup vegetable or canola oil
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cups finely grated carrots (about 2 medium/large carrots)
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened slightly
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened slightly
- ¾ cup brown sugar (light or dark both work, make sure it's really fresh)
- ½ cup powdered sugar (plus more if needed)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease a 12 count muffin tin, or line with paper liners. Set aside.
- Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat oil, applesauce, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until combined. Stir in carrots and nuts.
- Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Place all frosting ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed, then gradually increase the speed to medium-high. Beat for a minute or two, until smooth and creamy. If you prefer the frosting thicker you can add more powdered sugar.
- Spread the frosting on top of each cupcake (I used a pastry bag and decorating tip, but you could also spread it on with a butter knife).
*Recipe updated September 2016.*